HACCP or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points is a management system in which food safety is addressed by implementing specific measures to control the production of food related products.
Any company involved in the manufacturing, processing of food, from restaurants and cafes to massive factories, needs to have a food safety system in place based on the system of HACCP, which will help to eliminate food safety hazards during production of food.
In this article, we will address what HACCP is, the benefits of using HACCP and the law and legislation around HACCP.
HACCP is a management system used worldwide which helps to prevent and minimize food safety risk and also can provide your customers with the assurance that you have an excellent food safety program in operation. It was first developed in the 1950’s by a The Pillsbury Company, the Natick Research Laboratories, and NASA to ensure food safety for the space program.
The system give a structure which allows you to thoroughly analyse and control any hazards which could take place in the production of food products. The system categorises three types of hazard:
Once identified the system allows you to develop ways to monitor and control these hazards during the entire manufacturing process from the initial raw material stages of production, procurement and handling of food through to distribution and consumption of the finished product.
Many of the world’s largest manufactures use HACCP as a base for their food management safety system and in the UK food production businesses are required to have a HACCP based food safety system by The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 and its associated legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But, a food safety system does not stop with HACCP, to be effective and to have a good overall food safety system, you need to implement these following systems as well:
HACCP is based on seven key terms, known as “The Seven Principles of HACCP” which we will go through here.
The first stage of the hazard analysis process is identifying where risks can be introduced into the food manufacturing process. The risks could be physical (i.e. a screw from a machine or hair from a workers head), chemical (i.e. a cleaning product contaminating the product) or biological (a virus from someone coughing near food production.)
An example would be the risk to customers from bacteria on under cooked food.
The second step is to look at which stages in the process controls be put into place to prevent or even eliminated the potential hazard that you have identified. These are the critical control points.
Each control point you will need to identify the most appropriate preventive measures to reduce or eliminate the risks. You should then establish which particular method you will use to control the hazard.
In our example we could find that controlling the temperature of the food throughout the food chain can significantly reduce the risks, either by keeping high risk ingredients cold to inhibit bacteria growth or by heating to a level that kills bacteria.
The next step is to create a critical limit, which is the point that a risk has become present, establishing specific criteria for each critical control point. This could include things like setting a maximum height staff can work at to reduce the risks from falling, setting minimum staffing levels to avoid the risks of lone working at night or setting minimum dilution levels on cleaning products.
Here is where you would set specific maximum acceptable temperatures for chilled deliveries and minimum holding temperatures for hot food.
Next, you need to establish monitoring procedures. You need to decide how you are going to check if a critical control limit has been reached, ensuring that it is measured in a consistent way.
You should first look to see if a continuous monitoring method is available for the control point, such as a temperature alarm on a freezer or using a post-mix cleaning product dispenser to ensure correct dilution. If this is not possible, as is often the case, you need to decide how often does this monitoring need to be performed to show that the risk is under control?
At this stage you would establish a process for temperature checking all deliveries, setting the method to check them against the acceptable limits. You would set a method for temperature checking hot food, perhaps checking several or all in a batch.
You will have to determine what actions are appropriate if the critical limit is exceeded. You should detail who needs to be informed, if you find a screw in a bag of flour you purchased, you would need to inform the supplier, if you are the producer of that flour, you may potentially need to inform the FSA of the chance of contamination on a wide scale and issue a product recall.
Our example of food being found either under or over temperature you would normally discard the product, and if it arrived from a supplier at the wrong temperature advise them of this fact.
You will need records show that the critical limits have been met. These records are your only real proof that you have been completing the required checks, and will have an impact on the score given under both the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and the Food Hygiene Information Scheme.
You will need to have records of every stage of this process, so your Food Safety System will include written details of each Hazard and a breakdown of identified control points, critical limits for that hazard, details of the monitoring and the established corrective actions. You will then also need the records from that active monitoring and details of corrective actions taken.
You need to ensure that all staff are trained to complete the monitoring and are aware of where the records are held as this is often the first thing a visiting Environmental Health Officer will look for.
To continue our example you could have temperature monitoring sheets for deliveries - used at every delivery, temperature check records for all fridges and freezers used twice daily and temperature record sheets for all hot-hold foods.
Then the HACCP plan must be verified. This is about putting the HACCP process in place and then making sure it is effective at finding and preventing hazards. This means constantly reviewing the plan, ensuring any unaccounted issues that emerge are added and the whole system is improved whenever possible. You should be looking at the end product or result, ensuring that everything happened as it should throughout the whole process to verify the controls are working correctly. If they are not then you should review your HACCP plan to reduce the risks of issues as much as possible.
In our example this would include monitoring any complains about the food which could indicate any bacteria contamination, looking at food spoilage to see if any food is turning bad before expected use by dates etc.
Food hygiene regulations passed in the UK and EU state that all UK food and drink companies must have a food and safety management system operating, based on HACCP with all records kept up to date. These regulations places great emphasis on HACCP, its use and more effective controls.
To read more about important Food Hygiene Legislation see our article 5 Laws Anyone Working in Food Hygiene Should Know.
A good HACCP plan produces a cost-effective system for the control of food safety, from the raw ingredients to the production, and the storing to distribution, right through to the selling of the food product. HACCP doesn't just improve food safety management, but can also help control costs due to reduced wastage and can help highlight other issues within the food production environment due to the extra care and attention the system forces staff to give.
There are a many benefits to working with HACCP, which are listed below:
Failure to comply with these new laws can result in hefty fines, and even permanent closure of your food and drink business.
It’s also about due diligence, if a customer died from eating or drinking your food products, your records from this as part of your Food Safety Management System will for the main part of your defence. With these records you will be able to show that you have not only taken a long term over view of the risks present and have come up with procedures to adequately deal with them, but also that you are actively and constantly monitoring those risks.
If you can show you had a working system in place and you took all the reasonable efforts to ensure safe food was being produced. This system should higher lower the risks of a serious incident significantly.
If you have a visit from an Environmental Health Officer or Health & Safety Executive inspector, you should be able to provide all of this paperwork through daily, weekly and monthly records when asked. This forms a key part of your Food Hygiene Rating, it is impossible to score a maximum rating if you cannot provide all of this on demand.
In the next article in this series we will look as the different types of food contamination in more detail and cover examples and possible sources for each to help you understand why a HACCP system is important.