Introduction to HACCP

Nothing could hurt a rescue mission more than to have number of its guests become ill from food-borne illnesses. Such an event makes for bad media coverage that could damage the mission's reputation in the community.  Itt could also hurt fund raising efforts, since donors probably would feel the institution was no being diligent and responsibly in handling the resources they contributed or to ensure the safety of those they serve.

Ensuring the safe handling, storage, preparation and disposal of "potentially hazardous foods" is a special challege in rescue missions, where a large part of the food handing process is in the hands of volunteers and residents involved with the mission's long-term programs.

A recent study found for all reports cases of food-borne illnesses from commerically served food, the following were to blame:

59%   Improper holding temperatures of cooked food

35%   Employee hygiene

20%   Inadequate cooking time

18%   Contaminated equipment

11%   Unsafe source of food

11%   Other reasons

Ultimately, it is the rescue mission administration's responsibility to ensure that all food served on the premises is properly received, stored, prepared, served, and cleaned up.  It is also their responsibility to ensure that those involved in the food services function pay due attention to their personal hygiene to that no illness is passed on to others through what is served.

Fortunately, though  E. Coli, Salmonella, and other dangerous food-borne bacteria can potentially close down your rescue mission, there is a proven, state-of-the art food safety system - HACCP.  Though in use in commercial food handling and processing for a number of years now, it has not yet been widely adopted by rescue missions, even though they could benefit greatly from following the HACCP guidelines.

What is HACCP?

HACCP is a management tool that provides a more structured approach to the control of identified hazards than that achievable by traditional inspection and quality control procedures. It has the potential to identify areas of concern where failure has not yet been experienced and is, therefore, particularly useful for new operations.


In the 1960’s, NASA was looking for a way to guarantee that the food for astronauts on space flights was totally safe - the prospect of astronauts suffering food poisoning during a mission was just unthinkable. They gave the task of producing "Zero Defect" food to the Pillsbury Corporation who responded by developing the system of Hazard Analysis - Critical Control Points or HACCP (pronounced Hassap). From this original model has sprung most of our modern thinking about food safety, whereby we look systematically for potential risks and then identify appropriate control and monitoring systems, concentrating on those deemed critical to the safety of the product.

HACCP has today been the subject of an enormous amount of study. It has been incorporated into the World Health Organisation / Food and Agriculture Organisation standard, The Codex Alimentarius and is now required of all food businesses in Europe under EC Directive 93/43.


By using a HACCP system, control is transferred from end product testing (i.e. testing for failure) into the design and manufacturing of foods (i.e. preventing failure). There will,however, always be a need for some end product testing, particularly for on-going verification of the HACCP process.


WHO/FAO define seven basic principles of HACCP, viz.:

Principle 1 - Conduct a hazard analysis. Prepare a flow diagram of the steps in the process. Identify and list the hazards and specify the control measures.

Principle 2 - Identify the Critical Control Points in the process using a decision tree.

Principle 3 -  Establish target level(s) and tolerance(s) which must be met to ensure each CCP is under control

Principle 4 - Establish a monitoring system to ensure control of the CCP by scheduled testing or observations.

Principle 5 - Establish the corrective action to be taken when monitoring indicates that a particular CCP is moving out of control

Principle 6 - Establish documentation concerning all procedures and records appropriate to these principles and their application.

Principle 7 - Establish verification procedures which include appropriate supplementary tests, together with a review which confirms that HACCP is working effectively.


Principle 1 can be further broken down into a number of separate stages:

Stage (i) Clearly define the terms of reference.

Stage (ii) Select the HACCP team.

Stage (iii) Describe the product or generic product cluster.

Stage (iv) Identify the intended use of the product, e.g. Vulnerable groups amongst target consumers.

Stage (v) Construct a flow diagram.

Stage (vi) On-site verification of flow diagram.

Stage (vii) List all the hazards associated with each process step and list all the measures which will control these hazards.

This week is an introduction to HACCP.  We will be looking at it more in-depth next week.


Learn More About HACCP Using There Internet Resources: