Monitoring is a planned sequence that provides measurable information to show whether a process at a critical control point is operating within a predefined critical limit or if a deviation has occurred. This may include measuring or observing a characteristic of product or process to determine compliance with a target level or critical limit.
There are many reasons for why monitoring is important. Monitoring at critical control points is a legal requirement and can significantly reduce the risk of an unsafe product reaching the consumer. Effective monitoring at target and action levels can also reduce the risk of a non-conforming product by adjusting the process before a deviation occurs at critical control point. Recording these observations or measurements during monitoring activities provides documented evidence for the production of safe food. This information is useful for auditors to determine compliance with the HACCP plan and necessary to support a due diligence defence.
Monitoring procedures are dependent on three factors: critical limits, capability of the chosen method or device to immediately detect a deviation at a CCP and process throughput. Common monitoring systems include inspections and testing. Rapid systems are preferred because corrective actions can quickly adjust the process to avoid reworking, further testing or destruction of the product. These systems may measure time, temperature, AW, pH and presence of extraneous matter within set parameters. Equipment used for monitoring, such as thermometers and pH meters, must be accurate and may regularly calibrated.
Monitoring frequency can be continuous or discontinuous. Continuous monitoring constantly records data in real time and includes ‘in-line systems’. These automatous systems are preferred because they are more reliable in detecting deviations. Discontinuous monitoring occurs at specified times, usually involving an ‘off-line’ system where samples are tested elsewhere. Intervals for discontinuous monitoring should be as short as possible to avoid deviations from target or critical limits. The problems with discontinuous monitoring may include a failure to detect a hazard in a sample due to an uneven distribution in the batch produced and human errors or violations conducting the monitoring activity. Procedures for monitoring must include: what will be monitored, the method of monitoring, frequency of observations or testing and who will perform the activity.
Records of monitoring activities are important in providing evidence to demonstrate controls for operational or critical limits at CCP’s. However, problems in accuracy can occur when information is recorded incorrectly due to human error or deliberate violations. Human error can happen when those responsible for monitoring activities have not received appropriate training. Deliberate violations may be the result of poor risk perception by the food handler for why monitoring temperatures is critical in providing safe food or deliberate falsification of information due to fear of consequences for non-compliance. A failure to monitor a CCP can increase the risk of food poisoning due to potentially unsafe reaching the consumner. Falsifying a CCP monitoring record could lead to imprisonment for those responsible for the activity. A restaurant manager and head chef were sentenced to prison for 18 and 12 months respectively for deliberately falsifying records following a serious outbreak of food poisoning. All monitoring must signed by the person conducting the monitoring activity and countersigned by the person responsible for checking records, such as a supervisor or manager.
The principles of HACCP, including monitoring is discussed on all our food safety and HACCP courses. We regularly run open courses in Milton Keynes, London (East Acton) and Corby. Call us now or send an email to find out more on how we support your business in protecting consumers and meeting legal compliance.