7 Must-Learn Principles About Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point

Metaphor of comparing apples to oranges on a balance beam isolated on white and the oranges are not as heavy or light.

The food service industry faces a range of challenges that can impact their organizations’ overall operations. To retain their competitive edge, managers are always on the lookout for better strategies to run a hotel, bakery, cafe or restaurant.

From conceptualizing the right menu, addressing staffing concerns, improving customer engagement and marketing, and increasing cash flows to sustain the business operations, business owners will find themselves adjusting from time to time to stay afloat.

One important aspect both owners and managers must have a complete understanding of is the international standard on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), which is focused on risk reduction of food safety hazards. 
Identification and control of potential hazards are important steps under an HAACP system and may include the following hazards: physical, biological or chemical.

Companies engaged in the food production sector and whose operations involve manufacturing, processing or handling can turn to HAACP to eliminate possibilities of food product contamination.

The heart of HAACP lies on its seven basic principles.

1. Implementation of a Hazard Analysis

Companies must start evaluating their activities and pinpoint hazard-prone areas. As stated, hazards may exist in physical conditions (such as metal contamination), biological conditions (such as viral or bacterial exposure products), or chemical (such as possible product exposure to toxins at various development stages).

Hiring a third-party expert who can help food production organizations arrive at an objective hazard evaluation will be a big help. It would be ideal if there is an internal team who can handle this, otherwise, tapping external service provider will save the company precious time in identifying the hazards and evaluating the hazards. After which, identifying critical control points come in.

2. Identification of Critical Control Points(CCP)

This stage refers to steps that need to be taken to control the hazards or an assessment whether such hazard pose immediate risk to end user. Also, this step will involve the deployment of minimum or maximum cap for processing characters (i.e. pH, chlorine levels salt, temperature) level, time, etc.) to contain the hazard. Such CCP limit will determine the subsequent steps to be implemented, with the end goal of controlling impact on the product.

3. Establishment of Critical Limits

Setting benchmark for every CCP should be the next stage. Parameters need to be identified and established, including minimum temperature and other factors. The team must be aware also of limits set by regulatory authorities covering the control point.

4. Establishment of Control Plans

Processes need to be measured at the CCP and must be duly recorded to establish the fact that critical controls have been established. Decision makers need to ask themselves if round-the-clock monitoring of the CCP is required or what measurements must be put in place to reach a confidence level that everything is being supervised. Such monitoring will determine the success of the HAACP system and can either be done through physical quantification or observations, which will guide in the decision-making process when things go awry.

5. Establishment of Corrective Steps

Steps must be established way ahead in anticipation of non-compliance to critical limit. The goal is to ensure the probability of releasing an unsafe product is eliminated. A process evaluation will establish the main source of the problem and its subsequent elimination. The approach is two-pronged: control of products that failed oversight, and elimination of the nonconformity and prevention of a repeating occurrence.

6. Establishment of Verification Plans

Validating the HAACP plan is the focus of this step. This will also involve checking the system if it is being implement according to the agreed plan, such as calibrating instruments as well conducting CCP audit, product testing, and prior shipment review. Also, these activities will exclude monitoring.

7. Establishment of Reporting and Certification Plans

Recording information to establish that there is indeed production of safe product is an instrumental element of the HAACP system. Details of the recording include the HAACP plan itself, the personnel behind the plan, hazard assessments, flow charts, monitoring plan, critical limits, actions taken, procedures, and verification steps.

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