Formulating an effective HACCP plan can be time consuming, but it is ultimately worth the effort for the peace of mind that you are producing products that are free of contaminants and safe to eat.
At Verner Wheelock we offer a number of HACCP training courses at varying levels to guide you through the various challenges you will face. However there are a few simple rules you should always follow, no matter what size or type your manufacturing facility might be.
1. Make sure you have suitable prerequisites in place
Before you can even consider developing and implementing a HACCP plan, you need to ensure that you have effective prerequisites in place. That means pest control, cleaning programmes, waste control, operator training, employee personal hygiene and the use of PPC as well as other considerations such as programmes of preventative maintenance.
Regular calibration is also essential if your HACCP plan is to succeed. Many critical control points rely on the accuracy of meters, gauges, thermometers, pH meters, scales, metal detectors, timing devices and pressure gauges; and because tolerances are often minute, even a slight inaccuracy can compromise the safety of food being produced.
2. HACCP is about safety not quality
One of the first things to remember about HACCP is that it concerns the safety of food, not the quality. A product may not look pretty or be made with the highest quality ingredients, but that doesn’t matter within a HACCP plan.
The most effective HACCP plans take a holistic view and identify any possible hazards – microbial, chemical or physical –then determine which of those constitute Critical Control Points (CCPs). A CCP is defined 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. For example, heating to a defined temperature for a defined amount of time.
3. Make your HACCP plans as simple as possible
As they say in marketing, you should always aim to KISS – Keep It Short and Simple. The same goes for your HACCP plan. The more complex it is, the more difficult it will be to control. Therefore, you should try to limit the number of control points to those that are genuinely critical.
For instance, there’s no need to spend time monitoring for potential bacteria at an earlier stage in the process if a final heating stage will kill all pathogens within a product. It’s the final heating stage that counts.
4. Keep your HACCP plans current
It’s really imperative that HACCP plans are kept up-to-date. Any change made that is a deviation from the norm, even if it appears to be insignificant, needs to be noted and a risk assessment should also be undertaken. The plan should be a working document that reflects any updates or amendments.
Even something as apparently simple as a product line change or a recipe reformulation can affect the safety of food if the correct controls aren’t in place for that particular product. Good examples include reducing the level of sugar in a product. Removing sugar might mean that your existing heating conditions are not severe enough to destroy some pathogens.
With the pressure on to provide foods with reduced sugar, fat, salt and additives this type of occurrence is a real threat. so it pays to be vigilant.
5. Use separate HACCP plans for each product line
Finally, there is no simple ‘one size fits all’ HACCP plan that you can buy off the shelf. Each company is different and each product line within that company is different and they have different recipes and different equipment.
It’s therefore important that separate plans are formulated for each line by a dedicated HACCP team. You wouldn’t buy a set of dentures unless they had been designed specifically for you, so you need to make sure that the HACCP plan you formulate is a perfect fit too.
Why not check out our training calendar for details of our forthcoming HACCP courses?
Here is a breakdown of the HACCP courses we offer