Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) is an internationally recognized system for reducing the risk of safety hazards in food. The HACCP system can be used at all stages of a food chain, from food production and preparation processes to packaging and distribution.
HACCP was conceived during the 1960’s when the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) asked one of the largest producers of grain and other foodstuff (The Pillsbury Company) to design and manufacture the first foods for space flights. Pillsbury implemented a method based on risk-assessment to identify and prevent hazards rather than identifying them at the end of the process. Since then, HACCP has been recognized internationally as a logical tool for adapting traditional inspection methods to a modern, science-based, food safety system.
In 1994, the organization of International HACCP Alliance was established to assist the implementation of HACCP in the US meat and poultry industries. Today, HACCP has expanded in all realms of the food industry from the farm to the fork. It has also been applied to industries such as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
A HACCP System requires that potential hazards are identified and controlled at specific points in the process. This includes biological, chemical, or physical hazards. There are seven principles that serve as the foundation for a HACCP system. They are:
- Conduct a hazard analysis to identify potential hazards that could occur in the food production process.
- Identify the critical control points (CCPs) – those points in the process where the potential hazards could occur and can be prevented and/or controlled.
- Establish critical limits for preventive measures associated with each CCP.
- Establish CCP monitoring requirements to ensure each CCP stays within its limits.
- Establish corrective actions if monitoring determines a CCP is not within the established limits.
- Establish effective record keeping procedures that document the HACCP system is working properly.
- Establish procedures for verifying that the HACCP system is working properly.
Any company involved in the manufacturing, processing, or handling of food products can use HACCP to minimize or eliminate food safety hazards in their product. Application of the principles HACCP is widespread in the developed world and in the EU is legally binding for many industries. The industries which are required to apply HACCP are:
- Production, processing, and packaging
- Storage, transport, and distribution
- Preparation and distribution of food – for hospitals, hotels, restaurants, airlines, and other companies
- Shop – retail and catering
HACCP’s primary purpose is to protect people from food borne illness, but the benefits of the system also extend to an organization by:
- Increasing customer’s confidence on products.
- Preventing the occurrence of incidents and reducing unnecessary waste.
- Increasing the ability to reach markets and customers that require a HACCP based system.
- Effective process management.
- Improving quality and consistency.
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has benchmarked a number of Food Safety Management Systems Certification programs, all of which are HACCP based. Some of these are SQF, FSSC 22000, BRC and IFS.