It’s undeniable: Americans depend heavily on the benefits of large-scale food production to help maintain the quality of life we’ve come to expect — no, demand. In light of this reliance, advancing technology within the food processing industry to reduce contaminants, improve productivity, and maintain quality standards is a critical responsibility.
Accurately identifying critical control points in food production is one of the most important food safety tasks in the entire production process and food industry overall.
A Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system is necessary to facilitate this task, increase speed, and maintain high accuracy. This proactive method identifies and prevents potential hazards to the food (and, ultimately, the consumer) using advanced technology and equipment.
Our team at TDI Packsys explains how to determine critical control points (CCPs) and identify hazards impacting quality, condition, and health in a food processing facility. Plus, we’ll discuss HACCP principles, common terminology, identification methods, and how to improve food safety in your own processing line.
What Is a Critical Control Point (CCP)?
The standard food production process involves multiple steps, unavoidable food safety risks, and numerous physical hazards. During this process, food items are subject to many circumstances where potential contamination could ruin their quality or negatively impact standard operation procedure.
A critical control point is an essential step in the food production process. During critical control points, food undergoes preventative control measures to reduce, prevent, or eliminate food safety hazards such as contamination or bacterial growth.
To help identify food safety hazards, companies use the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. The HACCP plan identifies consumer food safety hazards that commonly occur on the production line and establishes control hazards and corrective actions to ensure food safety.
Most Common Food Production Critical Control Points
The primary purposes of a standard HACCP plan are the prevention and elimination of biological hazards within food production and, ultimately, ensuring that no consumer receives unsafe food. The most common critical control point examples include:
- Food purchasing
- Product delivery and receipt
- Food product storage
- Food production
- Display of food
- Cleaning and maintenance service
- Staff training and hygiene standards
- Calibration checks and monitoring system
At these points, food businesses use three main types of hazard testing to address common food safety issues:
1. Microbiological Testing
The most common method of removing biological hazards from raw materials for food safety purposes involves cooking food to a specific temperature to eliminate pathogens. For example, chicken must reach an internal temperature of at least 160°F to kill the dangerous bacteria Salmonella.
Alternatively, frozen foods can also prevent hazardous microorganisms from growing. Product formulation control is another technique, such as applying natural or artificial preservatives.
2. Physical Testing
In the food business, control measures exist to identify physical contaminants and foreign matter at control points. Physical testing identifies common food safety risks like hair, metal shards, wood, insects, dirt, debris, etc. Also, a physical hazard like dead insects or rodent waste inevitably becomes a biological food safety hazard, and proper pest control is essential.
Product storage and transport are two additional CCPs that can contribute to food safety hazards if not effectively controlled.
3. Chemical Testing
Chemical hazards are another common issue in food handling. Again, frozen and cooked foods provide appropriate control measures against chemical pathogens. Furthermore, food additives can also extend shelf life.
Finally, during the packing control point that occurs post-food preparation, certain packaging types can create multiple hazards. For example, when canning acidic foods (such as tomatoes), packaging with a low pH level can result in corrosion.
HACCP Principles and Definition
The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan is a control measure for food safety programs that actively manage human health hazards by preventing, identifying, and eliminating biological, chemical, and physical contaminants from food. The HACCP system should be a training requirement for the entire food establishment, from processors and handlers to the food safety supervisor.
HACCP plans should follow these seven basic principles to ensure safe food production and accurate quality assurance procedures:
Principle 1: Perform a Hazard Analysis
The first step when creating HACCP food safety programs is to conduct a hazard analysis. Start by listing each step in the food operation and then pinpoint where the biggest risks are likely to occur. Then, focus on the specific hazards that the HACCP plan can prevent, eliminate, or control.
Principle 2: Identify Critical Control Points
Critical control points are the steps or procedures during which an operator can apply control measures to prevent, eliminate, or decrease food safety hazards. For some companies in the food business, the process may have a single critical control point that controls more than one hazard. Conversely, multiple critical control points may be necessary to manage just one hazard. These factors depend on the specific processing steps and food products.
Principle 3: Establish Critical Limits
A critical limit refers to the highest or lowest value of a physical, chemical, or biological parameter necessary to eliminate, prevent, or decrease food safety risks at a CCP. Establishing critical limits for food safety usually involves measuring water activity, temperature, weight, pH, or other relevant characteristics.
