This is the second of a seven-part series on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points sponsored by PAR Technologies. There are seven HACCP principles outlined by the Food and Drug Administration to serve as a guideline for creating a systematic approach in the identification, evaluation and control of food safety hazards. 

Once a hazard analysis is conduct by a company’s HACCP team, the next step is to determine where along the food production line any biological, chemical or physical components must be managed to prevent food safety hazards by establishing critical control points (CCPs).

“CCPs are the last place we can control for a particular hazard by following certain steps or procedures that either completely eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce and maintain certain elements at acceptable levels. These are a very important step in the HACCP process because if CCPs are not accurately identified, any step taken after will be compromised,” explains Donna Schaffner, independent HACCP consultant microbiologist and the Associate Director of Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Training for Rutgers Food Innovation Center.

“For example, say a ground beef processing facility is worried about small foreign material passing through the grind plate, so the product is X-rayed once it is ground. In the case, the x-ray machine is the CCP. However, if the X-ray machine was not used, the grind plate would then become the CCP.”

CCPs are diverse and can include steps such as testing ingredients or finished products for allergens, temperature control and microbiological testing. While there are multiple ways to identify CCPs, says Schaffner, her preferred method utilizing a matrix which pinpoints what areas along the production chain are high, low and mid-severity levels.

“After we’ve taken a hazard analysis, we must take a step back and decide what areas can be covered and controlled with a pre-requisite program and which ones need special management as a CCP,” says Schaffner.

“CCPs which fall in the low or high severity category are easy to make management decisions on – it’s the ones in the middle which become more complicated.”

Another popular way to identify CCPs is by using a decision tree, which walks the HACCP team through a series of questions for each production step. (See chart)

“There is no mandated method of determining CCPs, so it is important HACCP teams find a method that not only suits their expertise, but most importantly, provides the most accurate information,” adds Schaffner.

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