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Fruit and vegetable production moving toward HACCP

moving toward HACCP


April 17, 2008
By Marg Land


Topics

It’s only a matter of time. 
That’s all that Troy Jenner, a food safety advisor with the Ontario
Ministry of Agriculture and Food, believes stands in the way of
mandatory implementation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points
(HAACP) in the province’s fresh-cut produce industry – time.

troy_jenner
Troy Jenner 

It’s only a matter of time.  That’s all that Troy Jenner, a food safety advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, believes stands in the way of mandatory implementation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HAACP) in the province’s fresh-cut produce industry – time.

“A lot of businesses are looking at this to maintain or expand their current markets,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before it becomes the way it’s expected that things will be done.”

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As an example, many grocery stores are insisting that all suppliers, including those that provide fresh fruit and vegetables, implement the HAACP food safety program. Currently, Loblaws has set a deadline of 2006 for its suppliers to be HACCP certified.

In light of this, OMAF has developed HACCP Advantage, a HACCP standard for non-federally registered food processors, both large and small. The program, which is described and implemented through a 93-page program manual, was launched in March 2004 and to date, three organizations have received accreditation.

In order to help processors utilize the program, OMAF released a companion guidebook in March 2005. The guidebook provides practical information for developing and applying a facility-specific HACCP Advantage program.

“It’s a step-by-step guide to help you implement the program,” said Jenner.

The program consists of 57 prerequisite standards, designed to control environmental and personnel-related hazards, and eight HACCP plan forms, which account for product and process-related hazards. By implementing all of the prerequisite standards plus completing and implementing the HACCP plan forms, food processors can create a functioning HACCP system.

“The same standards apply for everyone, no matter what they make,” explained Jenner. “HACCP doesn’t make for a mandatory program. It’s about taking ownership.”

He said the prerequisite side of the program is the most labour intensive, so in the HACCP Advantage program manual the 57 standards have been subdivided into four manageable groups – control programs (eight standards), training (10 standards), operational controls (26 standards) and environmental controls (13 standards). These four groups are further divided into subgroups containing the individual standards and each of the standards is presented in five parts:

What is the standard?

Which regulations apply to the standard?

What are the risks?

How can you meet this standard?

Are you in conformance?

The prerequisite programs are implemented first as they provide control for a large number of the hazards, serving as a foundation. Therefore, these hazards will not need to be controlled in the next step, HACCP plans. This makes the system more efficient and easier to maintain.

“Everyone’s HACCP plan will be different since everyone has different hazards,” said Jenner.

During the HACCP plan step, the eight forms – which cover product description, ingredients and incoming materials, a flow diagram, plant schematics, hazard descriptions and critical control points determination, a flow diagram with critical control points, a listing of uncontrolled hazards, and the HACCP matrix – need to be completed in sequence.

“And you need to have a sound understanding of your product.”

Once the forms are completed, critical control points will be generated and a complete HACCP plan will be formed. With the full implementation of the program, operations can be certified by the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB). Everyone certified will also be recognized by OMAF and listed on the ministry’s HACCP website. Certification is an ongoing process and yearly audits will be needed to ensure each operation’s HACCP system continues to meet the requirements of the HACCP Advantage program.

Jenner believes that by having independent certification of the government-endorsed program, produce buyers will support the plan, thus providing added incentive for processors to adopt HACCP.

And, of course, having the program in place leads to increased food safety. Jenner said when the program was developed, it was first implemented on a medium-sized poultry operation as a test run. Since the application of HACCP Advantage at the operation, incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter were decreased by more than 60 per cent.