Best Practices

Step-By-Step Guide to Drafting Your HACCP Plan (GMP) And How QVALON Can Help You

Jun 15, 2022 8 min read

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The new normal has brought increased awareness and scrutiny related to health and hygiene concerns across all businesses. Even before the pandemic, the food industry was the most regulated one, among other industries through safety protocols. Given the sensitive nature of food products, and the severe consequences that could arise by lapses and violations, such rigorous monitoring is justified.

Step-By-Step Guide to Drafting Your HACCP Plan (GMP)

Now, the new normal has added more challenges to food businesses. Policies are stricter, room for error smaller, and penalties more severe. Food businesses are meeting these new expectations with stronger HACCP plans. But development of HACCP plans is a challenging job. This is where software like QVALON are assisting food businesses to quickly and conveniently execute HACCP plans that meet current requirements and compliances.

What is a HACCP Plan? 

As described by the FDA, HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) is a management tool to monitor food safety through review and supervision of biological, chemical, and physical risks from raw material purchase, handling, and manufacturing, to subsequent production, supply and final consumption of the finished product.

It is an internationally recognized system that helps identify potential hazards and accordingly control their occurrence at specific points in the entire operational process.

Why do businesses need a HACCP plan?

Being HACCP certified helps food businesses fulfill mandatory legal requirements. In many countries, food businesses must be HACCP compliant to be operational. HACCP plan also makes businesses closer to ISO 14000 or ISO 140001 standards as the guidelines for both are very similar.

Eventually, it helps businesses supervise food safety, sanitation, and waste management in a cost effective way, the awareness for which is even more in the post pandemic world. Some of the additional benefits are:

  • Avoid legal fines and penalties due to non-compliances with food safety and hygiene standards.
  • Generate positive brand reputation among customers.
  • Improve product and service quality.
  • Minimize downtimes that boost productivity.
  • Remain on guard against incidents.

How to get started with HACCP

At the core of a good HACCP plan is the mindset to truly prevent any food related risks and deep understanding of every possible scenario that could lead to such risks. This requires professional teams, right approach and strong teamwork to ensure that every stage within the operational processes ensures food safety.

Below are the five points to help food businesses develop such a HACCP plan.

  • Build your HACCP team:
    The quality of the HACCP plan is dependent on the quality of the team that develops it. Professionals that have proven their expertise and work-ethic in their specific fields should be included.

    It is also important to have a variety of expertise in the team so value and knowledge comes from all concerned entities upon which the HACCP plan will be implemented. At least one team member should be a also a member of,

    • Food engineering
    • Quality assurance
    • Cleanliness and sanitation
    • Machine operations and maintenance

  • Describe the product and define the intended use and consumers:
    Detail the food product’s general description such as ingredients, manufacturing process, distribution methods (frozen, refrigerated, or at specific temperatures). Also record how the product is expected to be consumed, and by which customers (infants, kids, adults, elderly, allergic, etc.)

  • Overview of products and processes:
    This step helps understand if current operational processes of a food business are still relevant and efficient to meet the needs that reflect requirements of today. As per the review, necessary changes can be made to ensure continued safety of food products, from manufacturing to delivery.

    This step becomes crucial since in everyday work, some routine processes can be taken for granted and then overlooked out of habit. The operational quality can be undermined which could affect food safety.

  • Brief description of the updated process:
    Revisions to existing processes and standards should be clearly communicated to the employees. To help avoid confusion, flow charts can be used that show each process stage in a linear manner to have complete understanding of the updates.

  • Follow the 7 principles of HACCP:

    7 principles of HACCP
    At this stage, the HACCP team executes the below mentioned principles to finalize the plan:

    1. Hazard Analysis -  All possible risks associated with every stage of the operational process are documented. Frequency, magnitude and severity of these risks are analyzed as per which preventive measures are set.

    2. Identify Critical Control Points (CCP) - These are the stages in an operational process where checks can be applied and food safety risks can be prevented, eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels. A single CCP can control multiple hazards or multiple CCPs can be used to control one hazard depending upon the criticality of the hazard and the process stage.

    3. Set critical limits for each CCP - These are the threshold limits for each CCP. The control measures or checks put in place should prevent, eliminate, or reduce the occurence of reaching these limits so as to prevent food safety hazards. These limits can be specific to time, temperature, pH levels, weight, volume, density, and other measurables depending upon the food product and manufacturing process.

    4. Define monitoring procedures for each CCP - Once CCPs and their threshold limits have been determined, the next step is to finalize review procedures to keep track of operational processes. The monitoring mechanisms determine deviations, their magnitude and frequency. As per this, required corrective measures can be taken.

    5. Determine corrective actions for each CCP - When preventive measures are insufficient, corrective actions are needed to meet the goals of the plan. Corrective measures are needed when CCP exceeds the threshold limit and food safety is compromised. HACCP team should identify the issue, do root cause analysis, and put protocols for disposal of hazardous products. Everything should be documented and properly recorded.

    6. Establish verification procedures - Product tests, expert consultations, audits, equipment calibration, document reviews, etc. are some of the ways to verify the HACCP plan. Verification should not be limited to operation review. There must be confirmed validation that the plan is working as per projected scenarios.

    7. Define logs and records - Recordkeeping is crucial to prove that the food product, its manufacturing process and all participating entities are safe and have passed through stringent checks against all possible risks. Records should include information on the HACCP Team, product description, flow charts, the hazard analysis, the highlighted CCP's, threshold levels, control systems, preventive and corrective actions, documentation methodology, and verification procedures.

How can QVALON help with HACCP planning?

From planning to execution, setting up a HACCP plan goes through various stages that requires close coordination of various team members. This can be a challenge if business teams are located in different regions and operational processes are distributed  across a wide geography.

How can QVALON help with HACCP planning

Systems such as QVALON help overcome such hurdles in following ways:

  • Team building:
    An analysis of historical audit and checklist results, businesses can select best performing employees from each department for the HACCP teams. QVALON’s features discourage data manipulation, so it can be conveniently concluded that employees with the highest scores are best suited for the HACCP team.

  • Information gathering:
    Using QVALON’s survey feature, information can be collected related to food products, manufacturing processes, material handling and storage, etc. Specific questionnaires can be shared with employees responsible for tasks that are crucial for the HACCP plan.

  • Process update:
    If the HACCP team decides to revise an existing process to improve food safety, then the changes can be communicated to the entire workforce in the form of a training program which employees can refer to as requested. Daily checklists can be quickly changed to reflect the revised processes. This encourages employees to be updated on all recent revisions, leading to minimal lapses even when the revisions are made recently.

  • Identifying CCPs:
    By referring to historical data related to process violations, conclusions can be drawn related to control points. Process stages that show high frequency of process violations should be more closely monitored to ensure quick preventive or corrective actions for maintaining food safety.

  • Close coordination:
    With features like photo reporting, inbuilt audio/video messaging and call, geolocation tracking, and more, high conformance to the final HACCP plan can be achieved. Non-conformances can be quickly addressed to constantly update the plan to meet the changing requirements of food safety and hygiene.

  • Record keeping:
    All data is stored in a structured manner in QVALON cloud storage. This is needed to prove adherence to HACCP plan as and when needed by the legal authorities. It also helps draw trends that can be overlooked when teams are occupied in everyday tasks. A diligent record keeping also helps businesses work closer to ISO 14000/ISO 14001 standards.

These are a few of the many QVALON features that help businesses empower towards the HACCP plan quickly, conveniently, and strongly.

At QVALON, we are ready to deliver a tailor-made, simple, and cost-effective solution to any growing retail-model food businesses.