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Editor’s note: This is the fourth 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. 

“What will you measure?”

“Who is going to measure it?”

“How are they going to do it?”

These are just a few of the questions a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points team needs to answer when establishing monitoring procedures for a food safety plan, says Donna Schaffner. The independent HACCP consultant microbiologist and the Associate Director of Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Training for Rutgers Food Innovation Center, Schaffner says keeping an eye on procedures will help keep food companies out of trouble

Monitoring procedures will aide food companies primarily in three ways:

  • Control and tracking of critical limits;
  • Determining when action needs to be taken when deviation occurs for a critical limit; and
  • Provide records that a HACCP plan was kept in compliance.

It is recommended that monitoring procedures be continuous. However, it isn’t always a straightforward process to set a protocol for a time-consuming component like microbiological testing, when compared to physical and chemical protocols. Depending on the product and how it is being processed, monitoring procedures will vary significantly.

However, two things remain the same for every monitoring procedure – attention to detail and personnel training.

To help maintain a structured monitoring protocol, Schaffner advises HACCP teams to create a time interval which includes every detail from when a specific measurement needs to be taken.

Specific methods for taking measurements must also be included. The correct equipment must be selected. Employees must be trained in its proper use and maintenance, including calibration procedures.

“This information needs to be written into the HACCP plan and then followed. If a HACCP team says a measurement needs to be taken every hour, then it has to be taken every hour,” explains Schaffner.

“Most likely, monitoring critical limits won’t be the only task an employee has throughout the day, but if they get side tracked and don’t keep up with set monitoring times and conduct a measurement incorrectly, it can cause a company to fall out of compliance with its HACCP plan, which can put them at risk for a recall. This is why an investment is made into training personnel to do the job properly.”

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