During our work implementing EZ FORMS in large restaurant chains, we have had myriad conversations with customers about the biggest challenges they face in managing their operations. The one issue that has been consistently mentioned as their hot button issue is the challenge surrounding food safety across operations. Multiple government agencies are involved in the process of ensuring that the food that is served in dining establishments is managed safely at every stage of the food chain. To that end, the hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) process has been developed and refined over the past several decades.
HACCP is a systematic preventive approach to food safety from biological, chemical, and physical hazards in production processes that can cause the finished product to be unsafe, and designs measurements to reduce these risks to a safe level. In this manner, HACCP focuses on the prevention of hazards rather than finished product inspection. The HACCP system can be used at all stages of a food chain, from food production and preparation processes including packaging, distribution, etc. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) say that their mandatory HACCP programs for juice and meat are an effective approach to food safety and protecting public health. Meat HACCP systems are regulated by the USDA, while seafood and juice are regulated by the FDA. The use of HACCP is currently voluntary in other food industries.
HACCP has been increasingly applied to industries other than food, such as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. This method, which in effect seeks to plan out unsafe practices based on science, differs from traditional "produce and sort" quality control methods that do nothing to prevent hazards from occurring and must identify them at the end of the process. HACCP is focused only on the health safety issues of a product and not the quality of the product, yet HACCP principles are the basis of most food quality and safety assurance systems, and the United States,
HACCP expanded in all realms of the food industry, going into meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, and has spread now from the farm to the fork.
Principles of HACCP
- Conduct a hazard analysis
Plans determine the food safety hazards and identify the preventive measures the plan can apply to control these hazards. A food safety hazard is any biological, chemical, or physical property that may cause a food to be unsafe for human consumption.
- Identify critical control points
A critical control point (CCP) is a point, step, or procedure in a food manufacturing 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.
- 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.
- Establish critical control point monitoring requirements
Monitoring activities are necessary to ensure that the process is under control at each critical control point. In the United States, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) requires that each monitoring procedure and its frequency be listed in the HACCP plan.
- 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 is injurious to health or otherwise adulterated as a result of the deviation enters commerce.
- Establish procedures for ensuring the HACCP system is working as intended
Validation ensures that the plants do what they were designed to do; that is, they are successful in ensuring the production of a 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.
Verification also includes 'validation' – the process of finding evidence for the accuracy of the HACCP system (e.g. scientific evidence for critical limitations).
- 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. Implementation involves monitoring, verifying, and validating of the daily work that is compliant with regulatory requirements in all stages all the time. The differences among those three types of work are given by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.
HACCP currently applies to the following industries:
- Fish and fishery products
- Fresh-cut produce
- Drinks and nectary products
- Food outlets
- Meat and poultry products
- School food and services
(A shout out to Wikipedia for the HACCP overview)