Food Safety: HACCP – What is it? Why did NASA invent it?

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points or HACCP is a preventive approach to food safety that aims to prevent hazardous effects to consumers by identifying potential food safety hazards in all food industries and applying certain actions known as Critical Control Points to reduce and eliminate threats to the health of consumers.

This system was invented and implemented successfully in the US for NASA by a company called Pillsbury in 1960. At that time Pillsbury was asked to manufacture the foods for NASA’s space flights and needed to ensure the health of the astronauts by preventing illnesses caused by foods. The system was subsequently adopted by the FDA in America.

HACCP and its success for NASA has seen it adopted by numerous others in the food industry. Because it addresses both physical hazards (foreign objects such as glass or plastic in food etc.) and chemical hazards (potentially dangerous ingredients etc.) HACCP assures both the food preparer and the consumer that the food being served is safe to eat.

According to the HACCP guidelines, restaurants should perform hazard analysis (the “HA”) in the storage, preparation, cooking, and packaging of foods to highlight and detect possible food hazards and distinguish the critical control points (the “CCP”) where appropriate prevention and control techniques may be employed to ensure the safety of foods.

Following the hazard analysis and the identification of critical control points, restaurants need to define “critical limits”. At each CCP food must remain within these limits to satisfy the guidelines.

CCP monitoring requirements are then put in place to ensure that each critical control point stays within its predefined limits. If critical control point limits are exceeded, corrective action must be taken; this corrective action must be established so that no public health hazard occurs as a result of this.

To ensure that the system is working effectively procedures need to be carefully monitored, documented and updated. Checks need to be made to ensure that microbial levels are appropriate and that all staff are aware of the correct procedures.

The HACCP systems and procedures should be properly documented and recorded for the purpose of verification and evaluation of the process. Records should include the plan, procedures taken, and the deviations occurred during the process. This is to make sure that the critical limits are not exceeded and that no contaminants pose a threat to customers.

Since restaurants and other food chain stores handle and trade foods, HACCP can help strengthen quality control systems so that these restaurants and their customers can rest assured knowing that high standards of sanitation, refrigeration and storage and handling procedures are in place. Restaurants who can abide by the regulation of this system have lower or no chances of food contamination, and the safety of the customers will be highly recognized.

For commercial restaurants and kitchens, even one incidence of food borne illness can significantly tarnish a hard earned reputation indefinitely, if not forever. A certification in HACCP is highly regarded in the world of food and those businesses who can display this certification are proving to customers and other businesses alike that they are dedicated to providing clean and safe environment in which to enjoy a meal. A certification in HACCP can help improve business by instilling confidence in customers that their meal has been prepared in a safe, sanitary manner. Making sure the food tastes good – well that’s up to you!

1 Response to “Food Safety: HACCP – What is it? Why did NASA invent it?”

  1. 1 Hema Lutchoomun

    This article is very interesting and I agree with all the points that have been highlighted concerning HACCP analysis methods. However this blog is missing one very important key point which is Traceability. The traceability process takes place from boat to plate that is every product leaving the plant can be traced from raw material level to the individual packing and sealing the product itself. This is done by applying a bar code to each product. The bar-code gives all the required information about:

    • The name of the supplier
    • Their certificate number
    • Evidence of certificate validity
    • information on the vessel (name, call sign, flag)
    • area in which the fish has been caught;
    • fishing technique used;
    • size of the catch and whether it has been divided up.

    In order to achieve this, a full product traceability system is compulsory so as the products can be traced from their suppliers and tracked back to their buyers if claimed.

    Having worked in the fishing industry for quite some years, HACCP has become a fundamental aspect when it comes to food safety. Thanks to HACCP program we are able to export our fish products such as hake fillet, frozen hake fillets, moulded loins, etc all over the world. However, HACCP is not a stand-alone system but it is build upon other programs such as the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). In South Africa, a HACCP program undergoes a bi-annual audit from SABS (South African Bureau of Standardization, Cape Town). This is done in order to ensure that the company abides with the required criteria imposed by HACCP certifier. A certificate of compliance is validated every six months.

    HACCP is also endorsed by international organizations such as Codex Alimentarius (a commission of the United Nations), the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), and the European Union and by several other countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

    You can also find some useful information concerning how HACCP program is applied by other companies on:

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