Topic 2 Target Group and HACCP Implementation Area in the EU

The HACCP system is designed for the entire food sector. Pursuant to the amended law on health conditions of food and nutrition, every enterprise involved in the production and trade of foodstuffs is obliged to implement HACCP. These include shops, catering establishments, production, or processing plants. The scope of the system depends on the specifics of a particular establishment (Quality-Home, 2021). Establishing a HACCP system into practice, it is proposed, as recommended by the Codex Alimentarius, to follow the 12-step sequence of activities (FAO, 1969):

In the traditional approach to HACCP in large enterprises, the system should be implemented by a team of several well-prepared and highly qualified specialists with knowledge in microbiology, engineering, technology, production hygiene, quality management, etc. Preferably, the team members should be involved in the current production practice.

A detailed description of the individual products or groups of products manufactured, considering such features as raw material composition, types of technologies used, physicochemical characteristics, microbiological characteristics, packaging and labelling, distribution methods, means of transport, storage conditions should be prepared. In establishments with a diverse range of activities or “multi-production” (e.g., mass catering establishments) it is recommended to group products with similar characteristics.

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The presumed use or application of the product by the consumer should be specified. Will it will be consumed directly or after possible heat treatment? How may the consumer handle the product during storage and preparation for consumption? Consideration should also be given to the intended consumer group of the food product, focusing on the most vulnerable consumer groups (e.g., young children, hospital patients).

A scheme of technological process covering all the phases of the production process, starting with the reception of raw materials, through the subsequent stages of the technological process, storage, and ending with the distribution and customer services should be prepared in diagram form. It is necessary to determine the basic parameters such as temperature of thermal treatment and duration of these processes, storage conditions, pH and water activity water activity of the product, humidity of the product and its environment, methods of monitoring for each stage. The development of a proper technological diagram facilitates understanding of the flow of raw materials of raw materials and semi-finished products in the plant, allows to identify possible cross-contamination and forms the basis for the systematic approach required by HACCP.

The details shown in the process diagram must reflect the actual condition of the process lines and the entire production process. Verification should concern all the normal conditions of the process. The diagram should be regularly updated.

At each stage of production, a list of all expected biological, chemical, physical, chemical, physical hazards must be elaborated. Hazards should be specified in the most preventive way possible. For small companies, this stage often seems very difficult to implement in practice. Therefore, external information on possible threats to the process shall be used. Each potential risk must be described separately. Specific control measures should also be assigned to each hazard. The control measures for a hazard are the actions, activities or conditions required to eliminate the hazards or reduce them to an acceptable level. Often, to achieve the desired effect, a combination of different control measures may be applied. The opposite may also be true, as one control measure can remove more than one hazards.

A so-called “decision tree”, a logical sequence of questions and answers foreach raw material and production stage, allowing the most food safety relevant locations and stages of the production process to be identified is often proposed to support the identification of critical control points (abbreviated as NCPs or CCPs), An important aspect of the “decision tree” is that it guides the user to apply only a minimum number of CCPs critical to product safety. For example, a hazard may not be eliminated at a particular stage, or it may be allowed to remain undetected at a particular stage if it is effectively removed at the next stage of the production process.

For each Critical Control Point, target values with acceptable tolerances and limits for specific parameters should be established. These values must guarantee effective elimination of the hazard. These criteria usually include determinants such as time, temperature, humidity, water activity, and sometimes also characteristics of a sensory nature. For small companies, it may be too difficult to determine these values. It is therefore advisable to use literature data or to adopt the values defined in the guides.

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Monitoring requires observations and measurements. Monitoring instructions allow rapid detection at each established critical point of any deviation outside the accepted tolerance limits. Monitoring indicates where and when process control has been lost, or if there is a tendency to lose control. Continuous monitoring using recording equipment connected to a whistle-blowing system is highly recommended. Where this is not possible, the frequency of observation and recording should be carefully determined to provide assurance of product safety.

Corrective actions for each critical point must be determined. They must be capable to immediately remove possible deviations in the values of the adopted parameters and ensure that the critical point is under control. Corrective actions should be performed when the critical value for a given critical control point is exceeded. They include ways of re-establishing control of the critical control point and ways of dealing with the uncertain product. Corrective actions should be as simple and easy to carry out as possible, and the staff conducting them must be adequately trained. Examples of corrective actions may be the re-treatment or reversal of the process. In specific cases where the food cannot be “improved”, the entire batch must be rejected or destined for animal feed. Documenting corrective actions and communicating information regarding their implementation to the management is mandatory.

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Verification determines whether the procedures implemented under the HACCP system are achieving the desired result and to identify any weaknesses. Verification activities may include examination of the finished product, analysis of results, review of records with identified deviations, and establishment of tolerance levels amongst others. Verification should be carried out by staff other than people responsible for performing the activities or processes subject to verification. Verification should be carried out periodically, in a planned way to ensure effective implementation of the HACCP plans.

Record keeping is one of the main difficulties in the HACCP system’s implementation. Records are fundamentals of the HACCP plan and must include: the stages of the technological process, potential hazards, defined critical control points and the criteria and tolerances adopted for them, the procedure for monitoring and corrective actions, and staff responsibilities, amongst others. While creating the HACCP documentation, it is often a neglected fact that already existing sets of documents such as invoices, specifications, attestations, and basic instructions functioning for a long time should be used, at least in the case of workplaces (Turlejska & Pelzner, 2003).

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