The world of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) versus Preventive Controls is an interesting conversation we are seeing at ConnectFood.com and across the entire food industry. FDA has trained hundreds of inspectors in Preventive Controls for Human Food and there are thousands of Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals (PCQI’s) across the country and the world. There are tens of thousands of HACCP trained individuals. I have used the analogy that food safety best practices are like a sport; the more you train and the more you focus on “basics done well,” the better your plan will be on a day-to-day basis. The focus is making the food supply safer. This does not mean that HACCP is not valid, as a matter of fact HACCP and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP’s) should be looked at as the foundation of Preventive Controls for Human Food. Local departments of public health still rely on HACCP as their main line of defense for the food safety industry. We have seen so many small processors and restaurants that have inspections at which HACCP is still the focus, even though Preventive Controls has some more advanced techniques for protection.

Both HACCP and Preventive Controls focus on making sure you have good sanitation practices, employee training and have done a hazard analysis for biological, chemical and physical hazards. I feel like the lines are blurring a bit as companies, academics, and regulators don’t often understand the differences between the two and – to be honest, the differences are not that great from a fundamental level. Here is where I come in with some definitions for you…

    “HACCP: A systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards.

    HACCP Plan: The written document which is based upon the principles of HACCP and which delineates the procedures to be followed.

    HACCP System: The result of the implementation of the HACCP Plan.

    HACCP Team: The group of people who are responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining the HACCP system.

    Hazard: A biological, chemical, or physical agent that is reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of its control.

    Hazard Analysis: The process of collecting and evaluating information on hazards associated with the food under consideration to decide which are significant and must be addressed in the HACCP plan.” FDA.gov

The fundamental principles of HACCP come through in Preventive Controls with some additional areas to focus on as we enhance our food safety plans.

    “In general, you are a covered facility if you are required to register with FDA under section 415 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act. Covered facilities are required to have and implement a written food safety plan that includes:

Hazard analysis: The first step is hazard identification, which must consider known or reasonably foreseeable biological, chemical, and physical hazards. These hazards could be present because they occur naturally, are unintentionally introduced, or are intentionally introduced for economic gain (if they affect the safety of the food).

If the hazard analysis reveals one or more hazards that require a preventive control, the facility must have and implement written preventive controls for the identified hazards.

Preventive controls: Facilities have the flexibility to tailor preventive controls to address hazards that occur in the products they manufacture. The preventive controls, which must be written, must be implemented to ensure that any hazards requiring a preventive control will be significantly minimized or prevented and help ensure that the food is not adulterated. The rule includes the following preventive controls:

Process controls include procedures that ensure the control parameters are met. Process controls can include operations such as cooking, refrigerating, and acidifying foods. They must include parameters and values (e.g., critical limits), as appropriate to the nature of the applicable control and its role in the facility’s food safety system.

Food allergen controls are written procedures the facility must have and implement to control allergen cross-contact and ensure allergens are appropriately listed on the labels of packaged food products.
Sanitation controls are procedures, practices, and processes to ensure that the facility is maintained in a sanitary condition to minimize or prevent hazards such as environmental pathogens, hazards from employees handling food, and food allergen hazards.

Other Controls are controls that are not described above but are necessary to ensure that a hazard requiring a preventive control will be significantly minimized or prevented.

Oversight and management of preventive controls: Once a facility has identified a preventive control for a hazard, the facility must make sure that the controls are being met.

Monitoring: These procedures are designed to provide assurance that preventive controls are consistently performed. Monitoring is conducted as appropriate to the preventive control. For example, monitoring of a heat process to kill pathogens would include recording temperature values. Monitoring must be documented.

Corrections: These are steps taken, in a timely manner, to identify and correct a minor, isolated problem that occurs during food production.

Corrective actions: These include actions to identify and correct a problem implementing a preventive control, reduce the likelihood the problem will recur, evaluate affected food for safety, and prevent that food from entering commerce if you cannot ensure that the affected food is not adulterated. Corrective actions must be documented with records.

Verification: These activities are required to ensure that preventive controls are consistently implemented and effective in minimizing hazards. Examples of verification activities include scientifically validating process preventive controls to ensure that the control measure is capable of effectively controlling an identified hazard and calibrating (or checking the accuracy of) process monitoring and verification instruments such as thermometers. Verification activities also include reviewing records to ensure that monitoring and corrective actions (if necessary) are being conducted. Verification activities must be documented.

Product testing and environmental monitoring are also possible verification activities, required as appropriate to the food, facility, nature of the preventive control, and the role of that control in the facility’s food safety system. Environmental monitoring is required if the contamination of a ready-to-eat food with an environmental pathogen is a hazard the facility identified as requiring a preventive control.

Supply chain program: Manufacturers must have and implement a risk-based supply chain program if the hazard analysis identifies a hazard that

    (1) requires a preventive control and
    (2) the control will be applied in the facility’s supply chain.

Facilities do not need to have a supply-chain program if they control the hazard in their own facility, or if a subsequent entity (such as another processor) will control the hazard, and the facility follows applicable requirements.

Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that raw materials and other ingredients requiring a supply-chain-applied control are received only from approved suppliers, or on a temporary basis from unapproved suppliers whose materials are subject to verification activities before being accepted for use. (Suppliers are approved by the facility after the facility considers several factors, such as a hazard analysis of the food, the entity that will be controlling that hazard, and supplier performance.)

Another entity in the supply chain, such as a broker or distributor, can conduct supplier verification activities, but the receiving facility must review and assess that entity’s documentation that they verified the supplier’s control of the hazard.

Recall plan: If the hazard analysis identifies a hazard requiring a preventive control, the facility must have a written recall plan that describes the procedures to perform a recall of the product. The recall plan must include procedures to notify consignees, to notify the public when necessary, to conduct effectiveness checks and to appropriately dispose of recalled product.” FDA.gov

In conclusion, HACCP and Preventive Controls are both food safety risk management systems. ConnectFood.com provides the ability for all facilities that handle or process food to create a plan depending on what the regulatory authority or a clients needs. Contact us and let us assist you in your food safety planning.

About the Author
Matthew Botos is the CEO and Founder of ConnectFood. ConnectFood offers a step-by-step, “Do-It-Yourself” food safety plan generator to help companies comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act and On-Demand plan reviews from a national network of food experts. Mr. Botos is currently on the Food Safety and Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) International Subcommittee. He is also one of few approved Train the Trainer instructors of the FSPCA Lead Instructor program launched in October 2015 and has taught over 800 of the nation’s leading food safety experts.