Thursday, February 17, 2011

What is HACCP all about anyway?

Recent changes in food regulatory policy have put special focus on Food Safety Procedures and Processes.  In the interest of supporting Kentucky's food manufacturers, here at the FSIC, we develop HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) courses specifically designed to help meet the educational requirements for HACCP plan design particularly in smaller facilities. The question we are often posed with is "Why HACCP?"  To answer this, it helps to start by looking at the history of Food Safety Processes.

HACCP is a set of guidelines that can minimize Food Safety Hazards and illness. It was first defined by the Codex Alimentarius Commission which implements food safety standards through the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1963. HACCP was developed as a result of the NASA space program, which required a greater level of stringency in food safety procedures for astronauts (having an astronaut sick in space was not an option!).

Although HACCP was developed here in the U.S. and initially born at the Pillsbury® Company, the process has been widely embraced through Europe.  Starting in the 1990s, however, after several foodborne E.coli outbreaks were identified Food Safety standards started taking on higher priorities globally.

Today, HACCP has been adopted throughout the world and is a necessity that is consistently seen in successful food businesses.

HACCP comprises of 7 areas of focus:
1.     Hazard Analysis
2.     Identifying Critical Control Points
3.     Establish Critical Limits
4.     Monitoring Procedures
5.     Corrective Actions
6.     Verification Procedures
7.     Record Keeping and Documentation Procedures

While having Standard Sanitation Operating Procedures (SSOPs) in place is often seen as sufficient by food businesses, sanitation alone does not address potential contamination  by biological, chemical, physical and radiological hazards. In fact, sanitation alone provides no process for validating and taking countermeasures against hazards or providing monitoring that helps minimize a food safety emergency.

Developing a HACCP plan in its essence, provides a business with a comprehensive manner in which to identify, monitor and mitigate. HACCP provides a business with the ammunition it needs to access new markets with confidence and success. Ultimately, a food business must safeguard its brand value, and take necessary precautions to assure the food product is safe.

With the latest changes in foods safety regulations, it becomes critical that many smaller manufacturers become acquainted with the seven principles of HACCP and incorporate these steps into their Food Safety Procedures.

- Angela Anandappa