Five Things You Maybe Didn’t Know About HACCP

If you work in food processing, chances are you’re probably familiar with the concept of a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point or HACCP. Here’s a little about what we’ve learned about HACCP.

HACCP food safety sample verificationAs part of a HACCP Plan, a Hazard Analysis identifies “Critical Control Points” or CCPs — those points, steps or procedures in food manufacturing process at which control can be applied and as a result, a food safety hazard can be prevented, eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level. With CCPs identified, a HACCP Plan provides a series of procedures to control the process and sensitive points in the food chain, with the ultimate goal of producing foods that are safe for consumers’ health.

HACCP is a part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011. While FSMA is fairly new, did you know the concept of HACCP has actually been around for some time? Here is the answer to that question along with some other interesting things about HACCP that many people may not be aware of.

1. HACCP is not a new system.

HACCP is a concept that’s been around since the 1960s. It was developed by the Pillsbury Company, the US Army Laboratories and NASA to help produce safe food for space missions. Today, HACCP is a recognized international standard for safe food production. It is endorsed by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and in the United States by the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF).

2. Not every hazard is a CCP.

As part of putting together a HACCP Plan, there’s a thought-process or Decision Matrix one can use to review each step in a food workflow process and determine the likelihood of hazards that could occur. Once a hazard is identified, then it is evaluated whether or not it is a CCP. Going through this evaluation, one will soon discover that not every hazard is a CCP. If a control measure is already in place to address the hazard, then chances are the hazard is not a CCP.

3. It takes a team to put together a HACCP Plan.

Through our experiences working with food processors, we’ve seen that some of the best HACCP Plans are the result of a team effort by the key individuals responsible for food safety within a food processing operation. The team may include managers from quality assurance, plant operations, engineering, maintenance, sanitation, and shipping & receiving. In addition, it’s often advised that someone who works on the line, such as a Line Supervisor and/or Machine Operator, provide input to the HACCP Plan to help assure alignment with day-to-day operations.

4. One person should be responsible for the HACCP Plan.

While it often takes a team to put together a well-structured HACCP Plan, we’ve also observed that maintaining the plan should ideally be the responsibility of just one person within a food processing organization. That person is usually the HACCP Coordinator. However, if there is no HACCP Coordinator, then the responsibility often falls to the Quality Manager, or even the company’s CEO.

5. Review the HACCP Plan regularly.

In a perfect world, anytime something changes within a food process, then the HACCP Coordinator should review the HACCP Plan and update it accordingly. At the very least, it’s suggested that a HACCP Plan be reviewed every 3 to 6 months.

How does your food processing facility deal with HACCP? If you have any additional tips or observations about putting together and maintaining a successful HACCP Plan, we’d love to hear them.

10 Things to Know About Color-Coding: Zones and Critical Control Points

Understanding Zones and Critical Control Points in Color-coding

Just about every food processor knows that complying with food safety regulations from the FDA and other regulatory bodies is a vital aspect to the success of their overall operation. Without achieving this compliance, it would be fairly difficult to run an effective food processing program. The list of recalled food products seems to grow every day, most being the result of some sort of cross-contamination, and those recalls can cost millions of dollars. The old adage, “better safe than sorry,” definitely comes into play when talking about protecting against recalls. Color-coding is one simple method to help keep your food processing operation as “safe” as possible.

One of the most important FDA-proposed rules is HACCP. Complying with HACCP regulations is an important part of any food processing operation, and knowing where the critical zones are and preventing cross-contamination from happening is an integral part of this compliance. Currently, there are HACCP procedures for dairy, juice, retail seafood, and retail and food service.

Let’s back up for a second, HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. HACCP is a preventative approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards that may cause illness or injury when not properly controlled. Put simply, HACCP is designed to help control the threat of cross-contamination from biological, chemical, and physical agents. According to the FDA, “any action or activity that can be used to prevent, eliminate or reduce a significant hazard” is considered a control measure. Color-coding is an excellent example of a control measure.

Once potential food safety hazards are identified, critical control points can be documented. The FDA defines a critical control point in a food manufacturing process 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.” Knowing where the critical control points exist in a food production process is essential to designing an effective HACCP plan.

Included in the many HACCP compliance resources available from the FDA is an example of a decision tree to help a food processing operation identify critical control points, seen below. Using a decision tree like this is not a mandatory part of the process, but it is valuable as a tool to facilitate the development of a thorough food safety program.

FDA Example of Decision Tree

Since color-coding is a control measure, color-coding zones often coincide with critical control points or groups of critical control points. For instance, a color zone may be assigned to an area where raw meat exists in a facility, since raw meat poses increased risks of bacterial contamination. There may be several critical control points that require other control measures within that one color zone, such as testing for contaminants or refrigeration of the raw meat prior to processing. Once the meat has been cooked, a different color may be assigned to the zone following the raw meat area to prevent bacterial cross-contamination into the finished product. For this purpose, color-coding is an excellent and simple way to visually confirm that equipment is in the appropriate critical zone in a food processing facility.

When color-coding is implemented, it is easily apparent which zones are which, and what they represent. Because of this instant recognition, separating contaminated food before it goes out to the public becomes easier. And we all know that internal recalls (or no recalls!) are less costly than public recalls.

To find out if color-coding is appropriate for your food processing facility, download our worksheet below.

10 Things to Know About Color-Coding: Preventing Cross-Contamination

Color-coding helps prevent cross-contamination in food processing facilities

In this third part of our color-coding series, we discuss how color-coding can help prevent cross-contamination in food processing facilities. Facilities with cross-contamination concerns should particularly consider color-coding their food processing plants to lower that risk. The threat of recalls is always prevalent, and food processing facilities should do what they can to prevent this from happening.

Prevent cross-contamination from biological hazardsColor-coding can help decrease the risk of contamination that leads to recalls. Food processors are regulated by the FDA to ensure that cross-contamination is controlled to keep consumers safe. One of the FDA’s rules includes HACCP, or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, which imposes guidelines to help keep cross-contamination at a minimum, such as having a written safety plan.

Cross-contamination is prevented by keeping foods that transfer bacteria separate, or by keeping allergens separate. For example, we all know raw meat should never come into contact with processed meat, so you keep them separate. The simplest way to do this is to color-code the food processing facility. When a facility has a color-coded program in place, it makes it that much easier to distinguish between sections. For example, raw meat zones can be color-coded red, and the processed area green.

Sample Color-Coding Systems:

Preventing Functional Cross-Contamination:

Red: Raw Meat

Green: Processed or Cooked Meat

Preventing Departmental Cross-Contamination:

Blue: Seafood

Yellow: Chicken

Preventing Allergen Cross-Contamination:

White: Milk

Green: Soy

Yellow: Wheat

Color-coding makes it immediately apparent if there is a tool or piece of equipment in an incorrect zone, and the necessary steps can be taken to contain any contaminated food. Keeping zones separate is an extremely important food safety measure for preventing cross-contamination, and color-coding helps to do that. The next part in our series is how color-coding can help distinguish between critical zones and control points. For more information on color-coding, download our white paper below.