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Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)

The Culinary Institute of America

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, which is a scientific state-of-the-art food safety program originally developed for astronauts. HACCP takes a systematic and preventive approach to the conditions that are responsible for most food borne illnesses. It is preventive in nature, anticipating how food safety problems are most likely to occur, and taking steps to prevent them from occurring.

The HACCP system has been adopted by both food processors and restaurants, as well as by the FDA and USDA. At this time, there are no particular mandates that all foodservice establishments must use HACCP. However, instituting such a plan may prove advantageous on a variety of levels. The heart of HACCP is contained in the following seven principles:

1. Assess the hazards. The first step in an HACCP program begins with a hazard analysis of the menu item or recipe. Every step in the process must be looked at by first designing a flowchart that covers the period from “dock to dish.” The types of hazards of concern are biological, chemical, and physical conditions. The biological hazards are typically microbiological, which include bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

2. Identify the critical control points. The next decision to make, after you have established a flow diagram and identified the potential hazards, is to identify the critical control points (CCPs). One of the most difficult aspects of putting an HACCP program together is not to over identify these critical control points. A critical control point is the place in the utilization of the food where you have the ability to prevent, eliminate, or reduce an existing hazard or to prevent or minimize the likelihood that a hazard will occur. To quote the 1999 FDA Food Code, a critical control point is “a point or procedure in a specific food system where loss of control may result in an unacceptable health risk.”

3. Establish critical limits and control measures. Critical limits are generally standards relating to control measures for each critical control point. Many have already been established by local health departments. For example, an established critical limit for the cooking step in preparing chicken is a 165°F/74°C final internal temperature. If you were to hold this chicken on the line before actual service, it would have to be kept at 140°F/60°C to prevent pathogenic microbes. Holding would be a critical step in this process. Control measures are what you can do ahead of time to facilitate the achievement of your critical limit.

4. Establish procedures for monitoring CCPs. Critical limits for each critical control point have to identify what is to be monitored. You must also establish how the CCP will be monitored and who will do it. Monitoring helps improve the system by allowing for the identification of problems or faults at particular points in the process. This allows for more control or improvement in the system.

5. Establish corrective action plans. If a deviation or substandard level occurs for a step in the process, a plan of action must be identified. Specific corrective actions must be developed for each CCP, because each food item and its preparation can vary greatly from one kitchen to the next.

6. Set up a record-keeping system. Keep documentation on hand to demonstrate whether the system is working or not. Recording events at CCPs ensures that critical limits are met and preventive monitoring occurs. Documentation typically consists of time/temperature logs, checklists, and forms.

7. Develop a verification system. This step is to establish procedures to ensure that the HACCP plan is working correctly. If procedures are not being followed, try to find out what modifications can be made.

Reprinted by permission from The Culinary Institute of America, The Professional Chef, 8th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2006).