HACCP for Food Storage and Distribution Companies
In the next part of our blog about HACCP for Storage and Distribution companies, based on the clauses within the BRC Storage and Distribution Standard we look at the HACCP team, the hazard analysis and CCP’s.
The HACCP team
The team cannot be expected to provide meaningful input to the HACCP risk assessment unless they are trained to understand at least the basic principles of food safety and the HACCP food safety management system. This means an understanding of typically occurring food safety hazards, how they occur and what controls are best to mitigate them. This is then coupled with an understanding of HACCP itself and the way in which to conduct this specific type of food safety risk assessment. A well trained team will couple this learning with their day to day experience and expertise in operational matters – invaluable inputs indeed! A team leader should be designated to lead and manage the process of HACCP implementation and then the regular review which must follow – a legal, mandatory requirement.
The Flow Diagram
The team leader should get the team together in a room, undisturbed, and conducive to a working environment. Allow them to brainstorm together – at this stage no ideas are stupid ideas. Get the team to construct a flow diagram – literally, the sequence of activities from intake right through to despatch. As an example it might look something like this, although this is just an example – you may have different steps:-
The flow diagram is a great starting step (and a crucial one to get right) as it provides the foundation to the next step – hazard analysis
Take each step from the flow diagram in turn. Get the team to brainstorm potential food safety hazards and the best controls to mitigate or reduce those hazards to a safe level – whether those controls actually exist or not at this stage.
As one example from the flow diagram provided
Your well trained team should be able to do this for all steps in the flow diagram.
CCP (Critical Control Points)
Let’s define a Critical Control Point. It’s as simple as this: If control is lost at any step or activity, and that then causes or allows a food safety hazard which you have identified, to occur at a level which could make that food unsafe for the consumer, then that step is a Critical Control Point.
The exception to this are the controls which you have already identified and implemented, before the HACCP Plan, as a prerequisite control (see the previous blog to this). CCP’s tend to occur as activity steps where temperature is critical to food storage or transportation because otherwise nasty bacteria can grow up and cause illness to the consumer, especially in ready to eat chilled foods.
Where a CCP has been identified then the next steps are to:-
- Define responsibility for who will manage the CCP
- Define the Critical Limits – these mark the boundary between safe and unsafe, for instance storing chilled food below 8C is safe (although 5C is better practice), whilst storing that food above 8C is likely to render the food unsafe for the consumer.
- Define and document the monitoring method for measuring and making sure that the Critical Limit is not breached – often manual temperature probes or wireless monitoring systems will form the basis of temperature based monitoring systems.
- Define and document the corrective action procedures – what should we do with food that has been subject to a breach of the Critical Limit, and what must we do to bring the process back in line.
The whole plan, including the prerequisite controls should be reviewed by the HACCP team regularly, at least annually, and sooner if there are trends, changes or information that require a review sooner, such as these examples:-
- A trend in a particular type of customer complaint about a product involving its food safety
- A change to activities, for instance storing or transporting different or new food types, which require different storage conditions, such as frozen food, or storage of high risk allergens such as nut products
- An emerging risk such as those that might be notified by the Food Standards Agency
Remember that the review itself must be documented, and any changes required to the HACCP Plan, coming from that review, implemented as soon as possible.
HACCP, as you will see, is not too difficult, and is often based on common sense. We here at MQM hope that these articles will help you to produce a HACCP Plan suitable for storage and distribution activities and for those who seek to attain certification to the BRC Storage and Distribution Standard!