What is HACCP?
The HACCP food safety management system was developed in the 60s by what was at the time the world’s largest producer of grain and other foodstuffs, the US-based Pillsbury Company, at the request of NASA.
Concerned with keeping food pathogen- and toxin-free in space, the US space agency needed a system to manage and guarantee food safety, and so HACCP was born. The WHO, in turn, decided this was a good enough system to become the norm for food safety, globally, guaranteeing international adoption.
The system consists of two major parts. Identifying specific hazards by conducting a hazard analysis (HA) and identifying and providing control over critical control points (CCP).
In essence, HACCP systems assure food safety with a process that identifies hazards, establishes controls for these hazards, monitors these controls and periodically verifies the system works.
What are the 7 principles of HACCP?
To correctly implement an HACCP food safety plan, you’ll need to adhere to seven predefined principles. Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
1. Conducting a hazard analysis
The goal of a hazard analysis is to identify any and all possible risks and hazards regarding your company’s food production, processing or distribution processes. This involves listing the steps in these processes and checking where hazards are likely to occur.
2. Identifying Critical Control Points (CCPs)
Critical Control Points (CCPs) are the points that need to be kept under control to ensure a hazard to food safety can be prevented, eliminated, or minimised to an acceptable level. Your HACCP team will use a sequence of questions to determine whether a control point is a CCP, which is known as a CCP decision tree.
3. Establishing Critical Limits (CLs)
It’s essential to establish some kind of quantifiable norm for the hazards involved: a Critical Limit (CL). Assigning a maximum or minimum value to parameters that are controlled at CCPs will help ensure acceptable levels aren’t exceeded.
CLs are most commonly defined as a measure of time, temperature, pH, weight, or some other measure based on scientific or regulatory standards. Each CCP should have at least one Critical Limit.
4. Monitoring CCPs
Equally important is deciding exactly on how your CCPs will be measured, controlled and monitored. You do this by outlining the procedures for monitoring the measurement of the CLs at each CCP.
Outlining this procedure means describing how measurement will take place, when it takes place, who’s responsible for it, and how frequently they will carry out the measurement.
5. Establishing Corrective Actions
Sometimes the criteria for a CCP aren’t met, meaning it’s necessary to take some sort of corrective action. These corrective actions also need to be defined, and you’ll need to state who’s responsible for each corrective action.
Corrective actions can range from things like “actively adjust the temperature until acceptable” or “dispose of this batch of food.” This depends on how severe the problem is, of course.
6. Checking if the plan works and applying verification
Apart from setting up procedures for monitoring CCPs and taking corrective actions, you will also need to establish overall verification procedures. These will determine whether the HACCP plan works and whether the system operates according to plan.
Think of these verification procedures as things like checking whether the plan is still scientifically and technically relevant. This creates a feedback loop that allows you to make modifications to the overall HACCP plan if necessary.
7. Deciding how to keep track of records
Proper documentation of the HACCP plan is essential, as this creates a record of proof for the safety of the food you’re producing, processing, or distribution. Examples of records include time and temperature logs, checklists, forms, and other relevant standards of procedure.
Turning these 7 principles into action points
Adhering to the seven predefined principles of HACCP is the first step towards guaranteeing food safety standards at your business. But the principles themselves aren’t necessarily going to get you very far.
To implement HACCP at your business and become compliant with international food safety standards, you’re going to need an actionable, step-by-step plan. The first step is to assemble an actual HACCP team, consisting of individuals with expertise knowledge in several disciplines:
- Quality assurance
- Food microbiology