In India, food safety is essential for various reasons in several industries. From those who sell food at retail to those who are directly involved in food production, it is vital to have your workers understand safety work with food that is made for human consumption. When it comes to food safety training in India, different elements are often tailored toward the industry. However, some training parts feature in most training courses, and HACCP is one of them. In this write-up, we will discuss the role of HACCP in Food Safety.
What is HACCP?
HACCP stands for the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points and is a framework for ensuring that the final food product is safe and ready to eat. Also, it helps you to introduce standards & checks which reduce risks as much as possible. The HACCP does this with the aim of reducing chemical, physical, and biological risks to people. HACCP was introduced so that it can be used at any stage of food production. Now let’s discuss the importance of HACCP in Food Safety.
Importance of HACCP in Food Safety
HACCP in food safety is so important because it:
- It provides the framework to produce food safely & to prove it;
- Covers all types of food safety hazards, whether they are naturally occurring in the food, contributed by the environment, or generated by mistake in the manufacturing process. Hazards like chemical hazards, biological hazards & physical hazards;
- Prioritises & controls potential hazards in the production of food;
- Mainly focuses on prevention & control of possible food safety hazards rather than inspection;
- Controlling major food risks like chemical, microbiological & physical contaminants;
- Provide businesses with a cost-effective system for food safety control, from ingredients right through to production, storage & distribution to sale;
- Many customers in the food chain require their suppliers to have certified HACCP systems.
Preliminary Tasks in the HACCP Plan Development
- Assemble the HACCP Team: The first task is to assemble the HACCP Team consisting of individuals who have specific expertise & knowledge regarding the product & process. It’s the responsibility of the team to develop the plan. The HACCP team should include local personnel who are involved in the operation and are more familiar with the limitations & inconsistency of the operation. Moreover, this fosters a sense of ownership among those who must execute the plan. The team may also need help from an outside professional who has knowledge of the potential biological, chemical or physical hazards linked with the process and product.
- Describe the food & its distribution: The team first describe the food and this includes a general description of the food, ingredients & processing methods. The distribution method should be described along with details on whether the food is to be distributed frozen or at ambient temperature.
- Describe the use & consumer of the food: In this, the team describe the expected use of the food. The intended customers may be the general public or a specific population segment.
- Develop a Flow Diagram: The primary purpose of a flow diagram is to provide a simple & clear outline of the various steps in the process. The ambit of the flow diagram must cover all the steps in the process that are directly under the establishment’s control. The flow diagram can comprise steps in the food chain, which are before & after the processing that occurs in the establishment.
- Verify a Flow Diagram: The team of HACCP should perform an on-site review of the operation to verify the correctness & completeness of the flow diagram. Changes/alterations should be made to the flow diagram as necessary & documented.Once these tasks have been completed, the 7 principles of HACCP are applied.
Core Principles of HACCP in Food Safety
HACCP is an international standard and within this, there are some core principles of HACCP in Food Safety which must be adhered to in order to be correctly abiding by HACCP. They are the following:
- Conduct a Hazard Analysis: The 1st step in HACCP is to conduct a hazard analysis, or risk assessment of the processes that you are responsible for, which means looking for any physical, chemical, or biological risk that might arise at the time of food production, packaging, storage, or any other process.
- Identify CCPs: Once risks have been identified, then the next step is to identify the exact Critical Control Points (CCPs) in the food manufacturing process at which the risks may arise & could be eventually controlled. These CCPs can be anywhere where you are able to introduce any controls. For instance, if you are cooking any food that needs to be at a certain temperature to be safe, a CCP could be the point at which you can decide whether or not the food has been cooked safely and is ready to serve to a customer.
- Set up critical limits for each CCP: At the CCP, it should be decided what exactly the critical limits are and how the risks can be resolved by this. For example, if we undercooked the food, the risk is that undercooked food could contain some harmful bacteria, which means the food has to reach a certain temperature to kill such bacteria and maintain its nutritional value in it. So, establishing a critical limit means deciding the exact temperature that the food item must reach.
- Set up CCP Monitoring Requirements: Monitoring is a method which includes observation or measurements to assess whether the Critical Control Points are met. It also provides a record of the flow of food through the establishment. If monitoring specifies that the critical limits are not met, then strict action must be taken to bring back the process into control. The monitoring method should be easy to use & meet the needs of the food establishment, as well as the regulatory authority. It is vital that the monitoring job must be assigned to a particular individual and they should be trained on the monitoring technique.
- Establish Corrective Actions: If the CCP criteria are not met, then some type of corrective action should be taken. They must meet the standards, must be based on facts for normal working conditions & be measurable. These actions may range, for instance, from continuing cooking until the established temperature is reached to throwing out the product, depending on the strictness of the situation.
- Establish Verification Procedure:The procedures include various activities other than monitoring that determine the HACCP Plan validity and whether the system is working as per the plan. A vital aspect of verification is to find out if the plan is scientifically & technically sound. Also, all the hazards have been recognised and if the plan is implemented properly, these hazards can be effectively controlled. Verification can be accomplished by expert advice & scientific studies and observation of the flow of food, evaluations& measurements. Each Critical Control Point will have a single independent authority and this verification step provides an opportunity to make alterations to the plan if required.
- Establish Record Keeping Procedures: This is the last element of HACCP in food safety. Traceability is important in order to resolve issues if they arise later and help with the evaluation process. For example, many restaurants will record all temperatures they measure, whether in terms of cooked food/refrigerated food. This helps ensure that everything is working as it should & provides a backup if there are queries later.
HACCP in food safety and food safety plan are processes that food businesses can follow to minimise the risk of unsafe food. It has improved into the fundamental guiding principle for assessing the risk associated with food processing & handling. The implementation of HACCP in food safety has been refined based on experience.