Scope or terms of reference is not a step outlined in the Codex logic sequence but generally accepted as industry best practice before the onset of the HACCP study. Decisions made here are important because they do affect the focus for other elements of the HACCP system. Defining the scope or terms of reference is the first task completed and agreed by the HACCP team. They will consider structure (linear or modular), product(s), start and end points, food safety hazards and sources of supporting information used in the development of the HACCP plan.
Product and Process Details
The scope or terms of reference must clearly state a concise description of the product or range of products and relevant packaging covered in the HACCP study, and usually starts with intake of raw materials and finishes with despatch of the finished product. But the HACCP team should also need to consider how the product will be handled outside the control of the facility by distributors, retailers and consumers.
Linear or Modular?
The nature and extent of the operation will determine if a linear or modular system is appropriate for the HACCP plan. A linear approach is product led and considers the whole operation from start to finish. This would be suitable for simple food operations where few finished products are made in a small number of process steps, for example orange juice in cartons. A modular system is more suitable for complex food production operations where several process steps are shared with different finished products, for example cooking. This approach breaks down the entire operation into distinct process modules with a HACCP plan for each one and then all parts are added together to form the HACCP system. These individual modules consider the same hazards and controls irrespective of the products made and can be applied wherever relevant.
Scope of Hazards
The HACCP team must identify potential hazards that could be present in the raw materials and introduced or survive the production process. These hazards should be relevant to the product, process or facilities. They usually fall into four categories: physical, chemical, microbiological and allergenic. But can also include radiological, fraud and malicious contamination (BRC Global Food Safety Standard Issue 8, Clause 2.7.1). The HACCP Team should identify specific hazards because it creates a focus on the ones are likely to occur and addresses individual sources and causes of food safety hazards in the HACCP plan, such as specific pathogens, intrinsic and extrinsic foreign bodies, food allergens in raw materials and onsite, and natural chemicals found in food.
The scope or terms of reference should refer to relevant prerequisite programmes, legislation and guidance documents used in the development and validation of the HACCP plan. Listing or referencing prerequisite programme communicates which ones have been considered during the study and support the system. Codes of practice, guidance documents and scientific studies are useful in identifying sources and causes of common hazards and appropriate food safety controls. They can be specific to prerequisite programmes, production processes and finished products. Referencing legal documentation demonstrates the HACCP plan meets minimum legal compliance. The HACCP team may also need to refer to specific certification and/or customer standards to ensure the plan conforms to external audit requirements. Guidance documents are useful in helping the HACCP team develop, implement and maintain an effective HACCP system, for example Campden BRI HACCP: A Practical Guide (Fifth Edition).
Percipio Training regularly deliver accredited levels 2,3 and 4 courses in HACCP across the UK. Contact us to find out more about how we support your team in food safety and HACCP training.