Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, HACCP.

The HACCP system was started in 1959 when Dr. Howard Bauman of The Pillsbury Company in the USA was asked to work with the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) on the specifications of food for space journeys. He worked on physical aspects related to eating in zero gravity but particularly on the long term safety of food to be consumed by crews. It was essential that risks from pathogenic micro-organisms were reduced to an absolute minimum. Since then the HACCP approach has become internationally accepted as the most effective system for food safety and quality control.

HACCP was developed particularly to ensure microbiological safety of foods. Fortunately, all biscuits are effectively sterilised as a result of baking temperatures and nearly all biscuits, even those subjected to secondary processing, have a water activity which is well below the point where microbes can grow. This means that safety hazards in biscuits are only likely to fall within the categories of inclusions, (foreign bodies) and contaminations (principally chemicals, for example cleaning materials or lubricating oil). Not all foreign body inclusions can be regarded as affecting the safety of biscuits but, of course, they represent a serious failure of quality control. For this reason defects of products of this nature can best be avoided by installing a HACCP System.

Thus the use of a HACCP approach for control in biscuit manufacturing is rather more limited than one where short shelf life and perishable foods are involved. The effective use of HACCP has increasingly raised standards and awareness of risks but its successful implementation needs a real culture change by manufacturers.

"Hazard" is defined as "a biological, chemical or physical property which may cause a food to be unsafe for human consumption". "Hazard" implies "risk". Unfortunately there is no such thing as "no risk" when it comes to health. So in searching for hazards there is inevitably the need to make risk assessments, quantifying the probability and the implication of something going wrong.

In the category of biological hazards we are principally concerned with microbial contamination arising from human, rodent, insect and bird transfers. There is also a growing concern about the safety of genetically modified plants used as food ingredients, changes brought about by irradiation and allergens from certain products that affect a few people. These later aspects involve much uncertainty and are very technology based. In order to advise on these points the Technical Manager must ensure that he keeps up with modern literature and knows whom to consult to be confident that usage and labelling of products is accurate and sufficient.

Chemical hazards include contamination by cleaning chemicals, poisons used to control rodents and insects, lubricating materials etc. within the factory and these are considered under GMP. We are also concerned with hazards to health of toxins from previous microbial growth, pesticide residues on raw materials, fumigant chemical residues, heavy metals from water supplies, excessive amounts of certain fats in the diet, salt, sulphur dioxide and leaching from wrapping materials. The technology is very complex and often controversial but the Technical Manager ignores it at his peril!

Physical hazards are much less controversial and possibly the most cause of problems in biscuit manufacturing. They include the unfortunate inclusions of fragments of glass, metal, wood, human hairs, buttons, pieces of plastic, stones, flakes of paint etc. most of which will arise from within the factory. All these matters are discussed under GMP.