• Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points - HACCP: how to manage?

    Most enterprises in the coffee chain, including coffee producers and exporters, will at some point need to apply controls to guarantee product safety. These are usually represented in a concise process flow diagram with underlined points where hazards may occur. This must be documented in a HACCP plan, and also any discrepancies found, and the counter-measures taken to correct them, must be registered.

    In 2002 European Union food business operators were already being obliged to implement HACCP systems on the basis of existing legislation (Council Directive 93/43/EEC on the hygiene of foodstuffs). Of course, many food processors and their suppliers have always had stringent quality controls that, in practice, were close to a HACCP system. The difference now is that a HACCP system requires a detailed description that can be subject to verification by food safety authorities. For example, supplying an inferior grade of green coffee that is otherwise sound is a quality issue, and does not necessarily represent a food hazard. But a mouldy coffee does.

    Control points can be divided into two groups. The main group includes all those points where certain controls have to be applied and where loss of control may result in a low probability of a health risk. These are known as control points, or CP. The other group includes a very few points where loss of control may result in a high probability of illness. These are known as critical control points, or CCP. For example, quickly passing a critical stage in the coffee drying process seems like a vital critical point in the HACCP system.

    Both HACCP and GAP (or Good Agricultural Practice - there is also GMP or Good Manufacturing Practice) are quality assurance systems but they have different approaches. HACCP concentrates on a few critical points whereas GAP tries to make all-round improvements. GAP is easier to set up but does not necessarily zero in on the most important steps that influence the occurrence or avoidance of toxins in coffee. See www.cfsan.fda.gov and search under HACCP for a good introduction to the subject. See also under Resources at www.coffee-ota.org for presentations on HACCP in the coffee chain with particular reference to the prevention of Ochratoxin A (OTA - see topic 12.08.02 and onwards).

    The two processes are complimentary in that GAP will improve coffee quality, whereas HACCP will provide the type of disciplined monitoring and control that supermarket chains and food manufacturers increasingly demand. More importantly, it is only through the HACCP process that one can establish where OTA enters the system and where the fungi causing OTA first appear. This is essential if one is to meet European Union and presumably in due course also United States requirements for the reduction and prevention of OTA contamination.


    The World Trade Organization (WTO) offers a searchable database of member governments' measures related to the SPS (Sanitary & PhytoSanitary) Agreement, thus making it easier to find out about other countries' food safety requirements and alerts. The SPS Information Management System (SPS IMS) allows users to search and obtain information on measures that member governments have submitted to the WTO. These include notifications concerning new export and food safety requirements, specific trade concerns that governments have raised, documents of the WTO's sanitary and phytosanitary measures committee, details of the authorities who handle notifications and, particularly useful for those seeking information, member governments' national enquiry contacts.

    The SPS Information Management System is available at http://spsims.wto.org. The site also offers a gateway into the SPS Portal itself.

    The International Portal on Food Safety, Animal and Plant Health - IPFSAPH is an alternative source. With over 35,000 records, data sets incorporated into www.ipfsaph.org. include WTO's SPS Information Management System (containing all WTO trade notifications and concerns) and IAEA's Clearance of Irradiated Foods Database.
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