Introduction to the Principles of HACCP

Dennis Burson: HACCP has taken food safety practices in our facility to the next level. We have all practiced safe food production inthe past, but the implementation of HACCP has emphasized things such as record keeping, and corrective actions that we haven't practiced in the past and allowed us to produce safer food.

Dennis Scharrdt: With HACCP we are continuously monitoring our check points daily and at night we go over them to make sure there are no problems. We end up with a safer product as an end result.

Mindy Brashears: HACCP is important to food safety because it is a way to prevent food safety hazards from occurring in a food processing plant. It is a step-by-step way to identify these hazards and to create a safe food supply for consumers.

As meat processors, you need to be sure that you have a product that is safe for consumption.

HACCP is the program that will help implement safety of your product to the consumer.

Everyone from the farm to the table can ensure food safety by executing HACCP.

HACCP has been developed by the meat and poultry industry and scientific community as a useful tool to prevent, and reduce the levels of food safety hazards.

So, who is responsible for the safety of the food supply?

The Producer?

The Processor?

Or the person who prepares the food?

The responsibility falls on everyone in the food chain. From the producer, to the food processor, to the food distributors to the consumers.

So, where does these food safety hazards come from?

Many come from food borne pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that are found widely throughout nature and the environment.

Additionally, other hazards both chemical or physical hazards can occur.

Foods containing animal proteins such as meat, eggs, poultry, and fish are often known to harbor bacteria, which causes food borne diseases in humans.

Each year, millions of people become ill or even die due to food borne pathogens.

These outbreaks could lead to plant closings.

As a food processor your programs will affect consumers.

Nearly 8 million Americans may suffer from food borne illness each year.

With so many people being affected by food borne illness, food safety is an important concern for the general public.

Some experts estimate that each person will experience, in some way, a food borne illness within the next year.

Will the next outbreak affect you or your family?

With this in mind, it is important to ensure that food safety is a part of your plant operation. Governmental officials and health experts consistently rate food borne illnesses as the greatest food safety threat.

What is being done to ensure food safety?

The meat and poultry industry, along with the scientific community, have backed a program called HACCP--Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points.

The goal of HACCP is to prevent, and reduce, the incidence of food safety hazards for humans.

So what is HACCP?

HACCP is based on seven principles. They include:
1) Conducting A Hazard Analysis
2) Identifying Critical Control Points
3) Establishing Critical Limits
4) Establishing Monitoring Procedures
5) Establishing Corrective Action
6) Establishing Record Keeping
7) Establishing a Verification of the System

Now that we know what the Seven Principles are, let's look at HACCP closer.

Principles One and Two are the main responsibility of the HACCP team. The team will analyze the process for hazards and will determine Critical Control Points for the process.

Principles Three through Seven are designed by the HACCP team, but place responsibility in the hands of the plant employees.

The HACCP team will determine critical limits, monitoring methods, and corrective actions to be taken.

However, the plant employees must take measurements, record observations and take proper corrective action or report to upper management when a deviation occurs.

The long-term success of a HACCP plan will depend on the individual plant employees.

Once the Critical Control Points of the process have been identified, Principle Number Three says that a Critical Limit for the preventive measure associated with the Critical Control Point must be established.

Critical limits are the highest or lowest value to which a hazard must be controlled to prevent, reduce or eliminate the hazard to human health.

It is important that the product reach the critical limits to assure production of a safe food.

Principle Number Four is to Establish Monitoring Methods for the critical limit at each critical control point.

Each critical limit must be a measurable value like time, temperature, pH, or water activity.

Monitoring procedures will describe what you are going to measure to determine the critical limit--temperature, how you are going to measure the temperature--with a calibrated thermometer, and who is going to measure the temperature and how often it will be measured--when.

Once the monitoring system is in place, the HACCP team will Establish Corrective Actions to be taken when monitoring indicates that a measurement has fallen outside an established critical limit. This is principle Number Five.

Corrective actions may be the responsibility of the person monitoring the Critical Limit or it may be the responsibility of supervisors or others in upper management.

Corrective actions are very important to avoid introducing a potential food safety hazard.

HACCP principle Number Six is to establish effective record keeping procedures that documents the HACCP system.

Accurate records insure that each product produced has met the critical limits and that food safety is assured. Records can illustrate the plant took proper actions during the food borne outbreak.

