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:
1) Hazard Analysis of the Food
This principle involves a hazard analysis of the product from delivery of the raw ingredients to the consumer’s plate. There are three kinds of hazards in food preparation.
- Biological hazards such as bacteria and viruses.
- Chemical hazards such as toxins, improperly used pesticides, or cleaning compounds.
- Physical hazards such as foreign objects like glass, metal, plastic or wood.
You should develop a flow chart that includes how your product is produced, the packaging involved, the temperature requirements for storage, distribution and display of your product, and finally your intended customer base. This chart will help you identify any possible sites for the introduction of hazards into your production and distribution process. Your chart should also list the steps that will be taken to control the hazard.
2) Identification of Critical Control Points (CCP's)
A critical control point is a step in your food preparation during which a safety hazard can be prevented or eliminated. Typical critical control points include cooking time/temperature parameters, proper acidity (pH) and or drying steps in your food process
3) Establish Critical Limits
All CCP’s must have preventive measures that are measurable within critical limits. The critical limits guarantee safe production of your product and are defined in your Certified Process. If the critical limit criteria are not met, the process is “out of control” and food safety hazards are not being prevented or eliminated. Examples of critical limits include checks of processing temperature, processing time, and maintaining proper pH.
4) Establish Monitoring Procedures
Monitoring is a planned sequence of measurements or observations to insure that the process is in control. It allows you to determine if the processing is proceeding correctly, an if not, to make adjustments before loss of control occurs. The monitoring interval must be adequate to ensure reliable control of the process. Examples of monitoring include visual observations, checks on processing time and temperatures, and checks of moisture levels.
5) Establish Corrective Action
HCAPP is intended to prevent variations in your product or your production process. Mistake will happen. If they do, you must have a written plan for correcting the situation and disposing of the product. Examples of corrective actions are discarding the food, fixing the problem, and maintain a written history of the actions taken.
6) Establish Verification
Review your HACCP system at least annually to make sure it is working properly. Additional audits should be done if you add new equipment or change your Authorized Process.
7) Establish Record Keeping
The HACCP system requires the preparation and maintenance of a written HACCP plan. This plan must include all records generated during the monitoring of each CCP and notations of corrective actions taken. Keep daily records and review them daily to ensure that your system is operating within controls. Keep you record keeping system simple.
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:
- USSA/FSIS, HACCP Small Plant Coordination Office (202) 720-3219.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Website
- Food and Drug Administration, Foodborne Illness Education information Center, USDA/FDA HACCP Training Programs and Resources Database
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.