What is HACCP and where did it come from? HACCP, which stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point is a system that prioritizes and controls potential hazards in food production and its supply chain, which arose around the 1960s. At this time, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) needed a way to ensure safe food (thereby preventing foodborne illness) for its astronauts on active missions, thus developing HACCP principles.
Today (and back on Earth), HACCP plans are the foundation of Food Safety Plans everywhere. As such, the HACCP process applies to the entire food supply chain, from food manufacturing, production to distribution. The first step in HACCP training is to understand the seven HACCP principles.
The HACCP Process
A HACCP plan pulls from seven distinct principles:
- Conduct a Hazard Analysis
- Identify Critical Control Points
- Establish Critical Limits
- Develop Monitoring Procedures
- Decide on Corrective Actions
- Create Verification Procedures
- Form Record-Keeping Procedures
HACCP Principle 1: Conduct a Hazard Analysis
Hazard analysis is the most important principle used in the HACCP plan. This critical practice identifies the biological, chemical, or physical hazards that could occur at each step in your manufacturing process. Once identified, ask yourself, “Is this hazard significant or reasonably likely to occur?”. Make sure to justify your answer and determine which control measures you have in place for those hazards.
It’s critical to identify all the potential hazards that could be associated with the raw materials, processes, and finished products to assure you identify all the controls necessary. This assures the production of safe food products.
HACCP Principle 2: Identify Critical Control Points
The second principle in the HACCP process is to identify critical control points. Critical control points are steps or procedures at which you can apply control to prevent, eliminate, or reduce a hazard to an acceptable level.
Typical examples of CCPs include cooking processes, chilling, and metal detection. However, CCPs are specific to a facility’s unique manufacturing process and products and must be properly identified to control significant or reasonably likely to occur hazards.
HACCP Principle 3: Establish Critical Limits
Once you identify where CCPs exist in your production, you must identify the critical limits you need to meet for each CCP. A critical limit is a minimum value to which a hazard needs to be controlled to ensure a food product’s safety.
These critical limits must be validated. To do so, you may need to conduct internal tests or consult outside resources like regulatory guidelines or scientific studies.
HACCP Principle 4: Develop Monitoring Procedures
The fourth step in the HACCP is to establish procedures for monitoring your CCPs and using those results to adjust the process as needed. Monitoring observes whether a CCP is under control (does not exceed the critical limits) and provides a record for verification. Monitoring is either continuous, like automated temperature control systems, or non-continuous, such as visual evaluations.
- Your monitoring procedure should consider:
- How you will perform the monitoring?
- Who is responsible for monitoring?
- What you are actually checking and why?
- How will you record results?
- How frequently will you carry out monitoring?
Monitoring responsibilities must be assigned to qualified personnel who are properly trained to perform the tasks and record the results.
HACCP Principle 5: Decide on Corrective Actions
Next, you’ll want to decide on corrective action procedures. In the event that a deviation occurs and you fail to meet the critical limit, you must have predefined actions ready to set in place. This practice makes sure that no contaminated product enters commerce and determines how to properly dispose of the affected product.
Corrective actions must:
- Determine the disposition of the product
- Identify the root cause
- Demonstrate the CCP is back under control
- Identify preventive measures to prevent a recurrence
- Maintain records of the actions taken
HACCP Principle 6: Create Verification Procedures
The sixth HACCP principle is to establish verification procedures. Here, you’re double-checking that your HACCP plan is correctly carried out and is effective.
- CCP process step verification
- Plant audits
- Calibration of monitoring instruments
- Overall check that the food safety system is working as intended
HACCP Principle 7: Form Record-keeping Procedures
You must have records in place to prove your food is produced safely. The HACCP records serve as evidence that your planned monitoring and verification happens as expected, your production stays within critical limits, your corrective actions are in place, and that your product is safe to distribute.
A good rule of thumb to follow is that not documenting an activity is as good as the activity never happening. In other words, documentation provides irrefutable evidence to demonstrate your team follows the HACCP plan to regulators and auditors. There’s no way around it! These records must be complete, accurate, and timely. Remember, HACCP records are legal documents so you want to make sure they are right and accurate.
The following are types of HACCP records commonly requested by FDA and USDA Inspectors:
- Critical control point records
- Critical limits records
- CCP Monitoring records
- Records associated with deviations
- Verification activity records
- HACCP Plan and supporting documents
Resources & HACCP Certification
Alchemy Academy offers many comprehensive solutions for HACCP training and HACCP certification at both Basic and Advanced levels. These fully-accredited online courses help participants develop and master the HACCP principles outlined above. Start learning with us today!