By Janine Sherringham
One of the most widespread public health problems arises from foodbourne diseases, with many people suffering from ailments caused by contaminated food and water every year.
To address these issues, a systematic program for hazard and control of contamination risks has been devised. HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) was originally developed to ensure microbial safety of food products but has since expanded to include chemical and physical hazards in food.
When used properly, the HACCP system is integrated into the design of a process, providing a preventative and cost-effective approach to food safety over the relatively ineffective system of end-product testing. It helps identify and control the factors directly affecting the safety of a product, enabling food producers to more efficiently control resources.
The HACCP program involves:
• identification of hazards and assessment of their severity and probability of occurrence;
• determination of critical control points required to control identified hazards;
• specification of critical limits that assure that an operation is under control at a particular critical control point;
• establishment and implementation of monitoring systems;
• execution of corrective actions when critical limits are not met;
• verification of the system; and
• record keeping.
To make the process easier for manufacturers in the food and beverage sector, suppliers of products and equipment for the industry are now able to attain HACCP endorsement of their goods.
HACCP vs FDA regulations - what they really mean to industry
Despite what many suppliers and manufacturers would like customers to believe, HACCP and FDA “approvals” do not guarantee end-product safety in sensitive environments.
HACCP accreditation of individual components indicates that they are suitable for use within food manufacturing and handling processes. HACCP-accredited products will be manufactured out of materials well suited to food manufacturing environments, and their construction will be such that they won’t increase contamination risks to the system. To be totally safe though, they must work within an HACCP system where strict guidelines are in place.
Users should also be aware that HACCP certification does not necessarily mean that a part is the most efficient or reliable for the job. There are many parts available for which manufacturers have not sought HACCP approval - and in some cases they might even be better for the job. Companies are advised to look at all available parts rather than relying on a stamp of approval to override other important selection criteria.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the US also provides information relating to use of certain products in food processing environments.
The FDA does not test products, nor does it give approval for assembled or fabricated goods used in food processing. The only items that can be “FDA Approved” are materials that come in contact with food items, such as resin and ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Therefore consumers must be wary of claims about end-products and again rely on other factors before making their purchase.
What HACCP and FDA endorsements do offer to buyers is peace of mind that a particular product (in the case of HACCP) or material (in the case of FDA) has been deemed safe for use within food manufacturing processes where stringent controls are in place.
SMC Pneumatics is one company that has now taken the extra step of gaining HACCP endorsement to aid customers in their product selection. In December 2004, the company gained endorsement for a range of food industry products across all three HACCP categories.
Direct food contact: All components that come in contact with food product, ie: components are mounted directly within the food flow, or components outside food flow where contact with food product is possible. Components in this category must be easy to clean, disinfect, corrosion-resistant, non toxic, non absorbent, smooth, constructed of one piece and sealed to prevent food particles from accumulating. Only food-compatible lubricants are allowed.
Indirect food contact: Covers situations where contact between components and food might be possible through spill, overflow or splash. However, food product is not reintroduced into product flow after contact. In these areas, all parts and components should be manufactured with corrosion-resistant materials and be easy to clean and disinfect.
No food contact: Components in this category do not come in contact with the food product.
The SMC products approved so far include actuators, flow controls, fittings and tubing with a vast range of air preparation equipment, valves, process valves and cylinders to follow. For more details of all approved products and their specifications call SMC Pneumatics on 02 9354 8222.