We all expect that food purchased at the supermarket or consumed away from home is safe to eat. The World Health Organisation estimates 600 million people in the world suffer illness after eating contaminated food and 420,000 people die every year[1]. In the UK, 18 million people are affected[2], in Europe 23 million people[3] suffer each year. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) reports in America 48 million people[4] get sick each year, and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) reported gastroenteritis has affected 4 million people. You can see this is a serious issue around the world.

‘HACCP’ stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point and is a food safety management protocol. It was developed by the Codex Alimentarius of the World Health Organization, that is an internationally recognized food safety management system that focuses on preventing hazards that could cause food-borne illnesses by applying science-based controls, from raw materials to finished product. HACCP is also the foundation of the GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) benchmarked schemes food manufactures are certified, ensuring the food produced is at minimum safe to consume, then looks at managing additional quality and food security risks.

The HACCP protocol uses a risk-based assessment of food safety hazards to manage food safety in food handling facilities. Types of food safety hazards are from microorganisms, physical contaminants and chemical sources. A hazard analysis is conducted to determine where the food safety hazards are in food production.

The hazard analysis process is very detailed and looks at all food safety aspects of making food from receipt of raw materials, through storage, preparation, processing, any re-working and storage through to the delivery to the customer. The types of food safety hazards are assessed from sources such as people, plant, processes, equipment, consumables, ingredients and the inherent risk of the product itself, at each of these stages in the manufacturing process.

Equipment, materials and services employed – meeting the requirements of HACCP systems

To reduce the risk of hazards from fixtures, equipment and non-food consumables, food companies can do the research themselves to ensure these are appropriate for use in food preparation, or chose products that are certified by HACCP International. For example, companies will need to check that the dyes in gloves are not going to leach into the food products, creating a chemical hazard, or investigate the type of flooring installed is going to drain adequately, to prevent water pooling and potential bacterial growth in the premises, and that the drains themselves are designed to be easily cleaned to prevent mould growth or pest harborage. Choosing products certified by HACCP International gives food businesses assurance that the certified products have been assessed by an independent third party of food safety experts. Each product or service certified has undergone a product evaluation to check the formulation and manufacturing processes, including batch control, storage and handling, the toxicity, any claims made are verified, that equipment is easily cleaned, packaging and labelling protect the product, that the usage instructions are meaningful. We consider consequences of error and all certified products must contribute to food safety. For a list of HACCP International certified products and services visit https://haccp-international.com/registers/

Once the hazards are determined, a risk assessment is conducted to determine which steps in production are critical. For example, the time and temperature in a pasteurization process just before the bottling stage is a critical control point or ‘CCP’ as this will reduce the bacterial load to an acceptable level of that product.

A plan for handling non-compliant product is also documented so if the product does go out of specification, food handlers can check what to do when things go wrong to prevent contaminated food getting sold.

All critical steps need to be monitored to ensure the food safety hazards are managed. These must be recorded to demonstrate compliance to the food safety plan, not only for auditing purposes, but to demonstrate the products are safe to eat, or catch the immediate time the product goes out of specification to prevent a recall. This on-going monitoring might be thought of as time consuming but should be considered like an “insurance policy” to prevent a recall and potential brand damage.

For further information go to https://haccp.com.au/services/haccp-food-safety-programmes/


[1] WHO https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/food-safety sited 9/6/2023

[2] Food Standards Agency https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/news/fsa-research-suggests-new-higher-estimates-for-the-role-of-food-in-uk-illness#:~:text=The%20overall%20estimate%20for%20this,in%20the%20UK%20per%20year sited 9/6/2023

[3] WHO https://www.who.int/news/item/05-06-2019-23-million-people-falling-ill-from-unsafe-food-each-year-in-europe-is-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg sited 9/6/2023

[4] CDC Centre for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/food-poisoning.html#:~:text=Every%20year%2C%20an%20estimated%201,3%2C000%20die%20from%20foodborne%20diseases.

Rachel Meryment Certification Manager HACCP International