The foundation of HACCP is based on identifying everything that can go wrong (hazards) with regards to food safety and your products and processes and then putting a strategy in place to stop or reduce (to a safe level) that hazard from happening. Hazard identification plays an important part of this process.
A common question I get asked is “to what level do I have to do my hazard analysis”? When looking at the guiding references on HACCP and the requirement for hazard identification there is an overriding concurrence that:
“The HACCP team should list all of the hazards that may be reasonably expected to occur at each step from primary production, processing, manufacture, and distribution until the point of consumption.”
You may also be required to identify the hazards associated with your raw materials. If you need a template for this, click here.
Get Specific with hazard identification
So what this means is individual hazards (or specific hazards) are required to be identified. To make this clearer, it is essential to understand the definition of what is a hazard. Codex defines a hazard as being “A biological, chemical or physical agent in, or condition of, food with the potential to cause an adverse health effect.”
There is a common misconception that it is suitable to just identify different hazard categories present at each process step. Hazard categories include Microbiological, Chemical and Physical. Depending on your customer requirements and county of manufacturing, you may also be required to identify quality, radiological, and allergen hazards (separate to chemical hazards). The following graphic shows the incorrect identification of hazards in a HACCP plan.
Codex does not promote this undertaking but rather the identification and assessment of specific hazards. Based on this definition and logic, individual hazards not hazard groups are to be identified. For example:
Examples of Hazards found in Food
There are many different hazards that can occur or be present in food. Check out the following diagrams for different biological hazards, physical and chemical hazards
Physical hazards can come from a variety of sources including from people, plant, the actual product, packaging and the manufacturing or food handling premises. This is a definite area to avoid hazard grouping and analysis as different physical hazards will have different likelihoods but more importantly different consequences or severity.
A very simple example would be the severity of a customer consuming a product that has hair in it would be very different to if a customer ate your product that contained glass. Looking at this logically, hair and glass would be at the opposite ends of the severity rating so should therefore be rated and assessed separately.
As you can see from the example above, the control measure that you have for one type of foreign matter can be very different to the control measure that you implement for another specific foreign matter hazard. The likelihood and severity (consequence) of hair in a food product will be very different to glass contamination in a product.
Keep in mind however that more than one control measure may be required to control a specific hazard(s) and more than one hazard may be controlled by a specified control measure.
If you are looking for further information on hazard identification check out the following links from Codex Alimentarius.
1. Principles and Guidelines for the Conduct of Microbiological Risk Assessment
2. FAO/WHO guidance to governments on the application of HACCP in small and/or less-developed food businesses
3. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) System and Guidelines for its Application
4. Principles for the Establishment and Application of Microbiological Criteria for Foods
If you would like to learn more about hazard identification, please check out my online course HACCP Refresher. In this course, I provide practical training on how to identify and assess hazards in your food business.
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