If your food manufacturing plant has to issue a product recall, many people might take to social media to vent their frustrations, resulting in a public backlash that can damage your brand’s reputation. Other consumers might opt to switch brands, resulting in further revenue loss. How can you ensure you take every step possible to prevent this from happening? That’s where implementing an HACCP plan comes into play for your food manufacturing plant.

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What Is HACCP?

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is an internationally recognized food safety management system for reducing the risks of safety hazards in food, including the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement, and handling. It spans the manufacturing, distribution, and consumption areas of the finished product for an overall comprehensive evaluation of safety and quality in food manufacturing.

HACCP plans were first created in 1960 when the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) needed to send food into space. Since foodborne illnesses could mean life or death for an astronaut in space—and there would be limited resources and equipment to aid if a food safety breach occurs—safety and quality had to be wholly controlled in the manufacturing process. NASA used their concept of critical control points (CCP) from their engineering quality management processes to reveal areas that had significant risks and were considered hazards. 

After NASA’s success with the methodology, Pilsbury adopted the CCP mentality and solved their food safety issues. This subsequently led the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to task Pilsbury with implementing training programs for other industries and the birth of the HACCP plan.

Today, an HACCP plan is an international standard and has been recommended by the World Health Organisation’s Codex Alimentarius Commission since the 1990s.

food manufacturing safety

Why Do Food Manufacturers Need an HACCP Plan?

HACCP is intended to reduce the risk of unsafe food products, but it also can lead to improved product quality.

Essentially, HACCP:

  • focuses on identifying and preventing hazards that may render food unsafe
  • is based on sound science
  • permits more efficient and effective government oversight, primarily because the recordkeeping allows investigators to see how well a firm is complying with food safety laws
  • places responsibility for ensuring food safety appropriately on the food manufacturer or distributor
  • helps food companies compete more effectively in the world market
  • reduces barriers to international trade

These internal and external factors affected by the implementation of an HACCP plan benefit food manufacturers in terms of compliance, competitiveness, and overall safety for the consumer.

Principles of HACCP Plans

Since its inception in the 1960s to ensure food safety in space travel, the application of HACCP principles has expanded throughout the food industry. The system utilizes seven principles and is required for all food manufacturers.

Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis.

Principle 2: Determine the critical control points (CCPs).

Principle 3: Establish critical limits (CL).

Principle 4: Establish monitoring procedures.

Principle 5: Establish corrective actions.

Principle 6: Establish verification procedures.

Principle 7: Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures.

An individual food producer is responsible for developing and implementing an HACCP plan for the food it processes or manufactures. A specific HACCP plan is needed for each food and for each processing system employed by a food business because every food and every processing system poses different risks and requires different risk management practices.

How to Make an HACCP Plan: 5 Steps to Follow

There are several foundational steps to making an HACCP plan for your food manufacturing business:

1. Assemble the HACCP Team

The first task in developing an HACCP plan is to assemble an HACCP team consisting of individuals who have specific knowledge and expertise appropriate to the product and process. The team should be multi-disciplinary and may include individuals from areas such as engineering, production, sanitation, quality assurance, and food microbiology. 

Due to the technical nature of the information required for hazard analysis, it’s recommended that experts who are knowledgeable in the food process should either participate in or verify the completeness of the hazard analysis and the HACCP plan. Such individuals should have the knowledge and experience to correctly: (a) conduct a hazard analysis; (b) identify potential hazards; (c) identify hazards that must be controlled; (d) recommend controls, critical limits, and procedures for monitoring and verification; (e) recommend appropriate corrective actions when a deviation occurs; (f) recommend research related to the HACCP plan if important information is not known; and (g) validate the HACCP plan.

2. Describe the Food and Its Distribution

The HACCP team first needs to describe the food; this consists of a general description of the food, ingredients, and processing methods. The method of distribution should be described along with information on whether the food is to be distributed frozen, refrigerated, or at ambient temperature. These details form the basis for the HACCP plan to conform with the particularities of the food.

3. Describe the Intended Use and Consumers of the Food

Next, the HACCP team needs to describe the normal expected use of the food. The intended consumers may be the general public or a particular segment of the population (e.g., infants, immunocompromised individuals, the elderly, etc.). 

