A dynamic and thorough HACCP program is absolutely critical to minimizing your manufacturing company’s food safety risk. Yet, even in this time of unprecedented industry evolution and deepened regulatory responsibility, there are many plants that continue to miss the mark on meeting necessary HACCP standards. To help ensure that your company is implementing a strong HACCP system, we’re providing you with valuable information and insight into one of the most overlooked and underestimated principles.
Why HACCP Matters
Today, there are seven steps the user has to follow to arrive at a robust HACCP system:
Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis.
Determine the food safety hazards at all stages of food production, assess their likelihood of occurrence (risk assessment) and then identify preventive measures for their control (risk management).
Principle 2: Determine the critical control points (CCPs).
A critical control point (CCP) is a step or procedure in a food process, from its raw state through processing, at which controls can be applied to eliminate biological, physical or chemical hazards or minimize their likelihood of occurrence.
Principle 3: Establish critical limits.
Define maximum and/or minimum values to which biological, chemical or physical parameters must be controlled at a CCP to prevent, eliminate or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of a food safety hazard.
Principle 4: Establish monitoring procedures.
Plan a scheduled sequence of tests, observations or measurements to assess whether a CCP is under control and to produce an accurate record for future use in verification.
Principle 5: Establish corrective actions.
In the event that the critical limits are exceeded, a robust corrective action process should be in place to ensure that there is no risk to customers and consumers, and that the root cause is identified and remediated to prevent future occurrence.
Principle 6: Establish verification procedures.
To ensure that the HACCP plan is working effectively, develop a series of activities (other than monitoring) that 1) validate these activities function and have the power to inform the operator of the appropriate limits, and 2) continuously verify that the HACCP system is operating accordingly. Example efforts include periodic or exception-driven reviews of HACCP plans, CCP records, critical limits and microbiological sampling and analysis.
Principle 7: Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures.
The strength of your HACCP program will be measured by both your track record and by the thoroughness and accuracy of your documentation. Everything from the summary of the hazard analysis to the listing of the HACCP team’s assigned responsibilities, a verified flow diagram and full descriptions of the food, it’s distribution, intended use and consumer must be documented and stored in a complete, up-to-date and organized manner.
Where the Breakdown Usually Happens
In order for an HACCP plan to function effectively and meet the requirements of a food safety audit, it needs to conform to each and every one of these principles. If just one is not followed properly, it can cripple the entire system or render it ineffective.
That is why it’s so important to understand where the majority of manufacturers are failing with their HACCP principles, and the answer is principle #7 – recordkeeping and documentation.
Think about your current record-keeping procedures. Is your team struggling to manage the documentation process? Is data falling through the cracks? Are disorganized, manual processes slowing things down or resulting in incomplete files? Are you scrambling to assemble reports and noticing gaps or inaccuracies in the findings? The truth is any failure to maintain a robust audit trail history and active, timely reporting is going to negatively impact the safety of your product, the success rate of your audits, the risk of experiencing a recall and the overall stability of your operations.
If it’s not being measured and shared, it can’t improve!
So, why are so many facilities facing these documentation-related outcomes and weakening the equity of their HACCP plans? Here are three of the most prominent reasons.
Reason 1: Outdated Data Tracking Processes
It’s astonishing how many manufacturers in the food and beverage industry are relying on Microsoft! Informal surveys show that Excel, Email and paper-based systems are the primary means of managing food safety data and documents! That means you’re prone to suffering from lost or misplaced documents, disorganized filing systems, mounting piles of paper, a lack of storage options, tedious reporting tasks and inadequate compliance documentation.
Manual systems – and we include “dumb” systems like email and spreadsheets under this header – simply cannot serve as the systems that ensure data tracking and corrective actions are properly carried out and to be compliant your daily food safety requirements. Ultimately, preventing a food safety failure and successfully meeting compliance obligations means enforcing proactive plans backed by stable documentation processes — not only to manage functions within your own facility, but also to provide keen oversight of your suppliers.
