• Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points - HACCP: what is it?

    The scope of quality control in developed countries has expanded enormously in recent years. Today it encompasses not just the traditional commercial concerns with 'quality' but also all food health and hygiene concerns associated with modern consumerism. Coffee is part of the modern food chain and health concerns are increasingly shaping quality controls at the receiving end.

    Gone are the days of settling claims on mould or contamination damage 'internally' through the payment of a simple allowance. Not only may customs and health authorities in consuming countries order the destruction of 'hazardous' parcels, but they will also trace responsibility back to the source: the country, the shipper and even the individual grower. Relatively light-hearted sounding phrases such as tracking and tracing food products from farm to fork, stable to table or plough to plate are, in fact, the political outcome of consumer pressure. People want to know their food is safe and if one particular sector of the food industry is found to pose a problem, then all other sectors are affected as well.

    Food health and hygiene concerns are relatively easily addressed in developed countries. The difficulty for developing nations is that the resultant procedures and regulations are then applied equally to food crops imported into developed countries. The import trade is increasingly passing such consumer-imposed food chain management issues on to exporting countries that, in most instances, have to find the answers or lose the business. A particular food safety issue for coffee is concern over the presence in foods and beverages of ochratoxin A (OTA), a mycotoxin that is believed to cause kidney damage. OTA is a probable human renal carcinogen (cancer producing substance - IARC evaluation Class 2B). Although the toxicological status of OTA has not yet been settled, importing countries are increasingly paying attention to its occurrence in coffee and other products and are requiring the adoption of preventative measures.

    HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards from raw food material production to manufacturing and consumption.

    HACCP involves seven principles:

    1. Analyse hazards, for instance microbiological (e.g. bacteria, viruses, moulds, toxins), chemical (e.g. pesticide residues), or physical (stones, wood, glass etc).

    2. Identify critical control points. These are points in the food's production (from raw to processed to consumption) at which a potential hazard can be controlled or eliminated.

    3. Establish preventative measures with critical limits (values) for each control point, such as a minimum drying time to ensure mould growth cannot progress.

    4. Establish procedures to monitor the critical control points (e.g. how to ensure that adequate drying occurs).

    5. Establish corrective actions to be taken when monitoring shows that a critical limit has not been met, such as disposing of potentially contaminated cherry.

    6. Establish procedures to verify that the system is working properly. For example, test drying facilities for leaks or contamination.

    7. Establish effective record keeping to document the HACCP system, such as records of hazards and control methods, the monitoring of safety requirements and actions taken to correct potential problems.
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