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 What is HACCP?

HACCP, or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, is a systematic and preventive approach to food and product safety. HACCP plans are developed to control Biological, Chemical and Physical hazards in production processes that could cause the finished products to be unsafe for use or consumption. HACCP is built on the foundation of Good Manufacturing Practices and other Prerequisite Programs (Preventative Maintenance, Employee Training, Cleaning and Sanitation, etc.).

Creating a HACCP plan follows an established 12-Step Process that begins with the 5 Preliminary Tasks and is followed by the 7 Principles of HACCP.

 5 Preliminary Tasks

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Task 1 - Form a HACCP team

Product and process knowledge and expertise is essential for the development of an effective HACCP team. A multidisciplinary team should be assembled to ensure that once the plan is developed it can be successfully implemented. Where there are gaps in expertise within the company, expert advice should be found from other sources such as consultants or industry organizations.


Task 2 - Document the product Characteristics

A full description of the product should be documented including any relevant food or product safety information such as:

  • Physical/chemical characteristics (Water Activity, pH, etc.)

  • Product treatments (heat-treatment, freezing, brining, smoking, etc.)

  • Packaging, durability and storage conditions

  • Method of distribution.

  • Allergen status


Task 3 - Document the Intended Use

The intended use should be based on the expected uses of the product by the end user or consumer. In specific cases, vulnerable groups of the population (i.e. medically fragile people, people with chronic illness, etc.) should be considered. Also note any instructions that are necessary for the consumer.


Task 4 - Create a Flow Diagram

A flow diagram, or flowchart, depicts the sequence movement of ingredients, actions, people or things involved in a complex system or activity. In addition to the flow diagram, it can be extremely helpful to write out what happens at each step in the process. This process description document is extremely useful for introducing auditors and potential customers to your production process.


Task 5 - Verify the Flow Diagram

The HACCP team should review the processing operation against the flow diagram. The process should be reviewed during all stages and hours of operation, to ensure that all the variations of the process are documented. If anything is missing from the flow diagram, it should be updated before proceeding to the Hazard Analysis.


 7 Principles of HACCP

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Principle 1 - Perform Hazard Analysis

A Hazard Analysis has 2 components:

  1. Hazard Identification

    The HACCP team reviews the ingredients, packaging, and process steps to identify Biological, Chemical and Physical Hazards that are introduced, enhanced, or reduced throughout the process.

    • Biological Hazards - Illness causing microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites or their by-products, that can be transmitted by food or consumables.

    • Chemical Hazards - Chemicals, Toxins, Allergens or Sensitizing Ingredients that can cause illness or injury

    • Physical Hazards - Small objects, either naturally occurring or accidentally introduced to the product, that have the potential to injure a consumer

  2. Hazard Evaluation

    After identifying the hazards that may be present, the HACCP team considers each one and determines:

    • The likelihood of the hazard occurring

    • The seriousness of the injury or illness a consumer might experience

Any hazards that are likely to occur AND result in a serious consumer illness or injury are identified as Significant Hazards.


Principle 2 - Identify Critical Control Points

For the significant hazards identified, the HACCP team must consider what control measures are in place that can eliminate those hazards, or reduce them to an acceptable level - where the likelihood of their occurrence and/or the serious or illness or injury has been greatly reduced.

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


Principle 3 - Set Critical Limits

Critical Limits are the criteria that determine whether or not significant hazards have been controlled within the production process. These limits are specific to the hazards, the product and the process, and are often expressed as a maximum or minimum condition.

Examples:

  • Eggs must be stored below a maximum temperature of 40ºF to prevent the growth of Salmonella spp.

  • Ground beef patties must be cooked to a minimum of 160ºF to kill any E. coli that may be present.


Principle 4 - Establish Monitoring For Each Critical Control Point

On a regular, scheduled basis each critical control point should be measured or observed to ensure that critical limits are being met. The purpose of monitoring is to ensure that the system is functioning correctly, and that safe products are being produced.

Ideally, monitoring should be done early enough in the process and frequently enough to allow production to make adjustments and reduce the amount of product that needs to be discarded.


Principle 5 - Establish Corrective Action Procedures

If during monitoring, or any other time, the critical limits are not being met - this is called a deviation. If this occurs, product can not be moved forward in the process or sold to the public until any issues are resolved and the proper critical limits are met.

Specific corrective actions must be developed for each Critical Control Point in the HACCP system in order to deal with any deviations when they occur.

The actions must ensure that the Critical Control Point has been brought under control and Critical Limits are being met. Actions taken must also include proper reprocessing or disposal of any product that was produced while the system was in deviation.


Principle 6 - Establish Verification and Validation Procedures

Validation establishes that they system, if implemented correctly, is capable of controlling the significant hazards identified in the Hazard Analysis. Ongoing validation activities establish the evidence that the elements of the HACCP plan are effective.

Verification and auditing methods, procedures and tests, including random sampling and analysis, can be used to determine if the HACCP system is working as it was designed. Examples of verification activities include:

  • Review of the HACCP system and its records;

  • Review of deviations and product dispositions;

  • Confirmation that CCPs are kept under control.


Principle 7 - Establish Record keeping and Documentation

Efficient and accurate record keeping and documentation is essential to the application of a HACCP system.

Documents are policies, procedures, evaluations, etc. that describe how the system should operate. Some documentation examples are:

  • Hazard Analysis

  • Critical Control Point Determination

  • Critical Limit Determination

Records are logs, test results, certificates of analysis, etc. that describe how the system was operating at any given point in time. Some record examples are:

  • Monitoring logs

  • Training sign-in sheets

  • Disposal records


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