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HACCP (Hazard Analysis And Critical Control Points)

May 1, 2008
HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is basically a food safety management system that focuses on proactive approach of prevention for hazards rather than inspection of finished products. HACCP addresses all biological, chemical and physical hazards associated with food safety. HACCP has been successfully used in food and pharmaceutical industry in identification of potential safety hazards and in taking key actions to eliminate or reduce the risks caused by them. The HACCP system can be used at various stages of production and processing to ensure food safety and protection of public health.

The concept of HACCP was incepted in 1960s when Pillsbury designed and manufacture of food for space flights for NASA - the first venture of its kind. After that the concept was internationally recognized and traditional methods of inspection were replaced by science based food safety management system. HACCP plans have so far helped both the governments and food industry in efficiently allocating their resources in establishing safe practices for food production and providing effective auditing of the same. Legislations place the responsibility of making the food safe on food operators and HACCP software are designed to assist operators in achieving the same. HACCP system certifications are offered by only few commercial bodies. The concept of HACCP is still almost untouched in developing countries due to lack of knowledge and proper approach.

HACCP food management system is not an independent program in itself. It is built on some pre-requisite programs like SSOP (Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures) and GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices). Thus the effectiveness and efficiency of HACCP depends on both GMP and SSOP. Therefore food operators having weak GMP and SSOP often face food safety issues and if these issues are not addressed properly these can result in serious consequences for public health.

The Principles behind HACCP

HACCP is outlined by seven basic principles required to maintain hygiene standards.

1. Analyzing Hazards: Identification of potential hazards including biological, chemical and physical.

2. Identification of Critical Control Points: Determining the point at which hazards may occur, causing harm to consumer.

3. Establishing Critical Limits: Setting parameters for the control points to identify any activity that is out of control.

4. Implementing a Monitoring System: To monitor critical control points.

5. Establishing Corrective Action: Defining corrective actions that will be taken when any parameter of critical control points is breached.

6. Establishing Procedures for Verification: To verify that the above 5 points are effectively working.

7. Establishing Reporting Procedures: These reports will be a kind of evidence that the system is effectively working.

HACCP and Food Safety

Since the advent of strict legislations related to food safety, HACCP certification and programs are on a roll. Options available in the market for food operators to comply with food safety regulations have increased many folds with the awareness in the industry. E-Control Systems, Inc., recently launched IntelliHACCP, a wireless solution especially for HACCP compliance giving food operators a kind of freedom in managing their food safety standards through a single platform. Q22, launched by HiQ Software Consulting Inc, from Kitchener, Ontario has also been an innovative product for HACCP compliance and rigorous standards of ISO 22000. HACCPNow, doHACCP by Norback, Ley and Associates LLC etc have also been leading software for implementing HACCP. But it's not all about choosing the best software for HACCP compliance; other then this researchers working on various aspects of HACCP have identified three barriers which hinder the successful HACCP implementation. These are knowledge barrier, attitudinal barrier and behavioral barriers.

Knowledge barriers refers to clear understanding about the program, attitudinal barriers refers to varying consent with the principles and actions of the adopted program and lastly behavioral barriers refers to money, time and other resources. Although the companies have been working hard to overcome these barriers, only few have been successful in addressing these issues. IntelliHACCP is basically suffering from first barrier as the knowledge about the program is a limiting factor. HiQ's Q22 has tried to keep all barriers at par during designing. The program is simple yet full of features and covers all the seven principles of HACCP. These programs have made the HACCP compliance quite easy for the food operators. These programs can help in implementing HACCP into companies that need HACCP certification in easy steps; all is needed after that is some training which is readily offered by various providers.

Not only this, these HACCP programs have been found to be of great help in maintaining and running documentations. Q22, for example, offers data management, document management and data analysis features. Document management refers to keeping track of documents, old, new, declined or approved. All documents are systematically stored on one central location and are readily available for review. In addition to these the program provides visibility along with reliable and controlled audit trail. These programs also provide adaptable and customized data management for recorded data. Data analysis, a kind of business intelligence is done using reporting module which are designed as open-concept and have the facility of addition of new templates, according to the requirement. Adaptability to any company structure has been a significant feature of these programs. Critical Control Points (CCP) are determined by Process Flow Form's drawing module which enables data inputs automatically. This automation helps in reducing the configuration time significantly.

The main concept behind the HACCP is to prevent any hazardous product from leaving the processing unit or manufacturing facility. The keys to success of HACCP are employee training, attitude and behavior. Still the misconception prevails that only controlling the areas where safety can be comprised is a successful HACCP plan. But the controlling of specific areas won't be an effective approach in the long run. HACCP controls the whole process as an integral system, thus providing better and effective results. It is found that HACCP gives better results when it is used in tandem with other control systems. Total Quality Management Systems and Standard Operating Procedures can be used alongside HACCP to improve food safety and quality.
About the Author
Vedran Hasanagic, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. HiQ Inc. Operational Manager. http://hiq.ca. HACCP and HACCP ADVANTAGE consulting and software implementation. vedran@hiq.ca tel. 1 866 HIQ SOFT (447-7638) fax. 1 888 883-5649
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