As a food product company it was important we, at Zizira, understand and follow food safety business practices. We are sharing with you what we learnt as the answer to the question “What is HACCP”.
Zizira, based in the northeast state of Meghalaya, a bio-diversity hotspot of India, makes plant-based products for discerning customers who appreciate the way we diligently and responsibly partner with farmers and maintain product excellence - from the field to urban families.
Our team makes trips to remote corners of the state to meet farmers and get to know their pain points. These trips always help us discover a new produce or learn something from the farmers. Here is why we do what we do.
HACCP – Aim, Origin and Concept
One of the many systems that work as checks and balances of the food production industry is something called the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). Let us see what is HACCP. It is an internationally accepted technique structured at preventing, eliminating or minimizing microbiological, chemical and physical contamination in food production.
In the early years of the US manned space program, there was a vital need to ensure the food that astronauts would eat in space at zero gravity was safe in every respect.
They wanted to prevent contamination during the production stage itself, rather than test only the end-product.
Instead of leaving it to the food inspectors to detect food safety issues, the HACCP process makes it the responsibility of the food product manufacturers to ensure that the product is safe to ingest.
So a new food production monitoring system was a need. To determine this, the Pillsbury Company was roped in to work alongside NASA and the US Army Laboratories at Natick, Massachusetts. They came out with a successful procedure that involved detection and eliminating hazards at every stage, or at every critical point, of the production line – right from the point of origin to the end product.
In that scenario, HACCP looked at what could go wrong at these critical points and halted that from happening in the first place. Critical limits were set at every critical point upon which control measures were put in place and validated. They were then monitored, verified and documented. So, if at any stage an audit was taken, the actual time-noted records would verify the same. This system is now adopted in the food industry with repeated successes.
The HACCP system, together with the GHP (Good Hygiene Practices) also forms the basis of the recommended code of practice for food safety management of the United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC). The Codex was first published in 1992 by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization combine and became the primary guidelines for most countries’ food safety and standards acts.
Why HACCP Was Inevitable in the Last 50 Years?
The last half a century has seen a sea change in patterns of food manufacturing processes and food consumption. The supply chain that handles the food business has now become colossal in breadth and complexity. New desired food safety levels now demand that the food businesses must:
- Adopt effective food safety practices.
- Follow sound food safety regulations and.
- Stay under the ambit of effectual governmental and intergovernmental food safety parameters.
Every food business, great or small, is a link in the supply chain where every entity shoulders responsibility for food safety. This includes the consumer because they are the ones that feel the hardest impact. Certain factors have now become the general norm, made necessary by the changing patterns.
The main ones are:
- Legislation that frame food laws such as the Food Safety Modernization Act 2011 (USA), the Food Safety Act 1990 (UK) and the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 (India). Such regulations made it mandatory for proprietors of food businesses to adopt requisite safety measures in their food manufacturing and supply processes.
- Environmental changes, especially in climate, that continue to impact the way we farm and the availability of resources, especially water. 50 years ago, we knew of only four food infecting pathogens - Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, Clostridium botulinum and Clostridium perfringens. Now there are over 30 of them, many of which have mutated and have developed resistance to known antibiotics, which is a matter of concern.
A robust HACCP environment will minimize contamination and reduce or destroy hazards, especially the yet unknown ones.
- Increasing travel and migration now make social and cultural make-up of people more inclusive. Cuisines and cultures are getting globalist. The traditional family meals where one person cooks for everyone is all but forgotten. More people are eating out and getting exposed to new culinary experiences or fast foods which may again be prepared from processed food ingredients.
By 2050, an exploding population of an estimated 9 billion people will clamour for more food. This will spawn new food issues that might require resources bigger than today’s. This will also need an even more robust HACCP system to meet these future challenges.
- Increasing food miles of farm produce. Suppliers now operate from any geographical location. Retail chains are continuing on their exponential and phenomenal growth. So are online stores. Together they control the maximum supplies across continents while store personnel need not even have food handling knowledge. They need only know how to manage the merchandise, watching out for storage instructions and expiry dates.
Hence the Need for HACCP
In the above scenario handling food has emerged as a sensitive problem that needs as error-free a solution as possible. Rather looking for solutions to already occurring problems HACCP instead takes a more common-sense approach: pre-empt problems from occurring.
But who needs HACCP? Basically, every business that involves itself in the food supply chain, which includes food and dietary supplements and their value-added products. Businesses may be the biggest retail chains or the brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop stores. If they need permanent and credible solutions for food safety, HACCP is the ideal system. So, we covered what is HACCP. Let us now what it involves.
How Does HACCP Work? The 7 Principles
HACCP is an acronym for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. The principles are uncomplicated and easy to set up and implement. It embodies seven principles that are the permanent main pillars of an effective HACCP system to ensure effective safe food production.
- Hazard Analysis - Identifying potential hazards so that we can set control processes in motion. This is to prevent, eliminate or minimize hazards.
- Critical Control Points (CCPs) – Identifying critical points of likely hazard occurrence and setting parameters for control.
- Critical Limits – Setting acceptable limits at CCPs to separate them from the unacceptable.
- Critical Control Monitoring – Effecting procedures of intense monitoring at CCPs so nothing goes beyond set acceptable limits.
- Corrective Action – Setting immediate corrective action procedures in event of any CCP going out of control.
- Procedures – Setting of regular procedural processes for effective working of the first five principles above.
- Record Keeping – Keeping mandatory and up-dated or real-time records to establish that the HACCP principles outlined above are adhered to and worked out effectively.
Benefits of HACCP
The greatest benefit of HACCP protocol is its streamlining effect of a company’s production process from the word go. HACCP certification enjoins the company to:
- Comply with food standards regulations.
- Conform to market requirements.
- Protect its Brands.
- Augment its Brand Labels.
- Elevate confidence in its customers.
HACCP is also adaptable as support practice to other mandatory food safety regulations and standards requirements such as FSSAI and ISO 22000 Food Safety Management.
A responsible food business will always adopt successful, tried and tested procedures in its operations. What makes or breaks a company is the confidence perception of its customers.
Statutes and laws are only guidelines to the making of a socially-conscious company, that is, a prosperous one. At Zizira we are conscious of our obligations about food safety while we endeavour to give to our customers only the certified best.