HACCP (pronounced “hassip”) is a tool that can be useful in the prevention of food safety hazards. In the past, periodic plant inspections and sample inspections have been used to check product quality and ensure safety. Inspection and sample testing provides information relevant only for the specific time the product was inspected or tested. What happened to the product before or after? This method offers the public little protection or assurance that the product is safe and stable.
HACCP plans are pro-active in their approach to food safety. HACCP Systems control safety before and during the manufacturing process, rather than trying to detect problems by testing the finished product. Developed by the Pillsbury Company in the 1960’s as a way of producing safe food for NASA, the system identifies potential problems before production begins, allowing for effective monitoring during production to make sure the problems have not occurred.
Since then, the principles of HACCP have been adopted by a number of food industry segments. The use of HACCP principles are required by the U.S. government in the seafood industry, juice operations, the meat and poultry inspection service, and in those plants that produce meat and poultry products. Discussions are currently underway to include dairy and fresh and processed produce under these requirements as well.
HACCP consultants can help you set up a system. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene also has a fact sheet, “Guidelines for Submitting A Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Plan” that includes detailed information on plan requirements and examples of completed plans. You can obtain a copy of these guidelines by calling the Department at (410) 767-8440 or from their website.
HACCP has worked well in the food industry and is here to stay. It protects your business and your customers and can be a selling point for your product. An understanding of HACCP concepts and principles should be incorporated into your product development plans.
HACCP is based on seven principles. These principles are:
HACCP is only one tool in your food safety program and is not meant to be a stand-alone program. It should be coupled with other food safety processing tools such as Good Manufacturing Practices and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures. HACCP plans can and should change as the your processing business changes. If changes occur in your Process, your HACCP plan must be evaluated and revised by a recognized Process Authority to reflect those changes.
The specific requirements for each of the seven principles can be found in the Code of Federal Register, Part 417-Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Systems. For more information, contact:
States may have HACCP Plan guidelines that vary in title from the seven principles listed, but not in content. Md. Code Ann, Health-General Article, and the Code of Maryland Regulations requires that plans and specifications be submitted to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene when a person proposes to construct, remodel or alter a food establishment, or convert or remodel an existing building for use as a food establishment.
This information is used to make a priority assessment of the facility. A HACCP plan is required for all high or moderate priority facilities. For a copy of Maryland’s “Guideline for Submitting A Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan” that lists the necessary information for priority assessment and developing a HACCP plan, contact the Office of Food Protection and Consumer Health Services.