To conduct an effective hazard analysis the HACCP team must have a thorough understanding of the intended use of the product or range of products. They must consider expected or unintended use of the product by the customer and/or consumer. This comprehensive written statement within the HACCP plan may form part of the product description. Factors considered can include nature of the intended customer and final consumer, specific hazards for vulnerable groups, any further processing prior to consumption, possible unintentional usage or abuse of the product.
The Intended Customer and Consumer
The HACCP team must specify if the product is intended for supply to other food businesses or direct to the final consumer. This information should additionally state if the product is intended to be consumed within a higher risk institutional setting, such as a hospital, care home, nursery, and/or school. Knowing your target consumers may highlight hazards specific to vulnerable groups. These include at risk groups where the symptoms of food poisoning can be more severe, such as pregnant women, people with comprised immunity, infants and the elderly. The product may also not be suitable for consumers with certain food hypersensitivities or where it represents a choke hazard for young children.
The Extent of Further Processing
Further processing of the product before consumption can affect the outcome of the hazard analysis. The HACCP team will need to make important decisions during hazard analysis based on whether the product is supplied raw, processed or ready to eat. For example, the product may be subjected to further cooking by the consumer prior to consumption. Ready to eat products may be evaluated as a significant hazard because there are no further steps taken by the consumer to reduce the hazard. Labelling on the product must clearly state if it is ready to eat or specify further processing instructions prior to consumption.
Temperature Abuse or Intended Use
Other factors the HACCP team should consider when evaluating the intended use include potential abuse and unintended usage of the product by the customer and consumer. Temperature abuse of the product will shorten shelf-life of the product and could render it unsafe to eat. Examples of unintended use include eating raw beansprouts, using frozen sweetcorn in smoothies or eating toppings from a pizza before its cooked.