Monthly Board Report - April 2001
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)
By Alison MacPherson, Public Health Inspector
HACCP is a system of monitoring foods that places emphasis on the critical factors known to be implicated in food borne illness. Critical factors include food processing aspects such as the following: (1) inadequate holding temperatures of food, (2) inadequate cooking or hot holding, (3) inadequate cooling, (4) inadequate reheating, (5) contamination by infected workers, and (6) cross-contamination.
Research conducted by HACCP proponents has found that 75% of food illnesses are caused by improper temperature control of the food, 20% by cross contamination and 5% are due to soil or contamination from the environment.
The classical HACCP system identifies the processes that place hazardous foods at risk in a food service establishment. The steps in the food preparation process where these factors are likely to occur are identified. Critical control points are then established to ensure that these hazards are controlled. Critical controls are often time/ temperature criteria but can also include process descriptions, container's size, pH and other factors.
Staff of the Health Unit adopted the HACCP concept in 1992. In 1998 all health units in Ontario adopted a modified HACCP audit system. The audit is conducted annually by Public Health Inspectors to introduce and promote the principles of HACCP. Critical control points are monitored during all compliance inspections and during the annual audits of each food premise. This system is only effective if key food handling personnel understand, accept and practice HACCP principles and the recommended procedures on an on-going basis.
Since all food premises do not present the same potential risk of causing illness, a risk assessment must be conducted by Public Health Inspectors to ensure that high and medium risk facilities are concentrated on. Risk assessments are performed on all food premises annually to evaluate and categorize facilities as high, medium or low risk. The HACCP Protocol is utilized to determine the level of risk in the food premises. Level of risk is also determined by epidemiological evidence, food properties, the nature of the operation, and the nature and size of the population served. The risk level determines the frequency of inspections required annually at the food premises. High-risk food premises are inspected at least once every 4 months, medium risk at least once every 6 months, and low risk at least once every 12 months. Risk assessment allows available resources to be allocated appropriately to the food premises that provide the greatest risk of food-borne illness and injury in the community.