HACCP Basics Explained.

HACCP (pronounced hassup) stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points.

HACCP is a vital pre-requisite of any well implemented food safety program.

Put very simply HACCP is a method used to identify hazards and then put control measures in place for those hazards within a food production process.

Functional Food Safety are HACCP and food safety program experts.  Our food safety consultant can develop a HACCP based food safety program for any type of food business including dairy processing, meat processing, abattoirs, eggs and egg products, plant products, aged care & vulnerable persons, seafood and shellfish  and manufacturing.

HACCP Basics

HACCP is a seven-step process preceded by a few lead up steps to get things rolling.

Assemble HACCP team – a good HACCP team will consist of people within your food business who understand the process well and can make decisions about food safety issues. Not too many, you don’t need the board of directors involved.

Describe product – a general description of the food would include the name of the food, what it consists of and the methods of preservation eg pasteurization, pH or low water activity. This is also where you should describe how it is packaged, labeled and stored as well as the products proposed shelf life.

Identify intended use – most food products are destined for general consumption however food that is prepared for infants or vulnerable persons may require extra care.

Construct flow diagram – a carefully considered, accurate product flow chart that identifies all inputs to the process is crucial to a good food safety program. This must be carried out by people who know the process in detail.

Step 1 List all potential hazards associated with each step, conduct a hazard analysis, and consider any measures to control identified hazards

There are many possible hazards to consider in a food manufacturing process however they are broken down into three main areas:

  • Biological – bacterial pathogens including Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter. Yeasts and moulds. Parasites.
  • Chemical – Agricultural and veterinary residues eg antibiotics, natural biological toxins eg aflatoxins, cleaning & sanitising chemicals.
  • Physical – glass, insects, wood splinters, plastic wrapping, jewelry, bandaids, rubber gloves.

Once hazards are identified at each processing step your HACCP team then needs to decide how those hazards are going to be controlled. Control measures are many and varied. Common methods include cooking, pH modification, and lowering of water activity. Many hazards are controlled by implementing pre requisite programs such as hygiene and sanitation, maintenance, personal hygiene and pest control.

A control measure must be applied to every hazard.

Step 2 Determine Critical Control Points

A Critical Control Point is a step at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or, reduce it to an acceptable level.

There are many ways of identifying CCP’s and the most common method is through the use of a CCP decision tree. It is important however to use the experience and judgment of the HACCP team.

One of the key questions I ask when deciding on a CCP is “Can I measure it”. That makes criteria such as time, temperature, pH, water activity prime candidates for CCP’s.

Hazards that are controlled by pre requisite programs such as pest control should not be identified as CCP’s regardless of how important you think they are.

Step 3 Establish critical limits for each CCP

Critical limits are measurable maximum or minimum values that are assigned to a CCP to separate compliance from non-compliance. You must use valid critical limits from trusted sources such as legislation or industry codes and standards. (The Food Standards Code is a good source of critical limits)

Examples of critical limits are

  • Pasteurisation – no less than 72oc for no less than 15 seconds or equivalent
  • Cooling – 60oc to 21oc in 2hrs and 21oc to 5oc in 4 hours
  • Storage – 5oc or less for coolrooms.
Step 4 Establish a monitoring system for each CCP

Monitoring of the critical control points must be undertaken to demonstrate that you are making sure that the process in under control. Monitoring frequencies should be set according to risk and include actions such as observation and measurement . High risk CCP’s may need to be monitored hourly rather than twice daily.

Step 5 Establish corrective actions

Where something goes wrong and a critical limit is not met then corrective action must be taken to ensure that the process is brought back under control and any product that is non compliant is identified and segregated from compliant product.

Step 6 Establish verification procedures

Verification is the process of ensuring that the system is working as it is supposed to. Common verification methods include HACCP reviews, internal audit, product sampling and analysis, microbiological testing.

Step 7 Establish Documentation and Record Keeping

All food safety programs describe what records are kept and how they are completed.   Record keeping is essential for demonstrating that your food safety program is being implemented as intended.

HACCP based food safety programs are essential for your business if you want to ensure that you produce safe food.

If you are a small to medium food business and you intend to supply your food products to food retailers you will probably require food safety plan.

Our food safety program expert Glenn Locke is a HACCP and Food Safety Program specialist with 16 years of experience as an Audit and Compliance Officer in the NSW Food Authority.

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