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The basics of GMP & HACCP

Learn the basics of food safety certification


Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points are part of the certification process for your bakery business. Photo: © WrightStudio / adobe stock

Getting HACCP certified seems daunting. The food experts at SGS broke down the steps behind food safety certification in their November webinar, “Introduction to GMP & HACCP.”

Food certification isn’t new: It all started in the 1960s when The Codex Alimentarius commission was created under the joint auspices of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, and the World Health Organization. 

“Codex Alimentarius is Latin for code and food, simply translated to mean ‘food code.’ The Food Codex is an governmental body with 189 members, made up of 188 member countries, and one member organization, the European Union, which develops scientific base food standards guidelines and related texts,” explained Jennifer Lott, the Technical Director for Pharmaceuticals, Cosmetics, Personal Care and Food at SGS. “The main aims of Codex Alimentarius are to protect the health of consumers, ensure fair practices in the food trade, promote coordination of all Food Standards work undertaken by international governmental and non governmental organizations,”

The Codex standards are based on the best available scientific data, assisted by independent international risk assessment bodies or ad-hoc consultation organizations. 

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Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are known as prerequisite programs in the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). Lott adds, “implementation of the GMP programs are the foundation of your hassle plan or risk assessment. When you have robust personnel practices for housekeeping, and pest control, for example, you can use the GMP program as a means to mitigate risk within your risk assessment. When a company employs a pest control company to provide an integrated pest management program within the risk assessment, it can be documented that there’s no physical material from test because of the Integrated Pest Management program that’s in place.”

It is critical that food content services be cleaned and sanitized as often as necessary to ensure they are not a source of contamination, for control and storage and processing. Proper ingredient storage also helps with reducing the risk of pests harbourage. Facilities producing ready-to-eat products that may support the growth of pathogens are required to develop and maintain an environmental monitoring program to validate the effectiveness of their sanitation program.

For HACCP certification, Kevin Mineiro, Food Sales Manager at SGS states that there are twelve steps towards becoming HACCP certified. “The first step of assembling a HACCP team is to include individuals who have specific knowledge and expertise for the product and process ideas. Ideally, you should be looking at members from the following departments: engineering, production, quality assurance, and biology.” Mineiro recommends training staff in the art of describing the product in the third-person, passive voice. The product should provide a general description of the food, method of distribution along with any information on how food is to be distributed, in refrigerated and/or at ambient temperatures.

Among the steps listed are the need to identify the way its supposed to be consumed, then conduct hazard analysis. Based on this review, the team can develop a list of potential, biological, chemical or physical hazards which may be introduced to your production or product, to increase your control during each step in the production process. The following stage is evaluation. “During this stage the team evaluates the severity and likelihood of each potential hazard that could occur and decide which one must be addressed in the HACCP plan,” adds Mineiro.

The seventh step is determining your Critical Control Points (CCP). CCPP is defined as a step by which control can be applied and it is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or to reduce it to an acceptable level. One example is testing ingredients for chemical residues by testing the product and metal content. After this phase it’s import to define a critical limit; it’s is a maximum or minimum value to which a biological, chemical or physical parameters must be controlled at a critical control point, to prevent or eliminate or reduce to an acceptable level of a food safety hazard. A critical limit is used to distinguish between safe and unsafe operating conditions at a critical control.

The ninth step involves establishing a monitoring system for each Critical Control Points. Everything is a planned sequence of observations, or measurement to assess whether a critical control point is under control, and to produce an accurate record for future use and verification monitoring serve streaming purposes facilitates tracking of the operation, used to determine when there is loss of control and deviation occurs at a critical control point. It provides written documentation for use and verification. 

Step ten, establishing corrective actions and preventative measures. Determining the course of action should be determined well in advance, cautions Mineiro. “At the very least, the plan should specify what is done when a deviation occurs, who’s responsible for implementing the corrective action, and that a record will be developed and maintained of the actions taken.”

The eleventh step, establishing verification procedures is defined as activities, other than monitoring, that determine the validity of the hazard plan, and that the system is operating according to plan.

Finally, the last step involves establishing documentation and record keeping. “Generally the records maintained for a HACCP system should include the following: A summary of hazard analysis that has a plan, which lists the HACCP team, and you assign responsibility to each member,” clarifies Mineiro. He adds that it should also include a description of the food distribution’s intended use, and consumers. It should also include a flow diagram and a HACCP plan summary table that includes information for steps in the process that are critical control points…monitoring, corrective actions, verification procedures and schedules.”

After being GMP and HACCP certified, Mineiro and Lott say that food industries will get annual audits and often need to apply for recertification. However, like SGS, there are many food certification service companies that help streamline and train new companies manoeuvre their way through the stages.