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    Thursday, 1 December 2016

    HACCP - Verification & Validation

    If you’ve been following our HACCP Plan article series, then you should almost be there with creating your own plan. With the intricacies of hazard analyses, control points, critical limits and corrective actions all dealt with, one of the final stages is the verification and validation of all these parts of your plan. Perhaps one of the most complex parts of the HACCP Plan, verification procedures are vital in ensuring everything you’ve done thus far has been correct, and leads to the ultimate goal of the HACCP Plan, which is consumer food safety. In this article, we’ll cover how to properly perform the validation and verification step to check every part of your process is in top shape.

    Img source: USDA
    Verification procedures can be difficult to comprehend as there are several parts all associated with them, such as validation and reviews. On top of this, verification must be performed not only for each CCP in the plan, but also for the overall plan itself, potentially leading to quite some confusion. To remedy this, we will go through and clarify all parts of the verification process.


    Validation

    The very first stage of verification (and not to be confused with it) is validation. This refers to the final step-by-step check after your plan has been completed to affirm that it is scientifically sound and likely to prevent all significant food hazards. The key fact to determine validation from verification is that validation takes place before the plan is put into action and the process begins.

    There are several approaches to validation, such as using scientific principles and data, consulting with experts, or conducting in-plant observations. Validation can be performed by the HACCP team, or by an individual who is suitably qualified. It can take quite a lot of time to perform the validation step, in some cases as long as the creation of the plan itself.

    Validation should be performed initially after the HACCP plan has been completed, but it may also need to be undertaken at other times when different parts of the plan have been notably changed, such as a new raw ingredient or a recurring deviation.

    As all food production processes differ so greatly, there is no prescriptive approach to validation, but as long as each stage of your plan has been considered and justified from a scientific perspective, then it should follow naturally.


    Verification

    Once validation has been completed and the process fully begun, verification must be performed to continuously safeguard the safety function of the plant. There are two tiers to verification, with the first being individual verification for each CCP, and the second being verification of the overall HACCP plan.


    CCP Verification

    Continuous verification of CCPs is essential to make sure that control procedures are performing satisfactorily and that they are operating within critical limits. CCP verification also includes a supervisory review to ensure that CCPs are being followed according to the HACCP plan, and may include sampling and testing.
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    Calibration

    CCP verification should largely focus on calibration of monitoring equipment to ensure that it functions correctly. Calibration is vital, as if equipment is not properly adjusted then your monitoring results will be inaccurate, potentially leading to the breaching of critical limits and contaminated product. Calibration should be performed on instruments used in monitoring and verification alike,

    Optimal calibration of equipment will prevent this from happening, and this relies on calibration equipment that is used with correct frequency. You can read more about proper calibration in our article on how to effectively calibrate a temperature probe.

    If the worst does somehow occur, however, and calibration indicates that equipment has been reading incorrectly, the CCP should be considered out of control since the last acceptable calibration.

    Calibration records should be kept alongside monitoring results, and these records should indicate the date and methods of calibration and test results. They should be kept and reviewed at set intervals.


    Targeted Sampling and Testing

    Verification can also include targeted sampling and testing. For example, vendor compliance may be checked by using targeted sampling of ingredients as verification when ingredient receipt is a CCP and product specifications are the critical limits.

    Often, if a monitoring procedure is perhaps not quite as strict as desired, then its verification counterpart should be more strenuous to make up for it.

    When critical limits are delineated with regards to equipment operation, verification may mean taking product samples to ensure that the equipment settings chosen are appropriate for product safety and that no safety limits are exceeded.


    CCP Record Review

    At each CCP there are at least two types of record created, those of monitoring and of corrective actions. These serve as documentation that CCPs are being run within agreed safety parameters, and that deviations have been dealt with. However, these records are useless unless they are being reviewed on a regular basis to verify that at each CCP, the HACCP plan overall is being followed.

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    HACCP System Verification

    The preceding steps cover how you should be verifying each individual CCP, but that alone is not enough to safeguard the contiguous hazard minimisation of your overall plan. To do that, all the steps should be considered together to gain a sense of the overall system. Wide scale verification strategies should be developed and scheduled to do this.

    Similar to validation, this will consider every step in the HACCP plan and its effectiveness, but instead can use actual data and records gathered during the plant’s operation. Systematic verification should use these records, but should not be done by the person who took them, to make sure that the evaluation is unbiased.

    The frequency of the system-wide verification should be at least annually, but should also take place whenever there is a system failure or significant change to the process. The HACCP team is responsible for this overall verification, but often will draft in an outside contractor to perform it.

    Verification of the HACCP system requires a number of activities:
    • Checking accuracy of product description and flowchart.
    • Check that CCPs are monitored according to HACCP plan.
    • Check processes are operating within critical limits.
    • Check records completed accurately and at correct frequency.

    On top of this, records should all be reviewed as follows:
    • Monitoring activities have been performed at locations specified, at correct frequencies.
    • Corrective actions performed when deviations occurred.
    • Equipment calibrated at correct frequencies.

    Audits and Regulatory Body Inspections

    Sometimes, system-wide HACCP verifications can be combined with industry regulatory bodies’ inspections. This depends on your industry and location, but be sure to check with your local authority regarding the matter.


    Overall, validation and verification represents an important final step to ensure that all regulations have been complied with and that your HACCP plan is fully and optimally functional. In some ways it is almost important as the practical side of putting together the plan, and can make the difference between contaminated product staying in the plant or making it out.


    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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    Item Reviewed: HACCP - Verification & Validation Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Food Safety Co
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