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Figures from the World Health Organisation show that there’s been a global increase in cases of food poisoning in recent years. If you work in food processing, you’re no doubt aware of how important it is to minimise the risks of contamination. Programmes such as HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) are an accepted system around the world to reduce those risks before they happen.

What is HACCP?

HACCP is a system which identifies the critical points in any food production procedure to maintain safety, keeping your end product as safe as possible. HACCP is there to help you work out possible hazards before the product reaches the consumer, and create a “prevention rather than cure” system.

Seven key principles

There are seven pillars to the HACCP system. Let’s explain them in plain English.

1) Hazard analysis

Each ingredient should be evaluated for possible chemical, biological and physical hazards throughout the manufacturing process.

2) Identify the CCP points

Examine the production process, and identify any places during it where you could apply/eliminate/reduce a possible hazard.

3) Know the critical limit

Learn the safe limits of the possible risk, and work out how to stay above the minimum and below the maximum.

4) Create monitoring requirements

Once you’ve followed step 3, using thorough monitoring will allow you to verify that these parameters are being met.

5) Set up remedial actions

If step 4 shows that things are going wrong, step 5 should be the ways you can get them back under your control, as well as preventing the possible contamination from going any further. Should the products have made it to the end of the production line, this step should also detail how you’re going to stop the contaminated items getting into the distribution chain.

6) Monitor procedures

HACCP systems are only worth the paper they’re written on if they’re properly implemented, and if everyone follows them. It’s important to monitor production to ensure that your HACCP plan is being followed.

7) Keep records and document procedures

Make sure that your HACCP files are kept up to date, and records are kept and stored securely. There is no law which states how long to keep HACCP records for, but one model suggests keeping cleaning records for one year and supplier specs for three years.

A proper HACCP system is an essential part of any business which is involved in food production. Remember to review it regularly (at least annually), and undertake regular training to keep your knowledge up to date.

Photo: Projects-Fruit and Vegetable plants by ajayrai121 licensed under Creative Commons 4.0