Hazardous Analysis & Critical Control Points – Why They Matter
Modern consumers are increasingly informed and knowledgeable when it comes to food safety and dietary concerns. This is a helpful factor in motivating legislators and food producers to hold themselves to ever-more stringent criteria for safety and health.
Recently, several food industries have made the move toward adopting more proactive approaches to food safety by focusing on preventative control, rather than reactive, end-of-line responses. This has led to the implementation of protocol such as HACCP – Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points – in production processes. This system encourages producers to take an active, real-time role in preventing issues before they arise.
What is the HACCP system, and how is it helpful for the dairy industry?
HACCP: What It Means
HACCP is a preventative approach to food safety that shifts our attention from post-production inspection to reducing and eliminating risks to health and safety. Factors of risk include sources of contamination, exposure, malfunctioning equipment, potential sources of injury, etc. Through seven principles, outlined briefly below, producers and manufacturers examine their practices to identify potential hazards for food safety, ways of reducing or eliminating them, and checks to evaluate the efficacy of these new measures. It is a process that emphasizes continued vigilance and oversight, as well as proactive prevention and improvement.
- Conduct a Hazard Analysis: what existing and/or potential hazards exist, and what preventative measures could be used to control them?
- Identify Critical Control Points (CCPs): at which steps in procedures could controls be applied to reduce or eliminate hazards (e.g., during collection, sampling, testing, bottling, etc.)?
- Establish Critical Limits for Each CCP: what is the minimum or maximum point to which each hazard must be controlled?
- Establish Monitoring Requirements: how must hazards and controls be monitored to ensure adequate and effective prevention?
- Establish Corrective Actions: when issues arise or preventative measures fail, how could they be fixed or improved?
- Establish Procedures to Evaluate the Efficacy of the HACCP System: if the plan itself needs to be revised, how will this be determined and how will it be undertaken?
- Establish Record-Keeping Procedures: how will previous strategies and outcomes be documented so that a comprehensive record exists for evaluating success?
HACCP and the Dairy Industry
The dairy industry has long prided itself on its commitment to safety. With food safety inspections and evaluations conducted at virtually every step along the production line—from farm, to truck, to processing plant—there are plenty of measures in place to ensure that only safe milk makes it to the dinner table. HACCP reaffirms this commitment by helping producers identify areas where further steps can be taken—at sampling, collection, testing, and during transportation and packaging.
HACCP and Milk Haulers
For haulers, the HACCP system is helpful in identifying our role in ensuring safe milk. It encourages us to ask questions such as:
- Are we taking adequate steps to ensure safety and prevent contamination in our sampling and collection practices?
- Are we checking our equipment often enough to ensure safe conditions for transport in terms of tank temperatures and seals?
- Are our drivers taking sufficient steps to ensure that farm tanks are adequately cleaned and sanitized?
Of course, responsible haulers take steps to ensure that the answers to these questions are always yes! (Or, if not, are prepared to take steps necessary to correct any issues.)
Along with established practices for preventing and diagnosing problems, the HACCP system plays an important role in constantly improving practices. Continuous real-time monitoring and proactive oversight improves the dairy industry’s ability to prevent food-borne illnesses, and ensures the highest quality in milk and milk products.