> How to Perform an HACCP Hazard Analysis - The Food Safety Company How to Perform an HACCP Hazard Analysis - The Food Safety Company
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    Monday, 14 November 2016

    How to Perform an HACCP Hazard Analysis


    We’ve covered an overview of how to create an HACCP plan, and one of the trickier parts of the process is performing a hazard analysis to help you identify critical control points. A proper hazard analysis is fundamental to the HACCP system, and all significant safety hazards and control measures must be identified. In this article, we’ll take a look at how to carry out a comprehensive hazard analysis in order to identify all threats to food safety at your production facility.

    One thing to note is that HACCP deals only with significant safety risks. Other issues that affect quality, such as sanitation and economic fraud, must still be dealt with using Good Manufacturing Processes and Sanitation Control Procedures, but do not come under the jurisdiction of your HACCP plan.

    A hazard is any physical, chemical, or biological agent that is likely to cause physical illness or injury if left uncontrolled. We have gone into detail about each type of hazard and common examples, but most fall under the following categories:

    Biological
    • Pathogenic microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, viruses)
    • Parasites

    Chemical
    • Natural toxins
    • Chemicals
    • Pesticides
    • Drug residues
    • Unapproved additives
    • Decomposition products (e.g. histamine)

    Physical
    • Foreign objects (e.g. metal, glass)

    Now we’ll take a look at how to identify and address them using an HACCP hazard analysis.


    Things to Bear in Mind

    During the hazard analysis, a risk assessment should be performed on each hazard to detail the likelihood of occurrence and the severity of its impact. This information can usually be derived from experience (make sure you have assembled an HACCP team full of expertise), epidemiological data, and information in technical literature.

    The hazard analysis must not just address hazards directly within the processing plant, but also external factors if possible, even if your company has no control over them. For example, even if your company is not responsible for post-process distribution of the product, knowledge of how it will be distributed may give rise to future hazards, ones that must be accounted for in the plan and in production itself.


    Hazard Identification

    The best approach to performing a hazard analysis is to split it into two activities: hazard identification and hazard evaluation. The first stage, hazard identification, means looking at your flowchart of the process, and identifying any potential hazards (use the list above for an overview). This should cover every step, from the receipt of raw ingredients to the release of finished product. At this stage, there is no need to assess probability of occurrence or potential harm. Simply list all potential safety hazards related to the process.


    Hazard Evaluation

    After the hazard identification, the team should perform a three-step process to narrow down the identified hazards to only those ones that offer significant health risk. These are as follows:
    1. Assess severity of potential health consequences.
    2. Examine probability of hazard occurrence.
    3. Decide if these two combined are enough to warrant inclusion in the plan.


    Inclusion in the HACCP plan requires that the hazard be reasonably likely to occur, and the health risk to consumers is unacceptable. This is where the expertise of your team also comes into play, allowing the decision to be made as to whether a specific hazard meets these two criteria.

    By evaluating the hazards in this way, the plan gains some level of focus, as if it tried to deal with every conceivable hazard, it would of course balloon to unmanageable size. The evaluative stage ensures that hazards are relevant. Choosing too many hazards is a common mistake during plan creation because too many hazards can dilute a manufacturer’s focus on the ones that really matter, making evaluation an essential stage of hazard analysis.

    In many cases, food safety authorities and legislation can provide details as to what is an acceptable level for hazard concentration, as sometimes only certain levels and above are deemed harmful for human consumption. Make sure to seek out this documentation from the sources relevant to your particular field of production.


    Hazard Analysis Documentation

    There is no set form for your hazard analysis documentation to take, but it can usually accompany your process flowchart, or be part of it.

    Each step of the flowchart or accompanying hazard analysis should include these details:
    • Ingredient/Processing Step
    • Identified Hazards
    • Are the Hazards Significant?
    • Justification for Decision
    • Control Measures
    • Is this step a Critical Control Point (CCP)?


    Control Measures

    After you have identified and evaluated hazards, a hazard analysis needs to cover control measures for each one, i.e. the way in which each significant hazard will be prevented or limited to acceptable levels.

    This of course depends on the hazards identified in your plan, but here are some examples of how to deal with common significant hazards:

    Biological
    - Bacteria
    • Time/temperature control
    • Heating and cooking processes
    • Cooling and freezing
    • Fermentation or pH control
    • Addition of salt or preservatives
    • Drying
    • Source control

    - Viruses
    • Heating and cooking processes

    - Parasites
    • Animal dietary control
    • Inactivation/removal
    • Cooling and freezing

    Chemical
    • Source control
    • Production control
    • Labelling control

    Physical
    • Source control
    • Production control (e.g. use of magnets, sifters).

    Also, control measures may not be necessary for some hazards if they are covered by your GMPs or SCPs.


    Overall, following this process should allow your HACCP team to perform a thorough hazard analysis, covering all significant hazards whilst retaining focus, allowing you to concentrate on dealing with the ones that really matter. The hazard analysis step is a vital part of constructing a full HACCP plan and should not be neglected.


    Sam Franklin

    With a master’s in Literature, Sam inhales books and anything readable, spending his working hours reformulating the info he gathers into digestible articles. When not reading or writing, he likes to put his camera to work around the world, snapping street photography from Stockholm to Tokyo. Too much of this time spent in Japan teaching English has nurtured a weakness for sashimi, Japanese whisky, and robot cafés.
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