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HACCP: succeeding at safety

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Many forget the roles of HACCP pre-requisite programs in the operational aspects of a holistic HACCP-based food safety program. *Aron Malcolm reveals exclusively to FOOD magazine what it takes to succeed.

The application of HACCP into food production requires that pre-requisite programs for its implementation be documented and applied before the introduction of HACCP plans into the process.

HACCP support plans are those that control the operational conditions within a food establishment, allowing a safe environment for food production.

When implementing HACCP into a food premises, the primary step is to assess pre-existing programs as to their adequacy and conformance to requirements, along with their documented monitoring effectiveness.

These support programs form the basis on which HACCP is integrated into the food safety system, and their validation/adequacy will provide success to the system.

If the support programs are not controlled as prescribed, the HACCP information (e.g. critical control points) may need to be altered.

The importance of such programs cannot be overlooked in the scheme of HACCP planning and implementation, as they provide intrinsic support to all facets of the HACCP system.

HACCP support programmes include workplace relevant systems incorporating food hygiene, codes of practice and food safety legislation: Premises - external and internal premises, water supply, sanitation facilities; Equipment - equipment design, installation, maintenance and calibration; Cleaning and Sanitation - cleaning and sanitation programmes; Pest Control - pest control program; Personnel - training, personal hygiene, task requirements; Transportation and Storage - food transportation and storage requirements and monitoring, chemical and packaging storage; Suppliers - nominated suppliers; Product recalls - distribution records and product recall procedures.

The physical state of the premises as well as the facilities in and around the premises must be designed and maintained to prevent potential contamination of food during processing, handling and storage. Documentation and records regarding the monitoring and maintenance of the premises should be kept to verify the suitability of the premises for safe food production.

The premises includes all elements within and outside the physical structure (building) and its surroundings (property, car parks, sanitation facilities).

The adherence to the premises related requirements can be verified by the documentation that specifies the procedures that will be conducted to ensure that conditions are maintained to a satisfactory standard. HACCP Based requirements include: areas to be inspected and at what frequency; tasks to be performed; people responsible; and verification (records) to be maintained.

All equipment associated in food production must be appropriately constructed and maintained with the safety of food as the primary concern.

The installation and use of such equipment also needs to be addressed as food safety can be compromised through improper application.

Equipment requirements include: documentation and record keeping; monitoring equipment for maintenance, cleanliness and calibration; staff training in use of specific equipment; design of equipment for intended purpose, and for effective cleaning and sanitising; reliability and adequacy of equipment for intended purpose.

The documented recall procedures outline the anticipated actions to be taken in the event of a product being recalled for whatever reason.

The nominated strategies for such an event will ensure that all relevant steps are followed to remove the food from causing potential harm.

Product recall requirements include a documented product recall program – outlining specifically what is required in a recall situation.

Documented cleaning and sanitation procedures need to be in place to monitor and control related issues. Such documentation must outline the boundaries that need to be addressed in ensuring safe and suitable food production.

Cleaning and sanitation procedures need to be developed and implemented for all areas of consequence to food safety.

Procedures in cleaning and sanitation should include where appropriate: equipment, utensils, premises structure, sewage and drainage, lighting devices, refrigeration, cooking apparatus, packaging and storage issues.

Documentation and record keeping of procedures and outcomes; reliance on appropriate chemical usage in the procedures; staff training in cleaning procedures and use of specified materials in cleaning are all examples of cleaning and sanitation requirements.

The pest control program in its scope and purpose will ultimately prevent pest entry to the premises, and will eliminate any existing pests.

The relevance of the program will include parameters of involvement, nominate control issues significant to using items that may be hazardous to foods, and identify areas of specific concern.

Requirements for pest control may include: documentation and record keeping of controls initiated, and of pest sightings; established pest control schedules; and the use of acceptable methods in controlling pests. Adequate and relevant programs must be in place to monitor and control the interactions of personnel regarding the production of safe and suitable food.

The goals of such programs will ensure safe food handling practices, and rely on quality training to be successful.

Training itself must be verified as to its relevance and accuracy in specific tasks, and in making people responsible for their actions within the holistic process.

Ongoing training, particularly in personal hygiene, personal conduct and hygienic handling of food will reinforce the positive nature of outcomes relating to food safety.

Personnel requirements may include: the maintenance of documentation for staff having undertaken training, and the relevant content of the training information issued; personnel training policy including requirements for on-the-job and task specific training.

All incoming materials, along with processed and departing products, need to be transported and stored in a manner that prevents conditions that may affect the safety of food.

Programs must be in place for monitoring and controlling transportation and storage issues, and appropriate documentation must be maintained.

Materials rely on appropriate storage and transportation in reducing potential contamination (biological, chemical or physical) from occurring.

The following points should be considered: Receipt and delivery policies – including inspection (hygiene, temperature and regulatory compliance), documentation of receipt (for potential recall and process tracking); Stock control – stock rotation and auditing, storage conditions, product labelling; Appropriate storage – correct conditions and storage areas (e.g. Chemical and packaging storage in designated areas) for items; Transportation in appropriate vehicles – well maintained and without the risk of food contamination.

Nominated supplier lists are important in controlling the ingredients and other supplies required for food production and storage.

Specified requirements should be made to suppliers for items to be supplied in conjunction with the receipt protocols, for acceptance of goods.

Requirements for nominated suppliers may include: Supplier audits – assessments of suppliers’ capability to supply safe and suitable items for production, products to nominated specifications, and their adherence to licensing requirements for ability to supply; and nominated supplier lists.

HACCP Guidelines ultimately rely on stringent ethics that define a commitment to science based food safety, hazard analysis and control, and elements that are part of any quality management system - Policy, Structure, Training, Awareness, Responsibility, Communication, Documentation, and Verification.

* Aron Malcolm is a RABQSA Certified Food Safety Auditor and the Director of the Alimentex Food Consulting Group .

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