For you to have a successful HACCP program, you must have management support. That is because HACCP implementation requires not only additional resources, but a level of personal motivation, discipline and commitment that employees are unlikely to comply with unless its principles are constantly reinforced, communicated and practiced by those above them.
Management can communicate their commitment to HACCP by establishing food safety policies and guidelines that they require everyone including themselves to follow. By providing the training, resources and infrastructure needed to keep food safe, they also send a strong message that they are serious about food safety.
The first step that management should take in establishing a HACCP system is to appoint a HACCP Coordinator to oversee the overall organization and management of the HACCP plan. This will be someone who has the technical and interpersonal skills, plus the knowledge to lead implementation of the plan. This person should be carefully selected due to the importance and multifaceted nature of this role. His or her responsibilities will include:
- Chairing HACCP team meetings
- Selecting key operators to serve as trainers
- Writing standard operating procedures (SOP) and creating checklists
- Reviewing and approving HACCP and SOP records
- Conducting internal audits
- Performing root-cause analysis of problems
- Making changes as needed to the HACCP plan
- Communicating the needs and progress of the HACCP plan to management
- Creating ad hoc committees as needed to address unique problems
The HACCP Coordinator will cooperate with management to select members of the HACCP team. This team will work with the HACCP Coordinator to develop, implement and manage the HACCP system. It’s important that the HACCP team represent various functions in the food processing plant including quality assurance, production, sanitation, maintenance, warehouse, and product development. In this way the team will have a better knowledge of all the potential food hazards that may be encountered and how to deal with them. If there are essential knowledge and skills lacking in the HACCP team due to the complexity of the operation, the HACCP Coordinator can appoint temporary ad hoc teams to address those needs. In this way, the HACCP team can be kept at a manageable size.
If you have a small operation, one person may wear multiple hats. In some cases, you may not have all the technical expertise that is required on the team, therefore you may need to hire a consultant or seek help through local experts available at a college, university, local extension office, or trade association. In general, your HACCP Consultant should meet the following qualifications:
- Have practical experience in the food industry, preferably specific to your type of processing operation
- Demonstrate strong knowledge of microbiology, food hazards, foodborne illnesses, prerequisite programs and GMPs
- Demonstrate competence in hazard analysis
- Demonstrate ability to effectively communicate their knowledge
As you start the process of developing a HACCP plan, you will find existing generic HACCP plans to be helpful. Just make sure that you don’t follow them blindly, but that you modify them to meet your situation. Once you have a HACCP team ready it will be time to start constructing the plan.