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HACCP: Give Me An "H"!

May 22, 2014

A look at the meaning of the words that form the HACCP acronym.

If you’re in the food industry you have heard of HACCP, often pronounced HAH-sip, which stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. According to Wikipedia, “HACCP itself was conceived in the 1960s when the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) asked Pillsbury® to design and manufacture the first foods for space flights. Since then, HACCP has been recognized internationally as a logical tool for adapting traditional inspection methods to a modern, science-based, food safety system. Based on risk-assessment, HACCP plans allow both industry and government to allocate their resources efficiently in establishing and auditing safe food production practices.Link to Source

HACCP and its supporting practices and regulations will be explored in detail. To begin with, an in depth look at each of the words in this important acronym will be examined in detail in this series. So let’s start with H; what is a Hazard in the food industry?

To answer this question we need to understand that the food industry is made up of many different entities and functions, not all controlled by the same organization and often regulated at the national, state and local level in the U.S. In general all entities selling food products in the U.S. must follow US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulations and guidelines. State and local guidelines often add to the federal mandates and generally are enforced by local entities, particularly at the retail level. Think of restaurant inspectors and you will get the idea. The takeaway is that there are many players in the chain that takes our food from the producing point, a farm or cattle ranch for example, to our dinner tables. This includes not only the producers but the processors, shippers, distributors, wholesale and retail outlets (grocery stores for example), restaurants and even the food trucks that have become ubiquitous in urban settings.

Boston food trucks

Food trucks at Boston’s South Station, a short walk from Temperature@lert Link to Souce

Again, according to Wikipedia, “A food safety hazard is any biological, chemical or physical property that may cause a food to be unsafe for human consumption.”  The FDA’s HACCP website takes this a step further: “The purpose of the hazard analysis is to develop a list of hazards which are of such significance that they are reasonably likely to cause injury or illness if not effectively controlled. Hazards that are not reasonably likely to occur would not require further consideration within a HACCP plan.”  The FDA further adds, “It is important to consider in the hazard analysis the ingredients and raw materials, each step in the process, product storage and distribution, and final preparation and use by the consumer.”

Taking a hypothetical agricultural food product for example, an injury or illness threat would be assessed in each of the following areas.

- Grower’s fields, farm and shipping equipment and workers. This would include assessing contamination from adjacent or nearby fields, for example if a crop was that required a pesticide spray or was using cow manure for fertilizer was in an adjacent field, the grower will need to assess conditions whereby cross contamination can or will occur.

- Processor’s facility, processing and handling equipment, workers and storage facilities.

- Shipper and distributor transportation, handling and storage facility and workers.
Food service outlets, retail grocery stores, farmer’s markets, their facilities, equipment and workers.

Although individuals who purchase the product and use or prepare it at home, they are not expected to be included in the hazard analysis as they are beyond the control of the producer and distributor chain. All told, the above high level list includes over twenty areas or factors that must be assessed in evaluating a food safety Hazard. Assuming that each piece in this list can include up to 10 workers one can see the job can be very difficult.

And, indeed, it is. Examples of workers with Tuberculosis (TB), Hepatitis A or Norovirus that are in some cases asymptomatic have been known to contaminate food. Dining Grades website states that about 20% of restaurant poisonings are caused by sick workers. (Link to Source) And we’ve all read about the cruise ship outbreaks that seem to make headlines at regular intervals causing public concern and potential loss of business, at least until the news cycle dies down and memories fade.

Thinking of all potential hazards is a lot like child proofing a house. One may need to put themselves in the place of the child to see the potential problems: uncapped electrical outlets, easy to access cabinets containing cleaning chemicals or medications and heavy objects on open shelves that the child can reach are just some examples. Putting oneself in the place of a food production, distribution or service worker who is generally an entry level employee, part-time and working for minimum wage may be difficult, but it is a necessary step if all potential hazards are to be uncovered and appropriate action, training or screening taken.

food health violations

Photos that food and travel industry related businesses hate to see: (Left) Nonovirus cruise ship outbreak aftermath (Link to Source), (Right) Health Department Violation sign in restaurant window (Link to Source)

The trick is to think like a parent or grandparent with a toddler: anything that can happen will happen. And Murphy’s Law will happen, not right away, or not every time, but it will happen. Hazards are all around us. Understanding which ones are likely to lead to problem that can and will occur and so Analysis of which Hazard is important or not and the topic of the next piece.

Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a food processor, distributor, wholesale or retail outlet into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular and Sensor Cloud offerings, visit our website at or call us at +1-866-524-3540.

free refrigerator monitor guide

Written By:

Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

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