In our last blog entry, we covered tips for completing the first steps of a HACCP Plan. We asked the question, “How do we develop a HACCP plan? Here’s a quick recap of Part 1. First, we suggested gaining an understanding of the seven HACCP principles. Second, from our experience working with various food processors, we’ve seen it’s important to involve your key department managers from quality control, engineering, maintenance and operations in developing the plan. Third, if your company produces multiple products, you may consider identifying and including all products that will be part of your HACCP Plan. We even heard from one reader that he found it helpful to complete a HACCP review on each ingredient for better control.
Where should your HACCP planning go from here? The next key steps in developing an effective HACCP Plan involve honest, disciplined and critical thinking about your entire production process —from the time ingredients enter your facility, to when your finished products are shipped. In thinking through your production process, ask the following questions with your team:
- Do we have thorough documentation of our processes?
- Where might potential hazards exist in our processes?
- Do Critical Control Points (CCPs) exist, and if so, what control measures should we establish to minimize those hazards?
- Do we have sufficient documentation to communicate our processes and food safety initiatives to new employees and visiting inspectors?
Asking these questions and discussing them with your team should lead you in the right direction for developing a HACCP plan to fit your business. You may also find the next suggested steps to be helpful in providing some direction based on the experiences of other food production companies.
1. Visualize every step of your process.
Many businesses that have been producing food for decades have found it helpful to do a thorough, objective review of processes even if they understand those processes inside and out. By sitting down and literally mapping out every step, potential food safety issues that went previously unnoticed are able to be identified. It’s been our observation that successful food processors find it helpful to use a Process Workflow Chart to illustrate each step of their processes. From the time ingredients, packaging and other raw materials enter your facility to the final stages when your products are packaged, labeled and shipped, you can strengthen your food safety by accounting for every step in your food process. What does one of these Process Workflow Charts look like? Below is a simplified version as an example.
2. Evaluate potential hazards and identify CCPs.
At a minimum, it’s suggested by the International HACCP Alliance that your HACCP Plan identify and prioritize hazards and their critical limits, as well as establish actions to eliminate, prevent or reduce the hazards. How does one do this? Many food processors use what is called a Decision Matrix, as suggested by the FDA. A Decision Matrix (see example below) begins by reviewing each step in the workflow process, then it assists you in evaluating the likelihood of hazards that could occur. Once a hazard is identified, then it is evaluated whether or not it is a CCP.
3. Create a Hazard Analysis Worksheet.
At this point you may be thinking, “Isn’t every hazard also a CCP?” Not necessarily. If a control measure is already in place to address the hazard, then the hazard is not a CCP. If a control is NOT in place to secure food safety, then it is a CCP and a control measure should be considered to reduce the hazard. CGMP’s (Current Good Manufacturing Practices) are one of the many control measures that can often address hazards and eliminate the need to identify hazards as a CCP. We’ll cover CGMP’s in more depth in future blog articles.
To help evaluate the severity of each hazard, many food processors use a Hazard Analysis Worksheet. Below is an example. You’ll see that along the top of the worksheet are the key areas of analysis, starting with the ingredient/step in the process being evaluated through to the final determination of whether or not it is a CCP and its risk rating (1 through 5). Look through each line of the worksheet and you’ll discover why not all hazards are CCPs.
4. Keep up your HACCP Plan.
Putting together your HACCP Plan is one thing. Monitoring it regularly is a good way to reinforce food safety efforts in your organization. We have found that ongoing maintenance by a dedicated HACCP Coordinator within your organization can help you stay one step ahead of new potential risks that may quietly enter into your processes. Anytime anything changes within your process (i.e., you add new employees, change vendors, update packaging, etc.), it’s suggested to re-evaluate your HACCP Plan.
For a more thorough review of the HACCP planning process, be sure to check out our HACCP Planning white paper.