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HACCP Food Safety

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. It is an internationally recognised food safety management system used by many food manufacturers to identify, evaluate and control food hazards. It is a way of identifying and controlling the parts of the food handling process that are most important in preventing contamination and food poisoning. From 1st January 2006 all food businesses were required to have a written HACCP Food Safety system in place.

The history of HACCP Food Safety systems is an interesting one. HACCP was originally developed in the 1960’s for the US space programme. There was understandable concern to ensure that the first manned space flights were not put at risk by food-borne disease amongst the crew.

The existing food safety systems depended on the sampling a portion of food produced to check for the presence of food poisoning bacteria. Obviously, it is not possible to sample ALL the food from a batch or there would be none left to use! So, such a sampling system could not guarantee the safety of the food to be consumed. What was needed was a system that, if followed correctly, would produce SAFE FOOD EVERY TIME. The HACCP Food Safety system was developed to provide this assurance. It has a number of advantages over other food safety control systems. In particular, it will identify potential problems BEFORE they occur and focuses on the greatest risks, thus avoiding the use of resources on low level risks.

The use of HACCP Food Safety systems quickly spread beyond space exploration catering and into food manufacturing, firstly in the US and later into many parts of the world. To ensure that HACCP procedures were standardised across the world a body known as the Codex Alimentarius Commission set out HACCP guidelines which describe the 7 HACCP Principles.

These principles are: Identify any food hazards in the food business, determine the critical control points, establish critical limits, establish a monitoring system at the critical control points, establish corrective action to be taken when monitoring, establish procedures for verification to confirm the HACCP system is working effectively and establish documentation for all procedures and appropriate records.

From 1st January 2006 the requirement for the use of HACCP Food Safety systems based on these guidelines was extended from food manufacturing to most food businesses in the UK, including catering and retail food businesses.

To help smaller businesses comply with these Regulations, the Food Standards Agency have produced a simplified type of HACCP Food Safety system called “Safer Food Better Business.” This scheme is a paper–based system that utilises illustrated “safe method sheets” to identify the food operations carried out at the business and a diary to record all necessary records.

An alternative HACCP Food Safety system is the Healthy Distance HACCP Wise CD ROM. This computer-based system has built-in expert guidance and the step-by-step process allows a food safety management system appropriate for a particular business to be quickly produced.