Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points Systems
HACCP systems are of significant importance for food manufacturers because it provides the production and trade of safe and healthy food. The application of main points of HACCP is widely accepted in the western society, while in the EU it is mandatory. The final aim of HACCP system is the production of the safest possible product by applying the safest possible process. That means that the application of HACCP does not always provide 100% of safety for the consumers, but it means that the company is producing food in the safest possible way.
The most important aspects of food production and distribution are its quality and safety. The obligation of all who are in contact with food during its production or distribution is prevent everything which lowers the level of quality and safety.
The law regulates obligatory health control of food, which is usually based on final products testing. However, since those regulations are expensive, HACCP is more present in controlling the food safety in all the phases of its production and distribution.
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. It is a logical, scientifically based system for control of the production and distribution of food products, which enables:
- identification and evaluation of all possible hazards, e.g. any physical, chemical or biological risks in all the phases of production process, including all the interprocesses and distribution
- definition of all the necessary measures for prevention and control
- safety measures. In contrast to the control of the final products at the end of the production process, HACCP represents a system of prevention which guarantees food safety at every step of the production. HACCP is developed separately for each product/group of products or process, and it is defined to be adaptable to specific conditions of production and distribution of each product individually.
HACCP represents the system of control of processes in the food production, which detects points which might represent hazards, and defines activities for preventing risks of these hazards. By strict and consistent supervision and control of each step of each operation in the production process, the chances of health risk to appear are minimal.
In short, HACCP is a system, which can be used as a set of procedures for control of processes and critical points in the chain of food production, with the ultimate aim for a consumer to consume products in a state and manner, that are safe for his/her health.
HACCP system is a scientific, rational and systematic approach of determination, valuation and control of hazards-risks during production, processing, preparation and consumption of food, in order to provide food safe for consumption.
The grounds for the development of the HACCP system stem from the pathway to the HACCP system started in 1959 when Pillsbury was asked to produce a food that could be used under zero gravity conditions in space capsules – food products for space use should not be contaminated with any bacterial or viral pathogens, toxins, chemicals or any physical hazards that could cause an illness or injury. At that time, most food safety and quality systems were based on end product testing, but it was realized that this could only assure product safety through testing 100% of the products which, for obvious reasons, was not workable, since it would result in all products being used up. Instead a preventive system was required which would give a high level of food safety assurance. However, the implementation of HACCP approach is not easy to apply completely in the entire chain, particularly during primary production. As a result, importing countries are still rejecting products due to infection hazards.
The experience showed that the EU companies which deal with food products, have become more selective in business with non-EU companies, demanding from them a more strict application of HACCP system. From the market’s point of view, both the producers as well as exporters of food products from non-EU countries, who want to place their products on EU market have to implement safety procedures and to introduce HACCP system into their companies.
The companies/plants should implement HACCP system for their own sake. This implementation implies a safer approach to production of a final product, starting with procurement process of the primary material and production of final product, up to different management and their relationship towards the customer. In other words, companies should fulfil all the technical and technological norms which enable the realisation of this programme. The seven principles of successful procedure include:
Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis.
Plants determine the food safety hazards identify the preventive measures the plant can apply to control these hazards.
Principle 2: Identify critical control points.
A critical control point (CCP) is a point, step, or procedure in a food process at which control can be applied and, as a result, a food safety hazard can be prevented, eliminated, or reduced to an acceptable level. A food safety hazard is any biological, chemical, or physical property that may cause a food to be unsafe for human consumption.
Principle 3: Establish critical limits for each critical control point.
A critical limit is the maximum or minimum value to which a physical, biological, or chemical hazard must be controlled at a critical control point to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to an acceptable level.
Principle 4: Establish critical control point monitoring requirements.
Monitoring activities are necessary to ensure that the process is under control at each critical control point. FSIS is requiring that each monitoring procedure and its frequency be listed in the HACCP plan.
Principle 5: Establish corrective actions.
These are actions to be taken when monitoring indicates a deviation from an established critical limit. The final rule requires a plant's HACCP plan to identify the corrective actions to be taken if a critical limit is not met. Corrective actions are intended to ensure that no product injurious to health or otherwise adulterated as a result of the deviation enters commerce.
Principle 6: Establish record keeping procedures.
The HACCP regulation requires that all plants maintain certain documents, including its hazard analysis and written HACCP plan, and records documenting the monitoring of critical control points, critical limits, verification activities, and the handling of processing deviations.
Principle 7: Establish procedures for verifying the HACCP system is working as intended.
Validation ensures that the plans do what they were designed to do; that is, they are successful in ensuring the production of safe product. Plants will be required to validate their own HACCP plans. FSIS will not approve HACCP plans in advance, but will review them for conformance with the final rule.
Verification ensures the HACCP plan is adequate, that is, working as intended. Verification procedures may include such activities as review of HACCP plans, CCP records, critical limits and microbial sampling and analysis. FSIS is requiring that the HACCP plan include verification tasks to be performed by plant personnel. Verification tasks would also be performed by FSIS inspectors. Both FSIS and industry will undertake microbial testing as one of several verification activities. the occurrence of the identified food safety hazard.
Which industrial branches require HACCP system?
HACCP is applicable to all phases of production. From the production of raw material, to processing and distribution, and up to the final user. All that come in contact with the product in any of the mentioned phases should apply the HACCP principles.
Some of the industrial phases which are requiring HACCP system are:
- Production, processing and packaging
- Storage, transport and distribution
- Preparation and distribution to hospitals, kindergardens, hotels, restaurants…
- Trade: retailing and tourism.
What are the advantages of applying the HACCP system?
By implementing HACCP system, the costs, both external and internal, of various analysis are reduced. One of the major advantages is an early release of final products on the market and the reduction of the stock. The food producers should also know that the implementation of HACCP eliminates the financial loss which appear in case of losing the control over some of the phases in the production. Theses losses are often manifested in reduced sales, judicial expenses and the loss of confidence in customers. In other words, HACCP is payed off because it stops the losses and the unnecessary waste.
Also, HACCP system protects the manufacturers from negative publicity. Taking into consideration the fact that the consumers are becoming more and more conscious of food safety. Their complaints are not always justified, but can damage the image and reputation of the company. Consumers’ complaints can easily be disproven with efective programme for food safety, which is completely documented using HACCP.