What is HACCP and why is it important?

What is HACCP and why is it important?

The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, or HACCP, is a systematic way of ensuring food safety by identifying hazards that could occur during food production and implementing a robust set of actions to prevent hazards occurring.

Every food business is required to have a HACCP plan in place to prevent contamination by chemical, biological and physical hazards which could make food unsafe or unfit to consume. The most significant hazards include contamination by Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli, Clostridium botulinum and Campylobacter.

The HACCP plan ensures business owners are able to identify what could go wrong in the food production process to put food safety at risk and can decide exactly what actions to take and procedures to follow to remove or reduce risk to acceptable levels. HACCP principles can be applied to all stages of the food production process, from production to packaging and distribution, as hazards can occur and should be prevented throughout.

HACCP is important to the industry because it makes food safety a priority and puts in place a measurable process to ensure hazards are prevented. For the consumer, the framework offers assurance that the products ingested are as safe as they could possibly be.

A HACCP plan should be based on the following seven steps:

1. Carry out an analysis of hazards that could occur during production.

2. Identify the points in the production process where hazards could potentially occur, and how they could be controlled or prevented. These are known as critical control points (CCPs).

3. Set up criteria which must be met to prevent hazards at each CCP, based on government guidelines where appropriate.

4. Set requirements for monitoring CCPs, and define the devices or materials to be used to monitor them.

5. Establish the correct course of action to take if CCP limits are breached, to make sure no hazard occurs.

6. Put in place a way of keeping records to document the HCCP system, including verification and deviation records.

7. Establish methods of verifying the HACCP system is working as it should, such as regular reviews of the plan, records and limits, and carrying out sampling.