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HACCP Principles, Verification and Validation

HACCP principle

The 7 Principles of HACCP are:

  1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis
  2. Identify Critical Control Points
  3. Determine Critical Limits
  4. Establish Monitoring Procedures of CCPs
  5. Establish Corrective Action Procedures
  6. Establish Verification Procedures
  7. Establish Record-keeping and Documentation Procedures

Principles 1 & 2 – Hazard Analysis and CCPs

So we’ve made sure our prerequisites are in place and we’ve got a HACCP team together. What next? Next we need to go through each procedure and look for any potential hazards that might affect the safety of the food we’re producing. We’re looking for physical hazards, microbiological hazards, chemical hazards and – in some cases- allergenic hazards.

Once we’ve identified these, we need to decide which of the steps in the process constitute Critical Control Points (CCPs). These are defined as ‘a step at which control can be applied to reduce, eliminate or prevent the possibility of a food safety hazard, or reduce it to an acceptable level.’ A common CCP in food manufacturing is the cooking stage.

What is a Critical Limit?

HACCP Principle 3 tells us to ‘determine critical limits.’ These limits need to be applied to the  CCPs. For instance, we have already established that cooking is a CCP. A critical limit for cooking would therefore concern temperature and time. E.g. the product would need to be cooked at a minimum temperature of X°C for a minimum time of X minutes in order to be sure that all potential pathogenic bacteria had been killed or reduced to a harmless level.

When the critical limits have been set, you need to monitor them (HACCP Principle 4). How do you do this? The answer is through observation and measurement. You need to decide WHAT will be monitored, HOW it will be monitored, WHEN it will be monitored and WHO will do the monitoring.

In Principle 5, corrective actions, you must decide how you are going to put something right which has gone wrong. In other words, if there has been a deviation from the critical limit. As an example, you should firstly stop the line or process and segregate the affected product. You then need to get the process back under control within the critical limits you have established. The deviation and its corrective action need to be documented.

What’s the difference between Verification and Validation?

Now we come to the verification and validation of the HACCP plan. Since they sound similar and there is often confusion about what each means, I’ll try to explain. In a nutshell, Verification is defined as the process of establishing the truth, accuracy or validity of something. So, basically, if we’ve said that we’re going to heat a product to X°C for X minutes to kill bacteria, the verification is checking the time and the temperature to make sure we’re actually doing what we say.

To verify the HACCP plan, you need to undertake regular audits of the plan to ensure that it is being followed correctly. This is particularly important if any aspect of the procedure, process or ingredients has changed which could jeopardise the safety of the product – e.g. a reduction in sugar or salt. You also need to review CCPs, your monitoring procedures and any records you’ve kept of corrective actions.

Validation is the assessment of an action, decision, plan or transaction to establish that it is correct, complete, being implemented (and/or recorded) as intended and is delivering the intended outcome. It is asking how you know/can prove something.

For example, how do you know that cooking the product for X minutes at X°C will kill harmful bacteria and make the product safe? You can validate this by using scientific data from journals which have found this to be the case. Additionally, you can undertake in-plant observations, measurements and evaluations or seek expert third party advice.

Find out more on a HACCP course

Verner Wheelock runs courses from basic Level 2 HACCP to advanced Level 4 HACCP. You can attend HACCP training at our training centre in Skipton, North Yorkshire. Alternatively, you can train a number of staff all together with an in-house course at your own premises.

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