When it comes to making well-informed decisions, taking smart and swift actions and implementing strong HACCP plans, you’re at a distinct disadvantage without proper data and analysis on which to base your efforts. An uninformed approach is neither effective nor compliant. You must be able to maintain solid, current data, access that data quickly and leverage it to improve food safety conditions. Unfortunately, outdated documentation processes make this highly difficult, if not impossible.
Reason 2: The Shift from Paper-Based to Electronic Records
As the volume of data required to sufficiently document your HACCP system and other food safety efforts increases exponentially, it has become necessary for manufacturers to consider the move from paper-based records to electronic ones. But not all strategies for this shift are created equal. In fact, if you’re not opting for a comprehensive software solution, you could be inviting even more chaos.
The process of ensuring food safety at every stage of manufacturing from the supply chain to delivery requires optimal recordkeeping and document control. Even if you’re leveraging an electronic-based recordkeeping system, an overly rudimentary one that lacks a high level of organization, automation and access to information opens up your plan to major difficulties.
When you find yourself and your team working tirelessly to keep the archives in line and up to date, that’s a clear sign that you’re not utilizing the kind of food safety management system that makes this responsibility significantly faster and easier. A subpar recordkeeping solution inhibits your team instead of empowering them to keep all data tracking efforts on pace with daily food safety operations. In a plant environment, there’s no time for inefficiency. You need a solution that speeds up the process.
Reason 3: The Complexity of Multi-Plant Operations
Implementing or standardizing on a food safety plan across more than one manufacturing facility? Now the job of maintaining proper HACCP records is monumentally more challenging. There is a seemingly limitless supply of information to be stored, communicated, retrieved and reported on. In addition, you’ve got various individuals from different departments and facilities inputting and accessing critical data related to your contamination prevention and compliance efforts. Does your recordkeeping solution give you the power to assign accessibility rights to certain individuals? Does it enable testing and operational data to be entered in a uniform, templated way? Does it feature automated notifications and alerts that can be relayed instantly to designated recipients? These types of capabilities help ease the burden of data mishandling, mismanagement and misalignment. Without them, you’re limiting your team’s capabilities with regard to upholding HACCP principles.
How to Streamline and CONTROL
It’s easy to lose control over the seventh HACCP principle in the midst of an evolving compliance landscape and a wide array of plant responsibilities. But you don’t have to stay overwhelmed and noncompliant. As the food safety industry has changed, so has innovation. By adopting a modernized system, you can equip your company with the controls it needs to completely fulfill the requirements of HACCP principle #7 and support the other six.
CONTROL-PRO features capabilities that enable you to:
- Digitize documentation, archival and auditing preparation for efficiency and accuracy
- Visualize preventive control points on an intuitive floor plan
- Quickly identify locations and patterns within your food safety plan
- Set up automated notifications and alerts
- Systematize the scheduling of preventative controls and testing
- Easily access all sampling data, testing results and corrective action records
- Verify performance of your prerequisite plan
- Control document administration and accessibility
- Unify documentation between departments
- Develop customized and detailed workflows
- Create functional checklists for effective change management
- Make informed decisions about corrective and preventive actions
Consider what level of automation and transparency you have to ensure that everything is being properly documented. Actions and data points that go undocumented can cause major food safety complications down the road. Without complete visibility and dynamic management controls, your company is not equipped to meet compliance standards and minimize the risk of food safety liabilities.
The range of support and value that a solution like CONTROL can engender within your own processes is immeasurable. It’s the key to overcoming so many different types of food safety and compliance management challenges that interrupt the flow of production and increase your level of risk. If you’re having problems keeping up with the expectations of HACCP Principle #7, this is what your company needs.
Assessing your current production up-time, waste levels, and your staff’s efficiency can help you overcome the challenges you may be facing. Use our free ROI calculator to determine how automating your environmental monitoring program can save you money and increase productivity.