Why is a product description important?
The second preliminary Codex step in implementing the HACCP system requires a full description of products within the scope of the study. This information helps the HACCP team understand any aspects that could comprise product safety. The description usually considers intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic factors focus on characteristics within the product, such as composition, and physical and chemical properties. Whereas intrinsic factors are those external to the product, such as methods of processing, packaging, and storage and distribution conditions.
Product composition and Chemical and Physical Characteristics
Composition refers to the raw materials used in the manufacture of the product. Hazards may already be present in the ingredients, for example Listeria monocytogenes in cooked chicken which might not be removed during processing. Physical and chemical characteristics of product will also affect the growth of pathogens and/or production of bacterial toxins. Important information includes AW, pH, solid, emulsion, powder, etc.
Preservation methods create conditions in which most pathogenic bacteria cannot survive or multiply. Common techniques include thermal processing, freezing, chilling, fermentation (alcohol or acids), acidification, dehydration, vacuum packing, and chemical preservatives. Knowing these methods and characteristics of pathogens within the study can help the HACCP team determine at a later stage if additional controls are required.
Product Packaging and Materials
The description must state how the product is packaged and packaging materials used in the process as this may affect likelihood of a hazard occurring. Packaging methods, such as canning and vacuum packaging, will create anaerobic conditions in which pathogenic bacteria can thrive, especially Clostridium botulinum. Packaging materials may additionally introduce chemical or physical hazards, for example glass shards from a jar.
Customer and Consumer information
The safety of the product may require the customer or consumer to follow additional instructions. This information must be stated in the description and usually communicates instructions in how to safely store, handle and prepare the product, and durability date coding (e.g. use by or best before). Storage instructions would additionally state food safety instructions before and after opening packaging. The product may also not suitable for people with hypersensitivities or present a choking hazard for infants. Therefore, any allergen and/or precautionary labelling must be stated within the description.
We discuss ‘product description’ on all our accredited HACCP and Food Safety courses. We currently offer classroom, e-learning and remote learning training for the following courses at competitive prices:
- Level 2 Food Safety in Catering or Food Manufacturing
- Level 3 Food Safety in Catering or Food Manufacturing
- Level 4 Food Safety Management in Catering or Food Manufacturing
- Level 2 HACCP in Catering or Food Manufacturing
- Level 3 HACCP in Catering or Food Manufacturing
- Level 4 HACCP Management (Codex Principles)