In order to enhance food safety, every stage of the food production (from purchasing, receiving, transportation, storage, preparation, handling, cooking to serving) should be carried out and monitored scrupulously.
The HACCP system is a scientific and systematic approach to identify, assess and control of hazards in the food production process. With the HACCP system, food safety control is integrated into the design of the process rather than relied on end-product testing. Therefore HACCP system provides a preventive and thus cost-effective approach in food safety.
The seven principles of a HACCP System are-
- Conduct a hazard analysis and identify control measures
- Determine the critical control points (CCPs)
- Establish validated critical limits for each CCP
- Establish a monitoring system for each CCP
- Establish corrective actions
- Validate the HACCP plan and establish verification procedures
- Establish documentation and record keeping
A food safety hazard is any biological, chemical or physical agent in food with the potential to cause an adverse health effect. We collect and evaluate information on hazards identified in raw materials and other ingredients, the environment, in the process or in the food, and conditions leading to their presence to decide whether or not these are significant hazards and consider any measures to control identified hazards.
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 .
Not every point identified with hazards and preventive measures will become a critical control point. A logical decision-making process is applied to determine whether or not the process is a critical control point. The logical decision-making process for determining critical control points may include factors such as:
- whether control at this particular step is necessary for safety;
- whether control at this step eliminates or reduces the likely occurrence of the hazard to an acceptable level;
- whether contamination with the hazard identified could occur in excess of acceptable levels;
- whether subsequent steps will eliminate or acceptably reduce the hazard
Critical Limit is a criterion, observable or measurable, which separates acceptability from unacceptability of the food in relation to a control measure at a critical control point. Critical Limits for control measures at CCPs should be specified and scientifically validated to prove that they are capable of controlling hazards to an acceptable level if properly implemented.
Validated critical limits could be based on existing literature, regulations or guidance from competent authorities, or studies conducted by food business operators or third parties.
Criteria often used include measurements of time, temperature, humidity, water activity and pH value and sensory parameters such as visual appearance and texture. In some cases, more than one critical limit is needed to control a particular hazard.
Monitoring is a planned sequence of observations or measurements to assess whether a critical control point is under control and to produce an accurate record for future use in verification. Monitoring is very important for a HACCP system. Monitoring can warn the plant if there is a trend towards loss of control so that it can take action to bring the process back into control before the limit is exceeded.
The employee responsible for the monitoring procedure should be clearly identified and adequately trained to carry out corrective actions.
Corrective action is a specific action taken when the results of monitoring at the critical control point indicate that the limit could not be met i.e. a loss of control.
Since HACCP is a preventive system to correct problems before they affect food safety, plant management has to plan in advance to correct potential deviations from established critical limits. Whenever a limit for critical control point is exceeded, the plant will need to take corrective actions immediately.
The plant management has to determine the corrective action in advance and should ensure that the actions are able to bring the CCP under control. Actions taken must include proper disposition of the affected products.
The HACCP plan should be validated before implementation. A review should be taken to ensure that all elements of the HACCP plan is capable of ensuring control of the significant hazards relevant to the food business.
Validation could include a review scientific literature, using mathematical models, conducting validation studies or using guidance developed by authoritative sources.
After the HACCP system has been implemented, procedures should be establish to verify that the HACCP plan is being followed and the hazards area effectively controlled. Any changes having a potential impact on food safety require a review of the HACCP system and when necessary a revalidation of the HACCP plan.
Verification activities include the application of methods, procedures, tests and other evaluations, in addition to monitoring, to determine compliance with the HACCP plan periodically and when changes occur.
Some examples of verification are the calibration of process monitoring instruments at specified intervals, direct observation of monitoring activities, and corrective actions. Besides, sampling of product, monitoring records review and inspections can serve to verify the HACCP system.
The plant management should check that the employees are keeping accurate and timely HACCP records.
Maintaining proper HACCP records is an essential part of the HACCP system. HACCP procedures such as hazard analysis, CCP determination & critical limit determination should be documented. At the same time, the record for CCP monitoring activities, deviations and associated corrective actions, modification to the HACCP should properly kept.
To establish record keeping procedures, plant management may:
- use the forms as stipulated in Appendix 4 to 18 of “How to Implement a Food Safety Plan”;
- identify employees responsible for entering monitoring data into the records and ensure that they understand their roles and responsibilities.