A well-designed and well-implemented food safety system is crucial for any business in the food industry. Without proactive safety measures, good manufacturing practices, and adequate inspection processes, both consumers and businesses suffer. If your customers fall ill, your company may face food recalls, a damaged reputation, and even legal action.
As a food industry professional concerned about the importance of food safety, you know you need a robust food safety system. You may even have heard about the HACCP but have more questions. Here, we answer the question, “What is HACCP?” and discuss what the process involves and the benefits of implementing an HACCP plan.
What Is Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a methodology that helps businesses proactively identify and manage food safety risks before they occur. HACCP, the most widely recognized food management system in the world, helps companies identify, analyze, and control significant hazards in the food manufacturing process.
What Is an HACCP Plan?
While HACCP is a preventative methodology for managing food safety, an HACCP plan incorporates those methods into a program for a specific business.
These plans are flexible, but they must all address the seven HACCP principles. To ensure that plans adequately address the unique risks inherent to any given step in the food supply chain, manufacturers must assign each product or process its own HACCP program.
HACCP Plan Preliminary Steps
All HACCP plans have two phases: the preliminary phase (understanding your needs) and the application phase (writing your plan). During the preliminary phase, you will analyze the specific conditions, products, and processes in your facility to give you a comprehensive picture of risks and responsibilities.
This phase includes the following steps:
Form an HACCP Team
For starters, you will designate a team of qualified individuals to develop the HACCP plan. You may decide to delegate responsibility entirely to staff members, or you may choose to contract outside food safety consultants.
Describe the Product and Identify Its Use
Create a detailed list of the products, ingredients, and processes handled (or to be handled) in your facility. Here, you will also address such topics as intended uses, shelf-life and temperature considerations, high-risk substances, and packaging standards and materials.
Identify Target Consumers and Purpose
Think about who your target market is and how they will use the product. For example, products intended for children or immunocompromised individuals may have different safety standards or labeling requirements than other goods.
Create Flow Diagram
A flow chart helps you visualize every stage of your facility’s manufacturing process—from receiving raw materials to sending out shipments — in order to identify potential hazards. Make sure to also make note of key control process steps along the way.
Verify Flow Diagram and Preparatory Steps
After you have completed your flow chart, the HACCP team should verify the diagram in real time by conducting a walkthrough of the facility. If your team notes any inaccuracies, you will need to adjust the plan accordingly. After finishing the preparatory stages, you are ready to start writing your HAACP plan.
Special Processes Requiring a HACCP Plan
Applying high heat is a common technique in food processing facilities. If your facility uses special food manufacturing techniques like brining or smoking, local regulations may require you to have an HACCP plan. These special processes can include the following:
- Curing meat or other food, including with nitrites or nitrates
- Adding vinegar or other acidification ingredients to preserve foods like fruit, vegetables, fish, or eggs
- Using reduced oxygen packaging to extend the shelf life of food products
- Smoking meat, fish, or other food
- Using live holding tanks for shellfish
The Seven Principles of HACCP
Now that you know the answer to the question “What is HACCP?” let’s dive into best practices. While you can and should target your HACCP program to your specific business needs, all plans require the following steps.
1. Perform a Hazard Analysis
First, your team must identify all hazards that may negatively affect your food products, including potential biological, chemical, and physical dangers. Next, assess the likelihood and severity of the risks they pose in your production process.
2. Identify Critical Control Points (CCPs)
CCPs are steps in the manufacturing process where you can implement controls to prevent or reduce food safety risks. Examples of CCPs in food service establishments are cooking, cooling, reheating, and holding.
3. Establish Critical Limits
A critical limit sets the maximum acceptable level of a particular food safety risk. Specific critical limits vary by parameter but often include measurable values such as time, temperature, pH, water activity, available chlorine, and electrical conductivity.
4. Develop Monitoring Procedures
Monitoring procedures help assure food safety by identifying when your facility meets or exceeds critical limits. Plans should include protocols like how frequently to take measurements, what kinds of methods or technologies to use, who is responsible for monitoring them, and what to do in the event of a deviation.
5. Set Up Corrective Action Procedures
If your monitoring systems identify a problem, you need to have a plan in place to deal with it. Corrective actions should prevent the potentially dangerous product from entering the food chain while also rectifying the cause of the hazard.
6. Establish Verification Protocols
One of the most important parts of an HACCP program is verification, which makes sure your plan does what it intends to. Verification procedures may include regular audits, product inspections, equipment calibration, record reviews, and random sample testing.
7. Ensure Effective Recordkeeping
When you create your HACCP plan, you need to write it all down. Documentation helps you identify weaknesses in your facility, improve product traceability, and provide evidence that you deliver food safely and consistently.
What Are the Benefits of Implementing HACCP?
What is HACCP, and how does implementing it benefit your business? Companies choose to implement food safety management systems for all kinds of reasons.
Compliance With Laws and Regulations
Some countries, states, and industries require HACCP. Even when your business doesn’t legally need to have one, an HACCP plan can help you meet regulations and requirements regarding sanitation, purity, labeling, and other important food safety standards.
Risk and Liability Reduction
HACCP plans can help you reduce risks across the board, including health risks to customers, physical risks to employees, and legal and financial risks to your company.
Improvements in Quality and Efficiency
A well-developed and implemented HACCP plan can improve overall operational efficiency and product quality. Standardized processes may enable your business to reduce waste, streamline processes, and prevent potential issues from becoming full-blown catastrophes.
Sales and Marketing Boosts
Implementing an internationally recognized HACCP plan proves to customers, business partners, and government officials that your company prioritizes quality and safety. This can help you increase consumer confidence, enhance your reputation, and even open up new business avenues since some countries and companies only work with HACCP-compliant partners.
Food Safety Technologies at TDI Packsys
Any robust food safety management system utilizes food safety technologies to reduce risks. At TDI Packsys, we offer several inspection systems to identify physical hazards in the food manufacturing process.
Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is HACCP?” we’d like to help you ensure food quality and consistency at your facility. Contact us today at (877) 834-6750 for more information about customized inspection solutions for your business.