NEWS AND BLOG
Food Safety and HACCP
Governmental Agencies and private standard-setting organizations have been very busy establishing new or expanded regulations, standards, and guidelines to enhance food safety and security in recent years. Most of these new requirements are not coordinated, and some conflicts exist. Globalization of the supply chain presents the food processor with exports or imported raw materials with real challenges regarding overlapping and conflicting requirements.
Fortunately, HACCP is well established and forms the common foundation for all the different programs. While the ownership of Food Safety Programs usually rests within the QA function, the process, packaging, and facility engineers must provide specific physical solutions in planning, design, equipment specification, and construction to meet overall Food Safety goals.
HACCP (HAZARD ANALYSIS CRITICAL CONTROL POINTS) has become the safety standard for domestic and imported food products throughout the food industry.
Started over 30 years ago to prevent potential hazards that could cause food-borne illnesses in astronauts, the program has been expanded and approved by the National Academy of Sciences, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (an international food standard-setting organization), and the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods.
In the past, regulators and the food industry depended on “spot-checks” of manufacturing conditions and random sampling of final products to ensure food safety. As this approach tended to be reactive rather than preventive, it was seen as less efficient than the HACCP system, which was established by the FDA for seafood in 1995 and expanded to meat and poultry by USDA in 1998. (USDA regulates meat and poultry; FDA all other foods.)
New challenges to the U.S. food supply, including the potential for bioterrorism, have prompted the FDA to adopt HACCP’s system on a wider basis.
The need for HACCP in the United States is further fueled by the growing trend in international trade for worldwide equivalence of food products and the adoption of HACCP as an internationally recognized component of food safety programs.
There are also increasing public health concerns about the potential chemical contamination of food and the effects of lead in food on the nervous system. The size of the food industry and the diversity of products and processes have grown tremendously.
HACCP offers the following advantages over previous systems:
- It focuses on identifying and preventing hazards from contaminating food.
- It is based on sound science.
- It permits more efficient and effective government oversight, as the required record-keeping allows investigators to determine how well a firm is complying with food safety laws over time rather than how well it does on a given day.
- It places responsibility for ensuring food safety directly with the food manufacturer or distributor.
- It assists food companies in competing more effectively in the world market.
- It can reduce barriers to international trade.
Preventing problems from occurring is the paramount goal underlying the HACCP system. When properly designed, any deviations indicating control has been lost can be found, and appropriate steps can be taken to reestablish control to ensure that potentially hazardous products do not reach the consumer. Rather than trying to find the “needle in a haystack” once a problem has occurred, HACCP focuses on preventing the needle from getting there in the first place.