In 2008 and 2009, more than 700 people were infected with Salmonella infections linked to King Nut brand peanut butter. Investigators traced the outbreak to a Georgia factory operated by Peanut Corporation of America, resulting in criminal charges against then-CEO Stewart Parnell and two others on charges including fraud, obstruction of justice, and selling adulterated food. Although this is an extreme example, it illustrates the importance of a food safety management system that can identify and control hazards, preventing harm to customers and revenue loss from product contamination. Based on NASA’s food safety standards developed for space flight in the 1960s, the FDA introduced the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system to avert biological, chemical, physical and radiological hazards in food production processes. A HACCP is best implemented through the use of a Laboratory Information Management System.
First, let’s look at the seven principles underlying every HACCP plan:
1. Identification of all possible food safety hazards—for example, cooking temperatures that do not adequately kill bacteria.
2. Identify critical control points (CCPs). These are points in the food production process that can be targeted with safety control measures.
3. Set critical limits. Critical limits are boundaries within which food safety is not compromised such as cooking temperature and time.
4. Establish a system to monitor and record parameters such as temperature at each CCP.
5. Implement corrective actions if there is a deviation beyond a critical limit.
6. Verify the effectiveness of the HACCP system to validate the success of the plan.
7. Maintain appropriate documents and records to demonstrate compliance with the HACCP principles.
HACCP is the foundation of modern food safety standards and is needed to bring a food production facility into compliance with the web of regulations that apply locally and in any countries to which its products are exported. For example, in Europe, all food businesses must have a food safety management system based on the seven principles of HACCP. This preventive approach complements other systems for quality management as well.
Many of the challenges of implementing a HACCP system can be avoided by using LIMS software. A Food LIMS can help food manufacturers manage thousands of data points per day generated from hazard analysis and monitoring of CCPs, and flag unexpected or out-of-trend results.
Some tasks automated by a LIMS include:
- Manage most of the documents required by the HACCP.
- Manage staff training and assign analytical tests to competent staff.
- Help to identify the probability and severity of specific hazards by integration with risk analysis tools.
- Keep track of equipment with calibration, maintenance, and verification schedules and document those procedures for regulatory compliance.
- Electronically record inspections and use integrated sensors to automatically collect data and send alerts if a measurement is out of range.
A HACCP system is essential to the safe operation of a food manufacturing facility. It is a proactive approach that stops problems before they start. A LIMS platform enables food manufacturers to meet regulatory requirements while avoiding harm to customers or product recalls and lost revenue. It also provides facilities with automation and an integrated workflow leading to a more efficient and productive process.