The recent tragic outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa has pushed food safety into the spotlight and the importance of a preventive approach to food safety from biological, chemical, and physical hazards in the production process.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), known as the internationally recognised system for reducing the risk of safety hazards in food alongside food safety standard guidelines such as ISO 22000, enables strict procedures, controls and measurements to reduce food contamination risks to a safe level for consumers.

A HAACP system requires the correct identification and analysis of potential food hazards and proper safety planning, a prerequisite program implementation to control environmental risks, ensure hygiene, and prevent product contamination, as well as the introduction of good manufacturing practices.

Trough food hazard analysis, enterprises can evaluate current manufacturing processes and identify potential risks, including substance and toxin contamination, or biological threats such as a virus or bacteria (as it was the case with listeriosis).

Relevant expertise is needed to make an accurate evaluation of the hazards, and then proceed with the identification of critical control points (CCP), which represent the stages in the process where strict controls are introduced to prevent or eliminate these hazards.

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CCP are addressed through preventive measures, for example, the use of specific limits for temperature, time, pH, salt level, chlorine level and other properties. The establishment of minimum and critical limits is essential in controlling each identifiable hazard and taking corrective actions when these thresholds are exceeded or are not being met.

Also, there must also be a thorough process evaluation to determine the cause of the problem and an elimination of the cause to avoid similar occurrences in the future. It is why it is recommended to establish continuous monitoring, record keeping, and verification at all times during the manufacturing process.

The monitoring at the CCP is vital to the effectiveness of the HACCP program and consists of physical measurement and immediate observations that can be acted upon to keep the process under control.

Furthermore, additional recording and verification procedures are needed to show the adequate maintenance of CCP limits, as well as perform efficient testing and ongoing verification of the system and its effectiveness in food safety and prevention.

Enterprises involved in the manufacturing, processing or handling of food products should implement HACCP certification to minimise or eliminate food safety – biological, chemical or physical – hazards in their product.

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