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Chapter 2: An overview of hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP)

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"


HACCP was originally developed as a microbiological safety system in the early days of the US manned space programme in order to guarantee the safety of astronauts' food. Up until that time most food safety systems were based on end product testing and could not fully assure safe products as 100% testing was impossible. A pro-active, process-focused system was needed and the HACCP concept was born.

The original system was designed by the Pilsbury Company working alongside NASA and the US army laboratories at Natick. It was based on the engineering system Failure, Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) which looked at what could potentially go wrong at each stage in the operation along with possible causes and the likely effect, before applying effective control mechanisms.

HACCP is a system that identifies, evaluates and controls hazards which are significant for food safety. It is a structured, systematic approach for the control of food safety throughout the commodity system, from the plough to the plate. It requires a good understanding of the relationship between cause and effect in order to be more pro-active and it is a key element in Total Quality Management (TQM). HACCP builds on the foundations of well established quality management systems such as Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), Good Hygienic Practice (GHP), Good Agricultural Practice (GAP), and Good Storage Practice (GSP). The HACCP concept has been successfully applied in the control of quality as well as safety in low-acid canned foods in the USA, and many food companies in Europe and the USA have adopted the approach. Increasingly, regulatory bodies have recognised the usefulness of this tool and its 'principles' have has been incorporated into legislative requirements by both the EU (in the General Hygiene regulations for managing food safety (93/43/EEC)), and the United States Federal Department of Agriculture (CPR - 123). The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) provided guidelines on HACCP including generic plans and decision trees in 1992, and the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted the HACCP system at its twentieth session in 1993. HACCP systems can be incorporated into other quality assurance systems such as the ISO 9000 series (Figure 7).

Although conceived as a food safety system for both the agricultural and processing systems, it is in the latter that HACCP has found most application hitherto. This is primarily because it is much easier to apply a HACCP system in a factory where there is a single management or 'owner', and where it is possible to completely prevent a food safety hazard, or eliminate, or reduce it to an acceptable level. In the commodity system there are often many disparate 'owners' of the commodity as it passes from the farm to the consumer, and complete control may be unobtainable. This Manual aims to address this subject, basing the approach as closely as possible on the Codex Code of General Principles on Food Hygiene (1997), which emphasises the importance of GMP/GAP/GHP as sound foundations to incorporate the HACCP approach and develop a user friendly Food Safety Management System.

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