Records would include such things as the measurements taken at each critical control point and corrective actions taken if the critical limit had not been met.

The final HACCP principle is Verification. Verification procedures insure that the HACCP system is working correctly.

Verification is a process to check the whole system to make sure that the HACCP plan is preventing, reducing or eliminating food safety hazards.

The HACCP team decides what activities are important for verification.

Part of the verification would be to check the record keeping and that measurements are made properly, to review corrective action taken and why they were taken in an effort to prevent further occurrence.

Some verification duties may involve outside individuals.

Periodic microbial tests will determine if the system is performing as it was designed to, and reducing bacterial levels in the system.

Let us now take a look at an example of a HACCP plan for smoked sausage production.

A simple flow chart would include:
1) Receiving and storing of raw materials
2) Receiving and storing of non meat ingredients
3) Formulation
4) Grinding and mixing
5) Cooking
6) Chilling and holding
7) Packaging
8) Storage
9) Distribution

After the HACCP team conducted the hazard analysis for each step in the process they determined three Critical Control Points for this product.

CCP 1 is a control for chemical hazards at the formulation step for addition of nitrite. The critical limit is to formulate for no more than 156 parts per million nitrite in smoked sausage.

Nitrite is a regulated ingredient. An addition of excess nitrite is potentially a cancer-causing agent.

Monitoring the formulation weights will control the amount of nitrite added in the formulation allowing for safe production of cured meats.

If too much nitrite is added, the formulation will need to be adjusted or discarded.

CCP Number 2 is a control for biological pathogens at the cooking step.

The critical limit is to cook to an internal temperature of 157 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

157 degrees Fahrenheit was selected as a temperature that would destroy pathogenic bacteria.

The purpose of this control point is to reduce the bacteria in the cooked meat.

If pathogens survive the cooking process a food borne illness could result.

The CCP will be monitored by measuring internal temperature.

Corrective action could include continued cooking, re-cooking, or the rejection of product.

CCP Number 3 is a physical control to prevent the hazard of metal in the finished product.

The critical limit would be the sensitivity of the metal detector used after packaging.

Every package of smoked sausage would need to be checked for metal.

The HACCP plan would include calibration and routine checking of the metal detector to verify that it is working.

If metal is detected the corrective actions may include discarding the product and discovery of the source of the metal.

When the critical limits are not met for any of the three CCPs, the assigned corrective actions would be necessary to assure the production of safe food.

Now that you have a general overview what HACCP is all about, let us now take a closer look on how HACCP is being used in industry.

Dennis Scharrdt: HACCP has tremendously improved our end products because of the checkpoints through the line. We can closely monitor our systems for a safer product on end.

Dennis Burson: HACCP has brought into our facility a more universal food safety attitude. We have to not only apply the HACCP principles of record-keeping and corrective actions so forth, but we also have to have the good manufacturing practices and sanitation practices that are important to everybody that works in our facility.

Mindy Brashears: HACCP is a preventive measure to prevent food safety hazards from occurring. HACCP tries to identify potential problems and keep them from happening so there doesn't have to be a recall. HACCP is a step-by-step way of identifying these hazards so that there can be a safe food supply provided to consumers.

Dennis Scharrdt: HACCP has helped us as we have a retail store up front we make our products in the back back here. By doing that we can closely control, and we have gained shelf life by running HACCP through our system.

Mindy Brashears: Well, ideally when a HACCP plan is written, there won't be major changes within a food processing facility. Hopefully the facility is already taking measures to prevent hazards from occurring. So what will usually happen is that the plants will have to start monitoring temperatures, monitoring what they do. But a plan can be tailored to work around the food safety precautions that plants are already taking.

HACCP is a system that helps you, the food processor, to not only to ensure quality but food safety for you and the consumer.

HACCP is a 7-step program which helps you identify the critical control points for food safety.

Principles One and Two are the primary responsibility of the HACCP Team.

The team will study the process for hazards and will determine the Critical Control Points for the process.

Principles Three through Seven are designed by the HACCP team, but places the responsibility on you, the plant employees.

The HACCP team will determine critical limits, monitoring methods, and any corrective action to be taken.

The success of your operation is dependant upon each one of you, the employees of your meat processing operation.

The success of HACCP is also dependant on you and that it is implemented during every production run.

We must work together toward a common goal of making sure that our food supply is safe. HACCP is everyone's responsibility!