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HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) is a systematic approach in identifying, evaluating, and controlling food safety hazards. Food safety hazards are biological, chemical, or physical agents that are reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of their control. A HACCP system is a preventive system of hazard control rather than a reactive one. HACCP systems are designed to prevent the occurrence of potential food safety problems. This is achieved by assessing the inherent hazards attributable to a product or a process, determining the necessary steps that will control the identified hazards, and implementing active managerial control practices to ensure that the hazards are eliminated or minimized.
Essentially, HACCP is a system that identifies and monitors specific foodborne hazards — biological, chemical, or physical properties — that can adversely affect the safety of the food product. This hazard analysis serves as the basis for establishing critical control points (CCPs). CCPs identify those points in the process that must be controlled to ensure the safety of the food. Further, critical limits are established that document the appropriate parameters that must be met at each CCP. Monitoring and verification steps are included in the system, again, to ensure that potential hazards are controlled. The hazard analysis, critical control points, critical limits, and monitoring and verification steps are documented in a HACCP plan. Seven principles have been developed which provide guidance on the development of an effective HACCP plan.
HACCP represents an important food protection tool supported by Standard Operating Procedures, employee training, and other prerequisite programs that small independent businesses as well as national companies can implement to achieve active managerial control of hazards associated with foods. Employee training is key to successful implementation. Employees must learn which control points are critical in an operation and what the critical limits are at these points, for each preparation step they perform. Establishment management must also follow through by routinely monitoring the food operation to verify that employees are keeping the process under control by complying with the critical limits.
Local jurisdictions can effectively promote the industry’s use of HACCP and apply the concepts during inspections. The implementation of HACCP continues to evolve as hazards and their control measures are more clearly defined. To meet the challenges presented by advances in food research, product development, and their impact at retail, regulatory personnel must keep themselves informed. Food protection publications issued by the food industry, professional organizations, and other groups and continuing education programs can be particularly helpful in providing an understanding of food operations and how the application of HACCP can bring a focus to food safety that traditional inspection methods have lacked.
The FDA recommends the implementation of a HACCP system throughout the food industry using these NACMCF recommendations, and the 2009 edition of the FDA Food Code incorporates numerous HACCP principles.
An effective national food safety program from food production to consumer is enhanced by the implementation of HACCP. The statistics from foodborne surveillance reveal that retail level food establishments can have a significant impact on the health of consumers.
Implementation of HACCP programs by the establishments will profoundly enhance their role in the protection of public health beyond the traditional emphasis on facility and equipment design and maintenance and adherence to the principles of sanitation, good manufacturing, and food preparation practices. The education and training of all personnel are critical to the success and effectiveness of any HACCP program. The Food Code stresses the application to HACCP principles and the knowledge and responsibilities of establishment management and employees.
Specific HACCP plans for the products prepared and sold by the retail food establishment should be developed and implemented for optimal food safety management. HACCP systems are recommended for use as a tool for regulatory inspections. The regulatory official should incorporate procedures in the inspection process that ensure record reviews and active monitoring.
Because the retail food establishment industry is composed of large, small, chain, and independent establishments, the level of food safety expertise varies widely and is not necessarily linked to size or affiliation. Regardless of the size and sophistication of the establishment, a HACCP plan for safe food preparation and sales needs to be designed, implemented, and verified.
Keep in mind that the success of any HACCP plan depends on people. Staff training in food safety and your supporting technology is crucial. If you are looking for employee education materials, check out the free downloadable Safe Food Handling posters for retail operations from the FDA in eight languages. Also see the US government food safety site, www.foodsafety.gov.
Studies have shown that a significant level of illness and mortality from foodborne disease in institutional feeding operations such as hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons is related to preventable causes. For populations that may be more vulnerable to foodborne disease, FDA and the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) recommend that HACCP systems be immediately implemented by establishments and institutions preparing foods for these susceptible individuals.
Food establishments have the primary responsibility for food safety. The development and implementation of HACCP programs is a reliable and responsible step to help ensure the safety of food offered for consumption.