What is HACCP?
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. It is a system built to assure consumers the safety and quality of the food supply. It is practiced in many food industries and restaurants and it is really good at controlling risks of food contamination. In addition, it is a mandatory system to be implemented and used in meat industries as mandated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). HACCP is based on the idea that any process in which food is processed has some critical points that are riskier than others and that by controlling tightly those critical points it is possible to control the whole process.
How is a HACCP Designed and Implemented?
The process in not complex but requires some preliminary tasks and to have some people within the organization (food processor or restaurant) trained to do so. One way to go about designing and implementing a successful HACCP system is to ask a lot of questions. For example:
- Will the product be ready-to-eat or will it need further cooking?
- How long does the food remain stable under storage?
- What would be the storage conditions? Refrigeration, room temperature, freezing?
- How is the product going to be distributed? In supermarkets? In drugstores?
- Small Pop and Mom shops? Are labeling instructions clear?
- Are there any special risk with this food that needs to be conveyed on the label?
- Do we use the right king of packaging for this food product?
The Importance of a Flow Diagram
A flow diagram is a schematic depiction that represents accurately the food process by which a food is being produced whether it is produced in a manufacturing facility or in a restaurant. This flow diagram need to be simple but accurate and must reflect all activities that “go into"the processed food. For example, when processing a food you will receive the raw materials to manufacture the food product. This is usually the first step. You could called reception of raw materials. Them maybe there is some storage (fruits, vegetables, meat) in the refrigerator. You would call it: storage. Then, probably you will wash the fruits. Called it: washing. SO, you will summarize your food processing into a diagram that clearly states what you do to prepare the food. Once this diagram is done you are ready to conduct a hazard analysis.
A Simple Example of a Flow Diagram
Hazard Analysis: the key to HACCP
Doing a hazard analysis is basically identifying the threats to human health which might be introduced into the food. These threats are usually of 3 types:
- Biological (including microbiological),
- Chemical, and
The main objective of the hazard analysis is to identify areas or key points where food can become contaminated. These points (critical points) need to be closely monitored (by appropriate measurements) to eliminate the risk of food contamination. There a few points that are critical no matter what food is processed. For example raw materials need to be of excellent quality and free of contamination, facilities and equipment need to be properly cleaned and maintained, packaging materials should not be a source of contamination (whether chemical, physical or microbiological).
Once the hazard have been detected, then preventive measures should be placed to prevent those threats to come into reality. For example, if your processing includes cooking meat, a hazard might be the survival of E. coli. As a preventive measure you need to set in place a mechanism by which you are absolutely sure E. coli is destroyed during cooking. A preventive measure would be: to set internal meat temperature to be 75C or higher for an X amount of time.