Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)
EU legislation states that all food suppliers must identify and control food safety hazards. This is EU law which applies in the EU. However, if an EU buyer buys honey from outside the EU they will endeavour to make sure that the honey they are buying is safe to eat, by requiring the supplier to identify and control food safety hazards.
What is a food safety hazard?
A hazard is any potential problem which could cause harm to the consumer and may be microbiologial, chemical or physical.
The most widely used mechanism for identifying and controlling food safety hazards is the HACCP system. HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. HACCP is an approach or a system for identifying and assessing hazards and risks of food production and the implementation of cost-effective controls and monitoring procedures to ensure food safety.
Honey buyers from the EU may ask suppliers from countries outside the EU to develop HACCP plans for the premises where honey is stored, processed and consolidated before export.
How does the HACCP system work?
The HACCP system involves a series of seven structured steps which begins with an analysis of hazards to establish their signifcance to food safety, along with the development and implementation of effective control and management systems to address significant hazards.
A HACCP system does not replace, but enhances, other policies and processes which must be in place to ensure basic food safety, for example standard hygiene, cleaning and waste management systems. A HACCP system is there to manage significant hazards associated with the particular food or process in question, and does not cover the standard good practices which should always be applied.
The seven steps of HACCP
1. Analyse hazards
This means the factory manager must prepare a list of all the possible problems which might occur to affect the safety of the honey for human consumption. One example might be the threat of contamination with a toxic chemical stored in the same factory.
2. Determine critical control points (CCPs)
This step is about identifying the point at which the hazard is likely to occur and when extra care must be taken. Using the above example, the critical point might be long term storage - as this might be the time when honey drums are placed near drums of other substances.
3. Establish limits for critical control points (CCPs)
Here limits must be set. For example, is it acceptable for honey drums to be stored within 10 metres of drums of other substances ? or perhaps in the next room? Or the limit might be a certain minimum distance, and not in an adjacent room to any room where honey is stored or handled.
4.Establish monitoring procedures for critical control points (CCPs)
Having identified the CCPs and set limits it is then necessary to have a monitoring procedure which gives an outsider confidence that the limits are being observed. The monitoring procedure might be that the storage facilities for honey are checked daily by the factory supervisor to make sure that no toxic materials are stored close by. The supervisor keeps a log book and records every time these checks are made. This might be the procedure.
5. Establish corrective actions
This step concerns what happens if the limits for the CCPs are breached. In our example, corrective action might need to be taken if it is found that toxic substances have been stored near to honey. Perhaps a new employee made a mistake for example. The corrective action might be to dispose of all honey that was stored in the same room at the toxic substances for more than two hours. If the hazard is less serious a different kind of corrective action might be needed. For example, perhaps dead bees are found in honey which has been filtered. The corrective action here might be to filter the honey again as the dead bees do not cause any harm to the honey itself, one they have been removed.
6. Establish verification procedures
This step is about checking and monitoring. From time to time it will be important to review the whole HACCP plan and consider whether it is working. It might be necessary to revise the limits set in Step 3 or perhaps as new processes are developed, new hazards might occur. It will be necessary for the factory manager and supervisor to check that the HACCP plan is complete, up-to-date and being implemented. The exporter may wish to seek verification from their buyer that the honey which they supply is always safe. These actions are all part of the verification process.
7. Establish a record system
This simply means write everything down. This way everyone can be sure that the HACCP process is complete and being implemented. Buyers will ask to see evidence of the HACCP process and the best evidence will be written documentation - and safe honey!
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