HACCP: Back to the Forefront of Food Safety and Prevention

Due to its presence in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and prevalence in Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) schemes, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control (HACCP) programs are very much vogue these days in the food industry.

Under FSMA’s preventive controls rule for human food, facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold human are charged with implementing a written food safety plan focused on controlling hazards. In nearly every GFSI certification scheme, including Safe Quality Food (SQF) and BRC, companies seeking accreditation to a particular Code are required to have validated and verified HACCP plans.

Consequently, both FSMA and GFSI have gone a long way in reinforcing HACCP as the foremost program for assuring the production of safe and wholesome foods.

Old Faithful
Conceived in the late 1960s by the Pillsbury Company for NASA space explorations,HACCP, and its guiding seven principles, requires companies to document in-process monitoring activities, corrective actions, and other relevant aspects of their programs. In addition, food establishments are charged with instating verification programs to assess the accuracy of collected data and the overall effectiveness of their HACCP programs.

Building and maintaining an effective HACCP plan requires expertise and due diligence. It is widely agreed that plans are only as good as the prerequisite programs that lend to their ultimate effectiveness.

  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs):
    Under U.S. law, manufacturers and processors are required to take proactive steps to ensure the production of safe foods. The regulations require a quality approach to manufacturing, enabling companies to minimize or eliminate instances of contamination and errors. Record keeping, personnel qualifications, sanitation, cleanliness, equipment verification, process validation, and complaint handling are among the issues addressed in GMP regulations.
  • Standard Sanitation Operating Procedures (SSOPs):
    Food companies should have written sanitation standard operating procedures on their plant premises.SSOPs clearly define cleaning and sanitizing activities, as well as specific responsibilities for the entire processing environment. The overall success of a plant’s cleaning and sanitizing program is largely dependent on the stringency of its pre-operational inspection and quality of its verification program. Sanitation is the basic food safety foundation for all plants.
  • Product Identification, Tracking, and Recall Programs:
    Companies should have procedures in place to trace and recover products from the time when they received as raw ingredients to the moment the product is put into distribution. All ingredients, packaging materials and raw materials should be included in these programs.
  • Preventative Maintenance:
    In-plant programs should be designed to ensure all equipment, especially those units that assure food safety, is properly maintained and functional. Written plans should include schedule of repairs and maintenance, detailed cleaning / maintenance instruction for staff, and staff training guidelines.
  • Environmental Monitoring:
    Programs, encompassing sampling sites, frequency of testing, sampling methods, and testing protocols, are essential for assessing the effectiveness of cleaning and sanitizing programs, identifying microbial niches, and determining if pathogens are present in the processing environment.
  • Employee Education and Training:
    Training for plant workers should be an ongoing process. All training should be documented and immediately included in employee personnel files. Even the most meticulously planned food processing system will fail if employees are poorly trained or unmotivated. Training areas should include allergen management programs, product and process specification programs, approved supplier programs, and labeling programs. Read our previous blog post on “The 5 Reasons to Attend an Outside Training Course in 2014

Renewed Focus
With the renewed focus on HACCP, it is key imperative for companies to invest the necessary resources to build or improve programs. HACCP plans should be reassessed on a regular basis to verify that the program is operating effectively.

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