Editor’s note: This is the sixth 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.
“Verification procedures need to be put into place so the things a food company said it was going to do in its HACCP plan are actually done right,” says Donna Schaffner, HACCP consultant microbiologist and the Associate Director of Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Training for Rutgers Food Innovation Center South.
For example, if a HACCP plan states critical limits will be monitored by temperatures taken every hour, then the first point of verification of that procedure is a review of records by a second person to ensure it has happened on time and in the right manor.
“Calibration is an essential part to verification,” adds Schaffner.
“Not only would the thermometer and other instruments need to be checked to make sure they are calibrated correctly, but so do employees carrying out the monitoring procedures to ensure they are using taking measurements properly.”
According to Schaffner, food companies also need to validate why certain critical control points, critical limits and monitoring procedures were included in the HACCP plan.
“A company needs to be able to provide validation of verification that is backed by a scientific basis. If 40 degrees Fahrenheit was chosen as a critical limit, then it needs to defend why any temperatures above that point are not safe,” she explains.
Build paperwork time into schedules
The biggest challenge Schaffner sees food companies face when establishing verification procedures is managing the extra time it takes to look through paperwork and make checks that monitoring procedures are being performed right.
“The employee carrying out the verification procedure is meant to serve as a second set of eyes to whoever is monitoring but is usually carrying their own full day of work responsibilities on top of the extra paperwork. It’s not uncommon to find out they are just signing at the bottom of the page on a busy day and not looking through and checking everything on the paper,” explains Schaffner.
“When I was in industry, we had an hour of overlap with the next shift so the plant could continue to run smoothly while paperwork was made a priority. Whichever way a company chooses to handle it, it is very important employees are given time in their schedules to allow for thorough verification.”
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