Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems help food business operators look at how food is handled food and provide for procedures which aim to ensure that food produced is safe to eat. In this context a ‘hazard’ means:
… a biological, chemical or physical agent in, or condition of, food or feed with the potential to cause an adverse health effect.1
It is a part of routine inspections made by enforcement officers to check that a business has an appropriate HACCP-based food safety management system in place.
The European Commission has produced Guidance Document: Implementation of Procedures based on the HACCP Principles and Facilitation of the Implementation of the HACCP Principles in Certain Food Businesses2 in which Annex II gives guidance on a simplified implementation of the HACCP principles in small food businesses.
2 The HACCP Principles
Food business operators carrying out any stage of production, processing and distribution of food after primary production must3 put in place, implement and maintain a permanent procedure or procedures based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles as follows:
Identifying any hazards that must be prevented, eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels.
Identifying the critical control points at the step or steps at which control is essential to prevent or eliminate a hazard or to reduce it to acceptable levels.
Establishing critical limits at critical control points which separate acceptability from unacceptability for the prevention, elimination or reduction of identified hazards.
Establishing and implementing effective monitoring procedures at critical control points.
Establishing corrective actions when monitoring indicates that a critical control point is not under control.
Establishing procedures, which shall be carried out regularly, to verify that the measures outlined in paragraphs 1 to 5 above are working effectively.
Establishing documents and records commensurate with the nature and size of the food business to demonstrate the effective application of the measures outlined in paragraphs 1 to 6 above.
When any modification is made in the product, process, or any step, food business operators must review the procedure and make any necessary changes.
The requirement to implement HACCP-based procedures applies only to food business operators carrying out any stage of production, processing and distribution of food after primary production.4
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) states:
Article 5 (1) of Regulation 852/2004 requires that the procedure or procedures be based upon the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) principles set out in Article 5(2). The wording of the Article gives flexibility in that it requires that the procedures be based on those principles. It does not necessarily constrain food business operators to implement a HACCP system, if this is not appropriate.5
The FSA’s guidance reflects the fact that HACCP “should provide sufficient flexibility in all situations, including in small businesses.”6 Where advantage of this flexibility is taken it would be wise to document both the nature of the flexibility and the rationale in support of it, while noting that the requirement to establish documents and records is commensurate with the nature and size of the food business.7
There is no requirement for HACCP procedures to be certified by means of a quality assurance scheme or otherwise. The only assessment provided for is that undertaken by enforcement officers in the course of undertaking official control duties.8
It is an offence to contravene or fail to comply with the requirements of Article 5 and any person found guilty is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, a fine or both.9
In 2007, following an outbreak of Salmonella contamination in chocolate when 40 people fell ill, Cadbury Schweppes pleaded guilty to three offences under food safety and food hygiene, including a failure to meet HACCP requirements under Article 5. The source of the contamination was caused by a defective pipe and roof vent in the manufacturing plant. Cadbury Schweppes were fined £1 million plus additional costs.
3 Guides to Good Practice
The requirement to adopt and maintain HACCP-based systems is supported through the development of national and community guides to good hygiene practice and the application of HACCP principles. Food business operators use these guides on a voluntary basis.10
The FSA has published Guidelines for the Development of National Voluntary Guides to Good Hygiene Practice and the Application of HACCP Principles in Accordance with EC Food Hygiene Regulations.11 The purpose of this document is to give advice to the food industry on the preparation and development of national guides within the legislative framework. It describes the process and responsibilities for drafting, consulting, includes advice on scope, content and structure, and outlines the criteria and process for obtaining recognition of a guide by the FSA.12
The FSA assesses national guides to ensure they have been developed in accordance with the national guidelines, are practical for the sectors and foodstuffs to which they refer and they are suitable as guides to compliance with the relevant hygiene requirements. The FSA will recognise a guide that satisfies these criteria and forward a copy to the European Commission for registration. The FSA maintains and publishes a list of recognised national guides.13
The importance of recognised guides rests on the fact that they have a special legal status. Where a food business is using a recognised guide the enforcement authority must take this into account when assessing compliance with hygiene requirements.14 These guides may, therefore, be used with confidence in complying with relevant hygiene legislation.15
The FSA recognises the following guides:
The FSA has developed a range of food safety management packs for different sectors of the food industry to help food business operators manage food safety in accordance with the HACCP principles. These packs are as follows:
Safer food, better business is a practical approach to food safety and food hygiene management for small businesses.
Information for butchers and others to help recognise food safety risks and develop procedures to manage food safety.
Safe Catering is a guide to food safety management and a joint initiative between FSA Northern Ireland and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.
CookSafe helps catering businesses in Scotland understand and implement HACCP-based systems.
RetailSafe has been designed for retailers in Scotland handling unwrapped high-risk foods.
Information on the hygiene regulations for people who shoot wild game and supply it either in-fur or in-feather or as small quantities of wild game meat.
1 Regulation (EC) 178/2002, Article 3(14)
4 Ibid., Article 5(3)
5 Food Standards Agency, FSA Guidance on the Requirements of Food Hygiene Legislation, Section 8
6 Op. cit., recital 15 sets out the requirement for flexibility.
7 Op. cit., Article 5(2)(g)
8 European Commission, Guidance Document: Implementation of Procedures based on the HACCP Principles and Facilitation of the Implementation of the HACCP Principles in Certain Food Businesses, 2005, Annex II, p26, para12
10 Op. cit., Article 7
11 Food Standards Agency, Revision No. 3, April 2013
12 Ibid., p5, para 2
13 8, paras 16 and 17
14 Regulation (EC) 882/2004, Article 10(2)(d)
15 Note that it is only guidance on compliance with relevant hygiene requirements which has this special status, it does not include guidance on other matters which may have been included.