Hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) is a systematic preventive approach to food safety from biological, chemical, and physical hazards in production processes that can cause the finished product to be unsafe. Originating in the late 1960s, HACCP has since been recognized internationally as a tool for adapting traditional post-production inspection methods to a modern, science-based, food safety system.
Until the 2015 implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) required mandatory HACCP programs for juice, seafood and meat - as an effective approach to food safety and protecting public health.
The seven HACCP principles are included in the international standard ISO 22000 FSMS 2005. Other Standards, such as Safe Quality Food Institute's SQF 2000 Code, also relies upon the HACCP methodology as the basis for developing and maintaining Food Safety and Food Quality Plans and programs in concert with the fundamental prerequisites of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
1. Conduct a hazard analysis
HACCP plans determine the food safety hazards and identify the preventive measures the plan can apply to control these hazards. A food safety hazard is any biological, chemical, or physical property that may cause a food to be unsafe for human consumption.
2. Identify critical control points
A critical control point (CCP) is a point, step, or procedure in a 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.
3. Establish critical limits for each critical control point
A critical limit is the maximum or minimum value to which a physical, biological, or chemical hazard must be controlled at a critical control point to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to an acceptable level.
4. Establish critical control point monitoring requirements
Monitoring activities are necessary to ensure that the process is under control at each critical control point. In the United States, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) requires that each monitoring procedure and its frequency be listed in the HACCP plan.
5. Establish corrective actions
These are actions to be taken when monitoring indicates a deviation from an established critical limit. The final rule requires a plant's HACCP plan to identify the corrective actions to be taken if a critical limit is not met. Corrective actions are intended to ensure that no product is injurious to health or otherwise adulterated as a result of the deviation enters commerce.
6. Establish procedures for ensuring the HACCP system is working as intended
Validation ensures that the plans do what they were designed to do; that is, they are successful in ensuring the production of a safe product. Plants will be required to validate their own HACCP plans. FSIS will not approve HACCP plans in advance, but will review them for conformance with the final rule.
Verification ensures the HACCP plan is adequate, and that is it is working as intended. Verification procedures may include such activities as review of HACCP plans, CCP records, critical limits and microbial sampling and analysis. FSIS is requiring that the HACCP plan include verification tasks to be performed by plant personnel. Verification tasks would also be performed by FSIS inspectors. Both FSIS and industry will undertake microbial testing as one of several verification activities.
Verification also includes 'validation' – the process of finding evidence for the accuracy of the HACCP system (e.g. scientific evidence for critical limitations).
7. Establish record keeping procedures
The HACCP regulation requires that all plants maintain certain documents, including its hazard analysis and written HACCP plan, and records documenting the monitoring of critical control points, critical limits, verification activities, and the handling of processing deviations. Implementation involves monitoring, verifying, and validating of the daily work that is compliant with regulatory requirements in all stages all the time.