Every day you read in news about cases of foodborne illnesses and other harmful contaminants found in food. So questions do arise about why HACCP sometimes fails.
The importance of prerequisite programmes should never be under estimated as they provide the foundation for the HACCP system. Prerequisite programmes control general hygiene and environmental conditions and deal with general hazards. A failure at this foundation in the HACCP process will certainly disastrous moral, legal financial consequences. Poor design and facilities, ineffective cleaning and disinfection, no or substandard training have all been implicated in fatal outbreaks of food poisoning, substantial fines and civil claims.
Conduct a gap analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of prerequisite programmes in place against set standards. The Codex Alimentarius: Food Hygiene Basic Text (4th Edition) provides an excellent benchmark on the standards for prerequisite programmes. A copy can be downloaded at:
A HACCP system is only as good as the people who implement and maintain it. Problems can arise if the HACCP team creates a system that is too complex and full of jargon. Keep it simple and easy to read and follow, and use pictures if necessary. Remember everyone with a responsibility for food hygiene and safety needs to understand the role they play in the HACCP system. Standard operating procedures should also think about human behaviour and the risk of errors and violations. Complex and burdensome procedures could increase the risk of food safety incidents or deliberate violations to save time.
Perception of risk by food handlers could also be problematic due a lack of effective training. Therefore it is very important to explain the consequences if procedures are not followed to encourage the desired attitude and behaviour. It’s a best practice regularly check food handler competency by observing them carrying out tasks, checking completed records and asking questions about food hygiene and safety procedures.
HACCP systems will invariably include the completion of paperwork such as monitoring records. Poorly designed paperwork that is burdensome and not easily understood will not provide an accurate indication of what is actually going on. Make sure paperwork reflects the size, nature and complexity of the business. Keep it simple and to the point.
Control measures are only effective if they actually eliminate or reduce the hazard to acceptable level. This is why validation of control measures is critical. The HACCP team should decide on the most appropriate control measure based on evidence and not opinion. Evidence to validate control measures can include food standards agency and industry technical guidance, and scientific studies. Analyse the results and document the validation study.
Finally, HACCP is a continuous process and will only remain effective if it is kept up to date. Keep an on emerging threats, significant changes in premises layout, processes, recipes specifications, equipment, and new scientific data.