HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. It’s a food safety and risk assessment system designed in the 1960s by NASA and a group of food safety specialists. It was firstly designed to manufacture food for space flights.
It is believed to stem from the artillery shells’ inspections during World War II, the firing mechanisms couldn’t be inspected after production and many of them were duds or misfiring.
HACCP isn’t a way to inspect finished products for risks and hazards. Instead, what HACCP stands for is preventing those risks and hazards from occurring in the first place.
It’s a systematic approach to minimizing the risks of producing unsafe food. The aim of HACCP is to discover potential hazards and institute control measures.
To do this, HACCP uses 7 principles in food safety
- Analyzing potential hazards
- Determining critical control points
- Assign critical limits to critical control points
- Institute critical control point monitoring
- Determine corrective actions
- Make sure the HACCP system is working as intended
- Keep records of HACCP plans and procedures
Since its inception in the 1960s’, HACCP has been accepted internationally as an improvement to traditional inspection systems to a modern and science-based food safety system.
Any business in the food industry, whether it start on a farm or served in a restaurant is responsible for delivering safe foods to all customers.
Every business is different, and they’ll all have different procedures to ensure they produce safe foods. That’s why HACCP was designed as a template that can be used with any business in hopes of determining the processes and procedures for producing safe food.
This is the initial phase of HACCP which stands for identifying potential safety hazards that could occur at any time during the food supply chain and process. After identifying the hazards, control points to manage or eliminate the hazards must be implemented.
Food safety hazards are properties that may cause food to be unsafe or harmful for human consumption. These are divided into three categories - physical, chemical, and biological.
Critical control points are checkpoints during the manufacturing process at which control can be applied. The goal is to make sure a food safety hazard can be prevented, eliminated, or reduced to an acceptable level.
A CCP can also be used to monitor one single parameter. You could use it to make sure the nutrients are correctly listed on the label, to make sure machines are cleaned regularly, or something else.
Critical limits are implemented at each critical control point (CCP). A critical limit a the minimum or maximum value a chemical, biological, or physical hazard can have. The goal is to make sure each CCP stays within safe limits to ensure that a hazard is prevented, eliminated, or reduced to an acceptable level.
In short - a critical limit marks the point where an item becomes acceptable or unacceptable.
For example, for storing meat - the danger zone is above 41°F. This means that the critical point should be set at 41°F, and it would be acceptable to keep the meat at 39°F, but not at 43°F.
As with any established values or limits, CCPs wouldn’t have any meaning without monitoring them and their values. To make sure CCPs don’t go over the critical limits, they can be monitored in many different ways.
- Fridge temperature can be monitored by daily-checking the temperature
- Labels can be monitored by doing frequent checkups on them
- Hygiene can be monitored by logging cleaning activities
Since HACCP stands for making sure all produced food is safe for humans, this step must be executed with extreme attention to detail.
In the US, and many other countries, it is required by law for the monitoring activities for each CCP to be listed in the HACCP plan.
When potential hazards exceed their critical limits, corrective action must be taken. These are rules that come into effect once a critical limit has been breached.
Corrective actions make sure that no product is dangerous for human consumption.
The 2-4 hour rule is a great example of this. It dictates that any food that’s been in breach of a critical limit for more than 4 hours should be thrown out. With this rule, throwing out the food is the corrective action.
Validation procedures need to be implemented to make sure the HACCP system is working correctly and making sure every product is safe for human consumption.
It’s the responsibility of the business to make sure HACCP is doing its job. In the US, businesses are required to include verification tasks performed by personnel in their HACCP plan.
HACCP regulations require that businesses keep records and documents at all times. These include
- Hazard analysis
- Written HACCP plan
- Monitoring records of CCPs
- Critical limits
- Verification activities
- Handling of process deviations
To recap, HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. It’s a plan to make sure food stays safe for human consumption through the whole food chain process.
We can all agree that HACCP is needed at any point in the food industry. Whether food is being manufactured or cooked in a restaurant - if things go wrong, it could still be dangerous for human consumption.
It’s not always hard to implement a HACCP system. In fact, depending on your business, you might be able to do it without any outside help. The principles are the same, and they’re a template which can be implemented in any food business.