A hazard is one of three things …
- physical agent in food
… that has the potential to cause harm.
When listing hazards on your HACCP plan they should only consist of one of the above. Microbial can include growth, survival and contamination of food by bacteria (for instance storage of food at the wrong temperature), whereas physical and chemical agents generally refer to contamination.
Control measures are any action(s) that can prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level. For example a control measure might include:
- use of approved suppliers
- proper stock rotation
- adequate heat treatment (cooking)
- application of cleaning schedules.
Critical Control Points (CCP)
These are steps which are essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level. Once a Critical Control Point (CCP) is identified a critical limit should be set to ensure safe food production. For example, in a cooking process the food reaching a core temperature of 75°C for 30 seconds can be a critical limit. An accurate monitoring procedure must be set up for each CCP.
Critical Limits and Target Limits
Critical Limits are things that we can measure or observe and must be based on the control measure. For example, if the control of adequate cooking is ‘adequate cooking to 75°C for at least 30 seconds’, then someone must test the temperature is achieved for the time indicated, say by using a probe thermometer and a timer. The Critical Limit is what ensures safe food, but by setting a higher Target Limit this allows extra safety. For example having a target limit of 78°C and a Critical Limit of 75°C would mean a 3°C buffer zone with corrective action required at less than 75°C.
To demonstrate that you have produced a safe product. A key question to ask yourself when compiling them would be: ‘Will the monitoring procedure detect any deviation from my Critical Limits’? An effective Monitoring Procedure will state whose responsibility it is to monitor the control point, how it should be monitored and the frequency of monitoring. Records of monitoring should be kept, for example temperature monitoring records.
What if something goes wrong? What you do about it is called a Corrective Action. A key question to ask yourself when compiling your Corrective Actions is: ‘Will this prevent an unsafe product from reaching the customer?’. If your Corrective Action simply states ‘call engineer’ or ‘retrain staff’ then the answer is No! Corrective actions should always include past, present and future actions. The example above of retraining staff is a future action but what about now?
What will you do with the food that hasn’t been cooked properly? – you would make a corrective action of cooking it for longer until it is properly cooked. The person responsible for the corrective action should also be identified and a record kept of any corrective actions performed.
Validating your HACCP
By demonstrating that your control measures can actually and consistently control the hazard, you will ‘validate your HACCP’. How do you actually know that cooking your food to +75°C is sufficient? Did you read it in a book or on the internet or from a label on the packet? Its important to use legitimate sources of information such as published codes of practice or guidelines not ‘something my mum told me’ (no matter how good a cook she is!)
Verifying your HACCP
This is how you find out if your HACCP plan is working. Examples of verification include: an audit of your operation by a colleague who has been trained in HACCP or a review of your monitoring records to ensure that they are up to date and correctly completed.
Get It Right or Pay The Price
An appeal against a fine for food hygiene failures at a Forest of Dean hotel, January 2013, have cost it an extra £9,500. The Wyndham Arms in Clearwell appealed against its original £43,000 fine but it failed at Gloucester Crown Court last week. The Wyndham Arms Hotel was told it must pay the costs of the appeal, totalling £9,452.30. In November, the hotel was told to pay a total of £43,000 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to a string of hygiene breaches in a prosecution brought by Forest of Dean District Council. That’s a total of £52,500 – enough to put any food operator out of business!
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