Principle 4: Develop Monitoring Procedures
The next step in the plan’s development is to establish monitoring procedures to measure the established critical limits at every CCP to ensure food quality and safety. Every procedure should denote the food safety supervisor responsible for each control measure and discuss the precise method, time, and frequency during production.
Principle 5: Formulate Corrective Actions
Each control measure exists to prevent deviations in the critical limits, but they will inevitably occur. That’s why it’s vital to establish corrective actions to ensure food safety and prevent harmful food products from entering the food chain.
Principle 6: Establish Verification Procedures
Evaluating the effectiveness and progress of an HACCP plan is an integral part of ensuring proper operation. Standard verification methods include auditing CCPs, reviewing records, calibrating instruments, analyzing shipments, and testing products.
Principle 7: Maintain Record Keeping and Documentation
Perhaps the most important part of proper food safety is maintaining accurate records. Record a copy of the HACCP system and plan, including:
- Team member names
- Flowchart diagrams
- Identified CCPs
- Product descriptions
- Critical limits
- Corrective actions
- Record keeping methods
- Monitoring systems
Food businesses should also log controls and corrective actions to prove the facility produced safe food.
If you’re not in the food business, the many terms, acronyms, and food safety terminology may initially seem confusing or overwhelming. We compiled a list of the most common HACCP terminology, and we’ll define and explain each acronym for you right now:
CCP stands for critical control point. During food production, a CCP is any area where monitoring procedures and corrective action or control are absolutely essential to prevent, eliminate, or reduce contamination/food safety hazards.
CP stands for control point. Similar to a CCP, a control point refers to any step in the process where an operator can control the physical, chemical, and biological factors that could contaminate the product or harm food safety. Note that a CP is more broad and less critical than a CCP.
PRP, or prerequisite programs, are the basic activities and optimal conditions necessary to ensure a strictly hygienic environment throughout the processing chain. PRPs ensure that consumers receive safe end products and wholesome food.
An operation prerequisite program (ORP or OpRP) controls significant hazards, which the operator can identify through risk assessments. ORPs may not single out a specific hazard but instead lower the risk of exposure and additional contamination.
SOP stands for standard operating procedure. Essentially, it describes the typical operating processes of a business during its food production.
How Do You Identify These Critical Points in Your Food Production Process?
Identifying and comparing critical control points is essential to ensure you recognize the most powerful and impactful ones. Here are the best ways you can locate these CCPs:
Conduct a Food Safety Hazard Analysis
A proper hazard analysis involves comprehensively identifying all potential biological, chemical, and physical hazards. For example, you may want to ask these questions when you conduct a hazard analysis:
- What types of contaminations could occur during production?
- How likely are these hazards to occur?
- If left unaddressed, what kind of consequences would each contaminant cause?
Map Out Critical Control Point Decision Trees
Decision trees are flowcharts that can determine which steps qualify as CCPs. Each trunk represents an attribute test; the branches denote the outcome of the tests, and the leaves display class labels.
Establish Critical Limits
Every food processing plant should have critical limits for each CCP with precise values to separate the safe products from the contaminated or unsafe ones. Furthermore, these CCP limits should be:
- Easily observable
- Fast and easy to monitor
Categorize and Optimize CCPs
Use sequential numbers to categorize your CCPs and classify each by the type of hazard. Ensure that you have a manageable and accurate number of CCPs. Monitoring too many CCPs can slow down production and create a significant burden.
How To Improve Food Safety in Your Production Line
According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control) data, foodborne disease outbreaks have risen sharply every year. In addition to costing food businesses millions of dollars, poor adherence to food safety regulations can cause severe illness or even death. Follow these tips to increase food safety in a processing plant:
- Use automated or digital systems to monitor CCPs
- Develop and maintain an effective HACCP system
- Perform regular system audits
- Conduct regular maintenance and repairs to equipment
- Hold regular staff and employee training sessions
- Use high-quality equipment from reputable suppliers
Contact TDI Packsys Today
Identifying common critical control points in the food production industry is more important than ever. With foodborne illnesses occurring more frequently, food processing plants must create an effective HACCP system and control measures to evaluate every food safety hazard and ensure efficient production.
At TDI Packsys, we’re proud to be the preferred choice of suppliers for world-class manufacturers and businesses all over the globe, providing state-of-the-art automation and inspection systems. Our comprehensive solutions and superior customer service have earned us a reputation as one of the absolute best in the industry.