HACCP Principles: No. 1 conduct a hazard analysis
When going through HACCP, the first step is to identify which areas along the entire production chain are at risk of causing injury or illness if not controlled properly.
â€œThis requires a close look at the flow diagram of a company â€“ from receiving, storage, preparation, processing, packaging, storage and shipping out,â€ explains Schaffner. â€œWithin this analysis, youâ€™re looking for physical, chemical and biological hazards.â€
For example, physical hazards in a ground beef plant, may include metal shavings off worn grinding equipment or pieces of bone fragment.
â€œThings like plastic and metal can contaminate meat from something as simple as an ink pen falling from behind an employeeâ€™s pocket while leaning over a container or a screw coming off a piece of grinding equipment,â€ explains Schaffner. â€œBut the utilization of metal detectors and scanners can be used to ensure foreign objects donâ€™t end up in the product.â€
According to Schaffner, while chemical hazards are typically viewed as food that has been exposed to substances such as machine cleaning disinfectants, they can also include allergens and food exposed to radiation.
â€œIf a ground beef plant is processing plain hamburger patties, but also using the same equipment to make meatloaf which includes allergen ingredients, there must be strategic controls to keep allergen containers in a place where they wonâ€™t accidentally contaminate the plain beef, and properly clean and swab test equipment between uses,â€ says Schaffner.
Itâ€™s also important for food companies to pay attention to the events surrounding their ingredient sources, adds Schaffner. For example, in the event of a radiological disaster, an animal being raised for human consumption may have high levels of radiation.
â€œItâ€™s not just food products that may be contaminated,â€ she explains. â€œIf companies are buying in packaging which have been sterilized with radiation, they need to make sure the packages havenâ€™t been overexposed.â€
Schaffner says the hardest hazards to identify are biological due to opportunity for pathogen growth to occur at anytime during the processing chain.
â€œEven if the entire ground beef processing facility is following protocol to control pathological growth, the incoming beef product may have been contaminated in the slaughter facility. There are several steps taken to minimize contamination, such as rinsing bigger pieces of meat before going into the grinder and keeping temperatures a low enough level to inhibit bacteria growth,â€ she explains.
â€œBiological hazards have the ability to quickly compromise the safety of a food product and must be monitored.â€
Create a HACCP team
One of the biggest challenges Schaffner sees food companies face when conducting a hazard analysis is lack of expertise to adequately assess all the components along the processing chain. To overcome this, it is essential a company form a HACCP team with representatives in each sector of the processing chain working together to develop, implement and maintain HACCP.
â€œThe plant engineer is going to pick up on a potential hazard that someone in shipping would have missed. And if a company doesnâ€™t have someone in-house to adequately assess a portion of a company, like a microbiologist for recognizing biological hazards or sanitation specialist, they need to bring someone in,â€ she explains.
â€œItâ€™s also important to note itâ€™s legally required that at least one person on the HACCP team has a HACCP training certificate to ensure they are adequately trained in developing a HACCP system.â€