What is HACCP?
What started out as space-age technology may soon become a Food Industry standard here on Earth. Realizing that a routine space mission could become an extremely unpleasant affair were one or more astronauts to succumb to food poisoning, the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) system was developed to utilize scientific controls to prevent such hazards from occurring anywhere during the process of transforming raw materials into consumable goods.
The Food and Drug Administration is currently applying this food safety program to seafood and juice industry with plans to eventually implement it in most areas of the Food Industry, displacing spot-checks of food preparation conditions and random sampling of final products, approaches which tend to be reactive, rather than preventive.
The HACCP program works on seven principles:
* The first analyzes potential hazards and
to develop measures that these hazards can be controlled. Hazards aren't all
necessarily biological, such as a microbes and toxins; they may also be physical,
such as ground glass or metal fragments.
* The second identifies critical control points. These are points in a food's production that span from its raw state through processing and shipping to the consumable end product where a potential hazard can be controlled or eliminated.
* The third establishes preventive measures with critical limits for each control point. An example would be the setting of a minimum cooking temperature and cooking time that would makde sure that any harmful microbes would be eliminated.
* The fourth puts in place procedures to monitor the critical control points. An example would be the determination of who would monitor the cooking times and temperatures and how they would do it..
* The fifth concerns the corrective actions taken when monitoring shows a critical limit not being met. An example would be whether the food would be reprocessed or disposed of if the minimum cooking temperature had not been reached.
* The sixth creates procedures to verify that the system is working properly. An example would be the testing of timers and thermometers to ensure they are working properly.
* The last principle establishes effective recordkeeping to document the HACCP system. This would include records of hazards and their control methods, the monitoring of safety requirements and action taken to correct potential problems.
Why the need for HACCP?
The main reason is the increasing number of new and potentially deadly food pathogens such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enteritidis. Bacteria such as these that had not previously caused major food-borne illness became more widespread. Another concern is chemical contamination such as lead in food products. These concerns have prompted FDA to consider implementing the HACCP program on a wider basis through the Food Industry.
The increasing growth in the size of the food industry and the diversity of products and processes along with the growing trend for a worldwide food safety standard are other important factors in the need for an industry-wide food safety standard.
What are the advantages of the HACCP program?
HACCP offers a number of advantages over the current system by:
* focusing on identifying and preventing the
hazards that contaminate food rather than spot-check for contaminated products
* relying on scientific based principles
* implementing recordkeeping practices that allows investigators to monitor a firm's compliance with food safety laws over a period of time, rather than on a given day
* placing the responsibility for ensuring food safety on the food manufacturer or distributor
* helping food companies compete more effectively in the world market and reducing barriers to international trade.