The History of HACCP Food Safety
The United States did not have a national food safety laws set in place till June 30, 1906. Despite several attempts by The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Congress deferred the passing of a national food safety law through the 19th century.
In 1902, the USDA chief chemist, Dr. Harvey Wiley, formed the Poison Squad, a group of men who would willingly consume potentially dangerous food additives in order to showcase the harmful effects such products had on human health. The study became a national talking point at the time and helped build public support for the passage of a national food safety law.
In 1906, Congress finally passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, which mandated the federal government ban the manufacture, sale, and interstate transportation of adulterated, misbranded, poisonous foods.
The same year also saw the passing of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which prohibited the sale of adulterated or misbranded livestock. The act also established sanitary standards for slaughtering and mandated daily inspections of slaughterhouses by the USDA.
In fact, Congress had to pass the meat inspection act following nationwide outrage over unsanitary butchering practices, mainly triggered by Upton Sinclairs 1905 novel, The Jungle, in which the socialist writer portrayed the unhygienic conditions of Chicago slaughterhouses.
The Introduction of a New Food Safety Initiative
US food safety regulations went through several amendments over time to keep up with the changing nature of food hazards. One such amendment was HACCP, short for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. The plan employed a preventive approach to food safety and checks on each critical point of a food business, starting from production and manufacturing to procurement, distribution, and consumption.
The first iteration of HACCP was produced in the early 1960s by NASA, who at the time, was looking for a way to develop safe food for their upcoming space mission. NASA already had a preventative process to test their weapon and engineering tools. So, the US space agency asked the Pillsbury Company to develop a similar process for food safety testing.
The success of the NASA initiative encouraged Pillsbury to implement a similar HACCP plan in their food production system. That decision alone helped successfully deal with product recalls and foodborne disease outbreaks at the time.
In 1971, Pillsbury shared their experience of using HACCP at the National Conference on Food Protection, which eventually led the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to incorporate the basic HACCP principles into its low acid and acidified food regulations in 1974. Since then, several food establishments have made it a priority to incorporate HACCP into their food production system.
However, the early 1990s saw a paradigm shift in the way food safety was regulated in the US. Following the 1993 E. coli outbreak, the USDA was looking for a more robust system to ensure food safety, and at the time, the HACCP plan stood out.
How HACCP Has Evolved
The 1980s and 1990s saw rapid adoption of HACCP within the US food industry, thanks to several publications that touted the HACCP system as an effective way to ensure food safety. For instance, a report published by a subcommittee of the National Academy of Sciences in 1985 described HACCP as the best tool for ensuring safe food supply.
Meanwhile, the concept of HACCP continued to evolve. The initial concept was based on three core principles-
- Conducting an analysis of hazards
- Determining critical control points
- Establishing a system to monitor the critical control points
Over time, new principles were adopted to make HACCP implementation easier for food businesses. The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF), in 1989, published the first HACCP document, titled HACCP Principles for Food Production, which outlines a total of seven HACCP principles.
In 1993, Codex Committee on Food Hygiene recognized HACCP as the global standard for food safety and published their first HACCP guidelines, which would be later adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the joint body of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
In 1997, Codex revised its HACCP document to incorporate certain FAO/WHO recommendations, while NACMCF issued its third revised document to harmonize the US and international definition of HACCP.
In the same year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made it mandatory for all seafood companies to implement the HACCP system. Later in 2001, the FDA also made HACCP mandatory for all juice products.
The USDA-regulated meat and poultry HACCP programs were made effective in phases for the large, medium, and small plants, respectively in 1997, 1999, and 2000. In 2005, the FDA released its new guidelines for ensuring food safety, in which the federal agency reiterated the need for implementing HACCP to safeguard public health.