Food Safety Standards & Regulations
A global look at food safety regulations
HACCP & HARPC
HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) is a systematic approach to food safety that focuses on preventing contamination from biological, chemical, physical and radiological hazards using common sense application of scientific principles.
It is accepted worldwide as a suitable system for ensuring food safety and is a legal requirement or recommended for food business in most developed countries.
Examples of hazards assessed by an HACCP system include bacteria, viruses, insects, natural toxins, pesticides, drug residues, decomposition, parasites, allergens, unapproved food and colour additives, chemical contaminants from equipment and building maintenance, radioactive compounds, glass, wood, stone, bone, plastic and metal fragments and objects.
HACCP is used at all stages of food production, from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.
Each food processing or handling business should develop an HACCP system or equivalents and tailor one to its individual product, processing and distribution conditions.
An HACCP system is reliant on facilities, equipment and good practices already being in place to keep the analysis and resulting control methods manageable.
It also relies on the motivation of managers and employees to reduce risk factors and ensure good practices are regularly maintained. These are called prerequisite programs.
HACCP was first developed by the Pillsbury Company in the late 1950s for the design and manufacture of food for the US space programme. The concern then was the prevention of crumbs floating around in the space capsules in zero gravity and making food taken into space free of pathogens and toxins.
It was later brought into the general processing of food throughout the supply chain.
A food business should first develop and implement the facilities and procedures that establish basic food safety conditions and provide the foundation for a food safety management system.
The ability to implement an HACCP plan depends on how well these foundations are built and maintained.
A prerequisite programme can include:
Implementation of HACCP benefits both the consumer and the business processing or preparing food. The FDA lists the following advantages for businesses:
Adherence to HACCP principles also opens new markets for businesses in supplying companies requiring high quality products and in international trade where compliance with internationally recognised standards is required.
There is no single correct application of HACCP and it is recognised that it should be flexible to apply to different types and size of business.
In the US, use of the system is voluntary for retail and food service businesses and adaptable to the size of the business, though an equivalent food safety management system is expected to be in place.
The Malaysian Certification Scheme for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system was developed to provide a uniform certification scheme for HACCP system in food industries. The scheme consists of certification and surveillance activities of the HACCP system and provides formal recognition to food premises that have effectively implemented the HACCP system. With the introduction of the scheme, the Ministry of Health (MOH) hopes to encourage the implementation of HACCP system in food industries in line with global trends in food safety.
But whichever system is used, the ultimate responsibility for food safety resides with the business processing or preparing food.
An HACCP system is applied in a logical sequence with a set of preparation stages:
There are seven principles recognised in an HACCP system:
This lists all the hazards that may occur at each step from primary production, processing, manufacture, and distribution until the point of consumption. It requires knowledge of how the people, equipment, methods, and foods affect each other.
It assesses the likely occurrence of hazards and severity of their adverse health effects; a qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation; survival or multiplication of biological hazards; production or persistence in foods of toxins, chemicals or physical agents.
Identify which steps in the process are needed to ensure food safety and if a control measure is missing modify the process to include a control measure.
Each critical control point must have validated measurable limits that define boundaries to ensure food safety. One CCP can have more than one limit, for example, temperature, moisture level, pH, time.
Monitoring involves scheduled measurement or observation of a CCP that can detect a process moving outside the critical limits. Ideally it should enable action to be taken before a critical limit is reached. Measurements often have to be rapid therefore physical and chemical measurements are usually preferred.
There should be plans for corrective action to be taken for when CCPs are breaching limits and staff should be ready and trained to implement them.
Verification procedures confirm that all elements of the systems of hazard control are working effectively.
Verification procedures include: review of the HACCP plan and records; review of deviations and product dispositions; confirmation that CCPs are controlled.
It can also involve checking people and processes are working correctly and that monitoring equipment is working correctly.
An effective HACCP system requires efficient and accurate record keeping and documentation to show that the system is active and effective. This includes the HACCP plan itself and any monitoring, corrective action or calibration records produced in the operation of the HACCP system.
It has long been recognised that the management of food safety could be improved by including a risk analysis approach. This uses a science-based analysis of food safety factors and tying the system to public health outcomes.
Risk analysis is established in the Codex Alimentarius and has passed into the EU General Food Law Regulation.
In the US in the more recent Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) requires certain food processing businesses to implement an HACCP system with risk analysis, which the FDA calls Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls (HARPC).
The objective of applying risk analysis to food safety is the protection of human health. Codex Alimentarius recommends that it is established as an integral part of national food safety systems. Risk analysis should be:
Risk-analysis methods for food safety have been developed jointly by WHO and FAO and implemented in the Codex Alimentarius for many years. These are used as the basis for food safety standards by food standards bodies.
Three staged structured approach to risk analysis:
The scientific evaluation of known or potential adverse health effects from exposure to foodborne hazards using the following steps:
Risk management follows a structured approach to determine and implement the appropriate options. It consists of four components:
Communication is an integral part of the risk analysis and all stakeholder groups should be involved from the start to exchange information and opinion and ensure the process, outcomes, significance and limitations are understood.
Stakeholders include risk assessors, risk managers, and other interested parties.
The identification of interest groups and their representatives should comprise a part of an overall risk communication strategy.
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