Many of you might have heard about the term HACCP being used in Industries while carrying the production process. Also during audits, the members of auditing committee always asks for the complete chart of HACCP. So with this article, I aim towards clarifying the questions like what actually HACCP is, why it is so important, why it is needs to be modified with time and much more.
First we need to know what actually HACCP is. Well, HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. From its full form many things become clear like HACCP is a food safety procedure which deals with hazards by analysing critical control points and placing safety measures for hazard free food.
HACCP is a systematic control system which identifies, evaluate and control the food safety hazards by following these 7 principles:
- Conduct a Hazard analysis.
- Determine the critical control point (CCP).
- Establish Critical Limits
- Establish Monitoring Procedures.
- Establishing Corrective actions
- Keeping Verification procedures
- Establishing record keeping a documentation procedures.
Now we have a basic understanding of HACCP, so let’s see how these principles are used in reality.
Before explaining how these principle are used, it is necessary to know that HACCP is a management system for food safety through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards during raw material production, procurement, processing, packaging and all those processes in between. For successful implementation of HACCP plan (HACCP plan is a written document which is based upon the principles of HACCP and which delineates the procedures to be followed) the management is needed to be strongly committed to the HACCP concept.
The whole process of establishing the HACCP is not as easy as it looks, for its establishment a team is to be created which go through each stage of the process and finally develops the HACCP plan for an industry. Each industry has its own HACCP plan which they follow for providing hazard free food to its consumer.
Development of HACCP plan
1. Formation/Assemble a team:
For the development of HACCP plan a team is required. This team should consist of knowledgeable, trained experts of the product and processes. The whole team is responsible for the development of HACCP plan, the team should consist of multi-disciplinary experts from the fields like engineering, production, food microbiology, etc. The team should also include local personnel which is involved in the operation as the they are most familiar with the process.
2. Describing the food and its distribution:
After the team is formed it is important to know the food for which the HACCP plan is being formed, so the ingredients and processing factors are described for better understanding of the food product. Also the method of distribution is also discussed to know how the end product is distributed whether frozen, canned or bottled.
3. Describing the intended use and consumer of the food:
in this it is described that the food is for normal public or a particular section of the public for ex. Horlicks is meant for normal public i.e. anyone can use it whereas the women Horlicks is meant for women.
4. Developing the flow chart of the process
After describing food and its audience it is necessary to know the flow chart of the process to know at which places the hazard might come. So the team sits together and forms a flow chart of the process which works as a reference for future audits and also for formulation of HACCP plan. It is being made to easily understand and evaluate the process.
5. Verification of the flow chart
After having a flow chart it is necessary to verify the flow chart. Hence, the team visits the site of process and verifies the flow chart. Modifications are being done wherever required and documented.
After these 5 steps are taken the 7 principle of HACCP are being used to formulate a HACCP plan
Principle 1: Conduct a Hazard Analysis:
After completion of 5 tasks mentioned above the team conducts hazard analysis and identify appropriate control measures. The purpose of hazard analysis is to conduct and identify the hazards which might lead to illness and injuries. It is further divided into 2 stages, In first stage the hazard are being identified by reviewing the products ingredient, process steps, etc. After the hazards are being identified Hazard evaluation which is stage 2 is started. In this stage the hazard is being evaluated on the basis of severity of potential hazard.
After completion of hazard analysis, the hazards are being noted down with their control measures. The hazard analysis accomplishes three objectives which are Hazard and corresponding control measure is being identifies. If the process needs any modification it is also noted and a basis is being formed for the principle 2 which is determination of CCPs.
Principle 2: Determination of CCPs
So what actually is a Critical control point (CCP)? Well, CCP is a step at which control can be applied to reduce, prevent or eliminate the hazard. Complete and accurate identification of CCPs are necessary to eliminate the hazard. The information obtained during the hazard analysis helps in the process of determining the CCPs.
Critical Control point can be at any step where hazards are present and is in need of elimination.
