Food Safety Management Systems and Tools – PRPs, GMP, GHP, SSOPs, HACCP

Introduction to Food Safety Management Systems

Contamination or adulteration of foodstuffs is a menace sapping the vitality of our people. To safeguard the people from the health hazards posed by the contaminants and adulterants, it is necessary to exercise a strict check and control over the quality of foods offered for sale in the different markets. Food safety is a growing global concern not only because of its continuing importance for public health but also because of its impact on international trade.

Food Safety Management System means the adoption of Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Hygienic Practices, Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures, Hazard Analysis, and Critical Control Points and such other practices as may be specified by regulation for the food business (FSS Act). 

Table of Contents (toc)

Pre-requisite programs (PRPs) 

Pre-requisite programs (PRPs) are the basic food safety conditions and activities that are necessary to maintain a hygienic environment throughout the food chain suitable for the production, handling, and provision of safe products and safe food, for human consumption. Thus PRPs includes GMP, GHP, and SSOP, and are as follows:

1. Establishment is legal and operates according to relevant by-laws.

2. Products comply with appropriate regulatory as well as customer requirements.


Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)

The guidance that outlines the aspects of production and testing that can impact the quality of a food product are called Good Manufacturing practices (GMP). Its guidelines are not prescriptive instructions on how to manufacture products but they are a series of general principles that must be observed during manufacturing. GMP means “Conformance with codes of practice, industry standards, regulations and laws concerning production, processing, handling, labeling, and sale of foods decreed by industry, local, state, national, and international bodies with the intention of protecting the public from illness, product adulteration and fraud” (FAO).

(1) Premises: It deals with the buildings of an organization, location, or locality of the industry. The neighboring area should not have companies that handle or produce toxic compounds or other items that may contaminate, leading to quality compromise to the food products. There should be enough light for people to do their job, and light themselves do not cause a hazard. Maintain sanitary conditions i.e. no dust, chemicals, or waste in the facility especially in the air source area. Also, ventilation and sewage system should be in such a way that there is sufficient air movement and no water accumulation.

(ii) Equipment: Equipments and utensils used for food preparation should be preferable of stainless steel, have food grade/ISI mark, properly fitted with cover or lid to prevent contamination and design for easy maintenance and cleaning. Also equipment and machinery that comes in contact with products should be kept as clean and dry as practicable.

(iii) Transport and Storage: It deals with the mode of transport and storage of food at suitable temperatures and humidity. A proper transportation facility should be used to transport the raw materials as well as the finished products. There should be a separate storage area for raw materials and final products with appropriate temperature and humidity. It should be kept clean, dry, and free of the trash.

(iv) Recall: Food recalls are a series of corrective actions that remove potentially unsafe food products from the distribution channel, store shelves, and consumers’ kitchens. Often a consumer complaint can lead to an investigation and possible food recalls. A massive recall came after when the FDA of Uttar Pradesh followed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) found excessive levels of lead and MSG (monosodium glutamate) in a sample batch of Maggi noodles produced by Nestle. Thereafter Nestle withdrew all varieties of the noodles on June 5, 2015 after ruling the snack to be “unsafe and hazardous”.

(v) Pest and Allergen Control: The design of the manufacturing unit is such that pests cannot get it through unprotected doors, windows and drains. Provisioning of UV light and mice trap could help in eradicating the flies and rats, respectively. Special sanitation procedures should be there to control allergens properly. Pest control activities should be conducted by professionals.

(vi) Sanitation: The sanitation facilities should be properly set up to eliminate possible hazards as well as contamination. Food premises should be routinely cleaned and sanitized by a professional housekeeper. Sanitation should also be used on all the equipment, containers, and tools used during the process of food manufacturing. Also, the premises should have enough washrooms equipped with potable water, soap, sanitizers, and towels.

(vii) Training of Personnel : Employees should be well trained on personal hygiene and understand the implications of their actions on food safety. Also, the superiors should conduct checks regularly.

Good Hygiene Practices (GHP)

Good Hygiene Practices means “All practices regarding the conditions and measures. necessary to ensure the safety and suitability of food at all stages of the food chain” (FAO). Its aim is to produce the food in proper hygienic conditions with minimum or no contamination. GHP can be achieved by adopting the following practices:

1. Personal and body Hygiene: It pertains to hygiene practices performed by an individual to care for ones bodily health and wellbeing related to the self-care of a person working in a food industry. It also related to the attire of a person working in foodservice establishment.

2. Culinary Hygiene: It pertains to the practices related to food management and cooking to prevent food from contamination or hazard and minimize the transmission of disease to other foods or humans. Culinary hygiene practices specify safe ways to handle, store, prepare, serve and eat food.

3. Policy on Visitors: The food production house should have a strict policy on visitors. Either they should not allow or if allowed they should follow personal hygiene practices.

4. Active Recordkeeping: A proper record of hygiene practices adopted especially during the manufacturing process along with visitors’ data should be maintained.

Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs)

Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) are generally documented steps that must be followed to ensure adequate cleaning of product contact and non-contact surfaces. They include written steps for cleaning and sanitizing to prevent product adulteration. A cleaning and sanitation program shall be maintained indicating specific areas to be cleaned, cleaning frequency, cleaning procedure, and types of equipment and materials to be used for cleaning. The cleaning schedule should be planned and maintained so that the premises, equipment, furniture, fittings, and fixtures are thoroughly cleaned. Pre-operational (before daily processing begins). operational (during processing) and post-operational (after processing) sanitation needs are included in SSOPs to prevent direct product contamination or adulteration. Therefore, the decision about how often to clean the processing line would be addressed in the SSOPS and supporting documentation.

Pre-operational SSOPs

Pre-operational SSOPs are established procedures that describe the daily, routine sanitary procedures that occur before processing begins. The procedures must include the cleaning of product contact surfaces of facilities, equipment, and utensils to prevent direct product contamination or adulteration. These might include:

1. Descriptions of equipment disassembly, reassembly after cleaning, use of acceptable chemicals according to label direction, and cleaning techniques.

2. Application instructions, including concentrations for sanitizers, applied to product contact surfaces after cleaning.

Post-operational SSOPs 

Post-operational SSOPs are established procedures that describe the daily, routine sanitary procedures that will be conducted during operations to prevent direct product contamination or adulteration. Established procedures for operational sanitation must result in a sanitary environment for preparing, storing, or handling any food product. Established procedures during operations might include, where applicable:

1. Equipment and utensil cleaning/sanitizing/disinfecting during production, as appropriate, at breaks, between shifts, and at mid-shift cleanup.

2. Procedures for employee hygiene, such as the cleanliness of outer garments and gloves, hair restraints, handwashing, health, etc. 3. Product handling in raw and in the cooked product areas.

Hazard Analysis And Critical Control Points (HACCP)

The process of collecting and interpreting information on hazards and conditions leading to their presence, to decide which are significant for food safety is a hazard analysis. Hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP), is a systematic preventive approach to food safety from biological, chemical, and physical hazards in production processes that can cause the finished product to be unsafe and designs measures to reduce these risks to a safe level.

HACCP system is a scientific and systematic way of enhancing the safety of foods from primary production to final consumption through the identification and evaluation of specific hazards and measures for their control to ensure the safety of food. The HACCP system can be used at all stages of a food chain i.e. food production and preparation processes including packaging, distribution, etc. Thus HACCP is a tool to assess hazards and establish control systems that focus on prevention rather than relying mainly on end-product testing.

The role of hazard characterization and risk assessment of foods cannot easily be over-emphasized. An increasing number of companies are striving for a certificate, to realize both external benefits as part of their market strategy and internal benefits and to open up a way to enormous improvements and efficiency. PRP Practices and conditions are needed prior to and during the implementation of HACCP and are essential for food safety as described in the Codex general principles of food hygiene and other country-specific codes of practice. These should be developed, documented, and implemented before implementing the HACCP.


Principles of HACCP

The standard approach to HACCP was specified by the codex Alimentarius, 1997 and follows seven basic principles :

1. Conduct a hazard analysis: Plan to determine the food safety hazards and identify the preventive measures, the plan can apply to control these hazards. Listing all potential hazards for each step of production followed by analyzing and assessing its risk to food safety is of prime importance.

2. Determine critical control points: A critical control point (CCP) is a point, step, or procedure in a food manufacturing process at which control can be applied and as a result, a food safety hazards can be prevented, eliminated, or reduced to an acceptable level. Determine points where control is applied to address critical, hazards.

3. Establish critical limits for each critical control point: A critical limit is the maximum or minimum value to which, a biological, physical, or chemical hazard must be controlled at a critical control point to prevent, eliminate or reduce that hazard to an acceptable level.

4. Establish a critical control point monitoring system: Monitor each CCP relative to its critical limit and make necessary process adjustments. Monitoring activities are necessary to ensure that the process is under control at each critical control point. An effective HACCP program requires equally competent technologies to determine and monitor each critical point.

5. Define corrective actions: These are actions, to be taken when monitoring indicates a deviation from an established critical limit. The final rule requires a plant’s HACCP plan to identify the corrective actions to be taken if a critical limit is not met. Corrective actions are intended to ensure that no product is injurious to health or otherwise adulterated, as a result, of the deviation, enters commerce.

6. Establish procedures for ensuring the HACCP system is working as intended Verification ensures the HACCP plan is adequate, i.e., working as intended. Verification procedures may include such activities as a review of HACCP plans, CCP records. critical limits; microbial sampling and analysis. FSSI requires that the HACCP plan include verification tasks to be performed by plant personal or FSSI inspectors.

Verification also includes ‘validation’ – the process of finding evidence for the accuracy of the HACCP system e.g. scientific evidence for critical limitations. Validation ensures that the plants do what they were designed to do; they are successful in ensuring the production of a safe product. Plants will be required to validate their own HACCP plans.

7. Establish appropriate documentation: The HACCP regulation requires that all plants maintain certainly documents, including its hazard analysis and written HACCP plan and records documenting the monitoring of critical control points, critical limits, verification activities and the handling of processing deviations. Implementation involves monitoring, verifying, and validating the daily work that is compliant with regulatory requirements in all stages all the time.

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