Food Safety – HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point)

To assure the population consumes a wholesome and safe food product, HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) was developed to analyze food processes to detect and control biological, chemical, and physical hazards. It was HACCP that “validated” that packaging plants were producing a safe and wholesome product for the consumer.

History of HACCP

Originally developed by NASA, Pillsbury, and the US Army Laboratories to “validate” that astronauts were consuming safe food while in space, HACCP migrated over to the USDA Food Safety Program. It is now a requirement for all USDA Processing Establishments to implement an approved HACCP System within their daily processing tasks.

In 2001, the HACCP system was mandated regulatory in USDA/FSIS approved packaging plants – specifically meat processing plants (including slaughtering establishments). Any packing plant that did not have an active and approved HACCP system would not be able to produce any product for the public.

HACCP in a Nutshell

HACCP was designed to break down a food process into a systematic, written, “step-by-step” analysis of the process to allow each step of the process to be analyzed for and food safety hazards – chemical, physical, or biological. Along with the written breakdown of the process, HACCP also requires documentation, scientific data, in-plant studies, pre-requisites, and other information that is useful to prove that the process is produced safely. This documentation is based on the HACCP Seven Principles:

1. Conduct a hazard analysis

2. Identify critical control points

3. Establish critical limits for each critical control point

4. Establish critical control point monitoring requirements

5. Establish corrective actions

6. Establish record keeping procedures

7. Establish procedures for ensuring the HACCP system is working as intended

Following these seven principles allows the HACCP plan to be designed and tested by initially conducting a hazard analysis – that is, breaking down the process to allow each individual step to be closely investigated.

The HACCP Plan – CCP’s

The HACCP plan must identify any critical control points in a product process. Critical control points, or CCP’s, are identified by a step in the process in which a chemical, physical, or biological hazard “might” exist.

For example, if a meat product has a possibility of reaching a point in the process where the temperature rises above an acceptable level, this “step” should be identified as a critical control point and this step should be further examined to determine exactly what the limit is on the temperature (critical limits for the CCP), and a *Monitor and *Verifier should observe this step to validate that the product does not exceed the unacceptable temperature.

If so, there could be a possibility of a biological hazard such as E. coli O157:H7 growth due to the higher temperatures. If the critical limit is exceeded, steps must be identified as to show corrective actions proving the product is still protected. Once all this is in place, documentation (record keeping procedures) of all CCP’s and any corrective actions must be recorded.

*In the HACCP system, the Monitor is the person actually performing the CCP check and the Verifier is the person “overseeing” the Monitor to validate correct and accurate results are documented.

Even with a perfectly written and well executed HACCP system, it still can not work alone. Proper Sanitation and Good Manufacturing Practices should also be implemented within the Food Safety System.

Maintaining proper sanitation as well as working with a well designed and written procedure explaining exactly how the processing establishment will maintain sanitation will provide a “clean base” for the HACCP plan to work. If properly executed, the HACCP Plan (working along with pre-requisites such as a written sanitation program) and documentation of all CCP’s will assure that the processing facility produces a safe and wholesome product.

Once the product leaves the vicinity of the establishment and makes its way to the community, it is then the responsibility of the consumer to follow the last step of the Food Safety System and thoroughly cook their food before consuming!

FSIS/USDA, Hazard Analysis & Pathogen Reduction

NASA, NASA Facts

International HACCP Alliance

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