Example of CCP can be the Star plates used in spice grinding industry during packaging, it can be the thermal treatment and the chilling treatment or the FDV used in dairy industry. CCPs vary industry to industry and even plant to plant as it depends on the process as well as the plant and process layout.
Principle 3: Establishing Critical Limits
Critical Limit can be defined as a maximum limit upto which a biological, chemical or physical parameter can be used to eliminate, prevent or reduce the hazard. It is used to define the safe and unsafe limit of a CCP. Critical Limits are not be confused with operational Limits, both are different things as one depends on food safety and the other depends on end product.
Critical Limits are based on water activity (Aw), temperature, time, physical dimensions, humidity, moisture level, pH salt concentration, visual appearance, etc.
Principle 4: Establishing Monitoring Limits
Why Monitoring? Well to ensure whether the CCP are under control as well as to have a document for the verification during meetings and audits. Monitoring serves 3 purposes, Firstly it helps in food safety operation and to track the process operation. If the trend is towards the loss of control then it can be bring back to control before it deviates from the critical limit. Secondly, monitoring is used to determine when and where there is loss of control in CCP and to bring it back to right track. Thirdly it gives you a written document which will help you during meetings and audits.
Monitoring should be continuous if possible as it is more feasible and gives a more accurate result. If continuous monitoring is not possible then it is required to set a frequency at which the monitoring will happen to ensure that the CCP is under control. Also the monitoring equipment should be calibrated.
Also the documents of CCP monitoring should be dated and signed by the person doing monitoring.
Principle 5: Establish corrective actions
We all know nothing in this world is ideal, there always exist deviation. Similar is the case with CCPs. So one of the most important part of corrective actions is to prevent the food contaminated with Hazard from reaching the consumer, so wherever there is a deviation from the critical limit, a corrective action is necessary. The corrective actions should include the following elements: (a) determine and correct the cause of non-compliance; (b) determine the disposition of non-compliant product and (c) record the corrective actions that have been taken. For each CCP a specific corrective action must be developed. The HACCP plan must contain the report as when a particular deviation occurs what corrective actions are to taken. Those who are having a understanding of the process are given the responsibility of overseeing the corrective actions.
Principle 6: Establish verification procedure
Verification are the activities other than monitoring that helps in determining the validity of the HACCP plan and whether the system is operating according to that plan. One of its role is to check whether the facilities HACCP is working according to the HACCP plan or not. Also the verification helps in checking that whether the HACCP plan is scientifically and technically sound or not and to check whether all the Hazards and their CCP are being identified and Critical limits are being established or not. Subsequent Validation is requires and the documents and reports made by the personnel are checked during verification.
Verification procedure also involved on-site checking of HACCP plan and flow chart verification for the technical review. If there are some deficiencies identified by the verification committee then HACCP team make some changes in the plan to improve the HACCP process.
Principle 7: Establishing record keeping and Documentation procedures
We have already discussed above that almost each section is requires to record their daily actions n HACCP, following are some elements which should be present in records:
- Hazard analysis summary with rationale determination of Hazard and control measures.
- HACCP plan with HACCP team members listed.
- Describing the food and its distribution
- Indented use of product and the consumer
- Flow chart of the process
- HACCP plan summary table which should include:
- Steps in process that are CCPs
- The hazards of concern
- Critical limits
- Corrective actions
- Verification procedures and schedule
- Signature of the personnel responsible for recording
- And many more… depending on the HACCP plan
Now we have understood the whole process of HACCP and but how it is implemented and maintained? It is necessary for top management to make strict rules regarding the HACCP so that no mishap happens during the implementation of HACCP plan also to maintain it is necessary that the top management form a schedule for regular verification process. The HACCP should always be revised and updated when needed. For maintaining the HACCP plan it is necessary that all the individuals involved in Implementing HACCP plan are to be trained so that they understand their role and effectively fulfil their responsibility.
I hope the readers understand the HACCP planning procedure.
Thank you for reading
Also, if you wish to read more about similar processes, you can check out our article on root cause analysis.