4. Develop a Flow Diagram that Describes the Process

The purpose of a flow diagram is to provide a clear, simple outline of the steps involved in the process, the scope of which must cover all the steps in the process which are directly under the control of the establishment. In addition, the flow diagram can include steps in the food chain which are before and after the processing that occurs in the establishment.

haccp plan

5. Test and Apply the HACCP Principles

The final step consists of multiple elements relating back to the foundational principles of HACCP. This includes:

Identify and Analyze Hazards

Effective hazard identification and hazard analysis are the keys to a successful HACCP plan. All hazards—both potential or previously demonstrated—that may occur in each ingredient and at each stage of the commodity system should be considered. Food safety hazards for HACCP programs have been classified into three types of hazards:

  • Biological: typically foodborne bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli, also viruses, algae, parasites, and fungi
  • Chemical: There are three principle types of chemical toxins found in foods: naturally occurring chemicals, e.g. cyanides in some root crops, and allergenic compounds in peanuts; toxins produced by microorganisms, e.g. mycotoxins, and algal toxins; and chemicals added to the commodity by man to control an identified problem, e.g fungicides or insecticides
  • Physical: contaminants such as broken glass, metal fragments, insects, or stones.

Determine Critical Control Points (CCPs)

A critical control point is defined as a step at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level. The potential hazards that are reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of their control must be addressed in determining CCPs. Examples of CCPs may include: thermal processing, chilling, testing ingredients for chemical residues, product formulation control, and testing products for metal contaminants.

Establish Critical Limits

A critical limit is a maximum and/or minimum value to which a biological, chemical or physical parameter must be controlled at a CCP to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of a food safety hazard. Examples include thorough cooking, metal detection, sieving and filtration, use of approved supplies, and the segregation of raw, ready-to-eat, and allergenic foods.

A critical limit is used to distinguish between safe and unsafe operating conditions at a CCP. Critical limits should not be confused with operational limits which are established for reasons other than food safety.

Establish Monitoring Procedures 

Monitoring is a planned sequence of observations or measurements to assess whether a CCP is under control and to produce an accurate record for future use in verification. Monitoring serves three main purposes:

  • It’s essential to food safety management in that it facilitates tracking of the operation; if monitoring indicates that there is a trend towards loss of control, then action can be taken to bring the process back into control before a deviation from a critical limit occurs 
  • It’s used to determine when there is loss of control and a deviation occurs at a CCP, i.e., exceeding or not meeting a critical limit; when a deviation occurs, an appropriate and corrective action must be taken
  • It provides written documentation for use in the verification

Establish Corrective Actions

Ideal circumstances do not always prevail and deviations from established processes may occur; thus, an important purpose of corrective actions is to prevent foods that may be hazardous from reaching consumers. Where there is a deviation from established critical limits, corrective actions are necessary. 

Corrective actions should include the following elements:

  • Determine and correct the cause of non-compliance
  • Determine the disposition of the non-compliant product
  • Record the corrective actions that have been taken

Specific corrective actions should be developed in advance for each CCP and included in the HACCP plan. As a minimum, the HACCP plan should specify what is done when a deviation occurs, who is responsible for implementing the corrective actions, and that a record will be developed and maintained of the actions taken.

Establish Verification Procedures

Verification is defined as those activities, other than monitoring, that determine the validity of the HACCP plan and that the system is operating according to the plan. The major infusion of science in an HACCP system centers on proper identification of the hazards, critical control points, critical limits, and instituting proper verification procedures. These processes should take place during the development and implementation of the HACCP plans and maintenance of the HACCP system.

Establish Record-Keeping and Documentation Processes

Generally, the records maintained for the HACCP system should include the following:

  • A summary of the hazard analysis, including the rationale for determining hazards and control measures
  • The HACCP plan
  • Listing of the HACCP team and assigned responsibilities
  • Description of the food, its distribution, intended use, and consumer
  • Verified flow diagram
  • HACCP plan summary
  • ​​Support documentation such as validation records
  • Records that are generated during the operation of the plan

CMTC Can Help Your Food Manufacturing Plant!

The government and other organizations have put food manufacturers under a microscope in an effort to ensure they’re following food safety standards and complying with regulations. While practices that ensure safety, quality, and consistency may require an initial investment, they pay off in the long run. After all, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) estimate that the average cost of a recall for food companies is $10 million.

Contact CMTC today to learn how we can help you develop an HACCP plan for your food manufacturing business, and we’ll be happy to provide other consultation services to ensure your organization has a successful future.

About the Author

Gregg Profozich

Gregg Profozich is a manufacturing, operations and technology executive who believes that manufacturing is the key creator of wealth in the economy and that a strong manufacturing sector is critical to our nation’s prosperity and security now, and for future generations. Across his 20-year plus career in manufacturing, operations and technology consulting, Mr. Profozich helped manufacturing companies from the Fortune 500 to the small, independents significantly improve their productivity and competitiveness.

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