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Codex HACCP - The foundation of food safety is being shaken

By Linda Jackson on 21 August 2019

In the world of food safety where there is a plethora of standards, we have become accustomed to changes. New legislation, new audit requirements, changes to the GFSI benchmarked standard, changes to FSSC and ISO 22000. But through all the turmoil of change, one thing has remained the same: Codex HACCP. Until now.

According to JOINT FAO/WHO FOOD STANDARDS PROGRAMME CODEX COMMITTEE ON FOOD HYGIENE, at the 50th Session of the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH50)1 , The United Kingdom and its Co-Chairs, France, Ghana, India, Mexico and the United States of America, presented for consideration a revised draft of the General Principles of Food Hygiene (CXC 1-1969) and its HACCP Annex.

A second draft has now been made available for public comment to all Codex member states and these comments will be discussed at the next session in November 2019. It is likely that at the 52nd session, next November, the new version will be approved.

A long and glorious history

HACCP has become synonymous with food safety. It is a worldwide-recognized systematic and preventive approach that addresses biological, chemical and physical hazards through anticipation and prevention, rather than through end-product inspection and testing.

According to the FAO, the HACCP system for managing food safety concerns grew from two major developments. The first breakthrough was associated with W.E. Deming, whose theories of quality management are widely regarded as a major factor in turning around the quality of Japanese products in the 1950s. Dr Deming and others developed total quality management (TQM) systems which emphasized a total systems approach to manufacturing that could improve quality while lowering costs.

The second major breakthrough was the development of the HACCP concept itself. The HACCP concept was pioneered in the 1960s by the Pillsbury Company, the United States Army and the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a collaborative development for the production of safe foods for the United States space programme. NASA wanted a "zero defects" programme to guarantee the safety of the foods that astronauts would consume in space. Pillsbury therefore introduced and adopted HACCP as the system that could provide the greatest safety while reducing dependence on end-product inspection and testing. HACCP emphasized control of the process as far upstream in the processing system as possible by utilizing operator control and/or continuous monitoring techniques at critical control points. Pillsbury presented the HACCP concept publicly at a conference for food protection in 1971. The use of HACCP principles in the promulgation of regulations for low-acid canned food was completed in 1974 by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In the early 1980s, the HACCP approach was adopted by other major food companies.

The United States National Academy of Science recommended in 1985 that the HACCP approach be adopted in food processing establishments to ensure food safety. More recently, numerous groups, including for example the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) and the International Association of Milk, Food and Environmental Sanitarians (IAMFES), have recommended the broad application of HACCP to food safety.

Excerpt from

HACCP, the international recommendation for food safety

Recognizing the importance of HACCP to food control, the twentieth session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, held in Geneva, Switzerland from 28 June to 7 July 1993, adopted Guidelines for the application of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system (ALINORM 93/13A, Appendix II). The commission was also informed that the draft revised General Principles of Food Hygiene would incorporate the HACCP approach.

The revised Recommended International Code of Practice - General Principles of Food Hygiene [CAC/RCP 1-1969, Rev 3 (1997)] was adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission during its twenty-second session in June 1997. The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system and guidelines for its application is included as its Annex.
Some minor revisions were made in 2003.

HACCP 2020?

Given the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2008 and the revisions to ISO 22000 and other GFSI benchmarked standards, it is understandable that the foundation document to all our food safety initiatives should be revisited.

Although still in draft, what is likely to change?

  1. Management commitment – at the start of the document
    Although always implied, the draft version now place the responsibility for food safety where it belongs – with management.
  2. Definitions and more – the definitions have been consolidated and there are many more
  3. The Codex General principles of food hygiene are now called Good hygiene practices
  4. The document has doubled in the number of pages.
  5. There is a section on key hygiene aspects that nust be applied in the HACCP system – I think we call them operational pre-requisite programmes. This sections also address allergen management, recall, biological, chemical and microbiolgical contamination
  6. Thankfully there are still seven principles to HACCP and these are still applied in 12 steps
  7. The decision tree looks a WHOLE lot different.
  8. Validated critical limits are now required (weren’t they always?)
  9. See if you can spot the typo in section 3.11
  10. We are still analyzing hazards at steps and the HACCP control chart still looks the same.

But don’t be fooled, the devil is in the detail. Take a read and notice how many of the areas in Codex HACCP have been “tightened up” – it is starting to sound a whole lot more like ISO 22000 now.

We would love to hear your comments and we will be happy to submit them to the Directorate of Food Control who is our local Codex contact point.

This article was reproduced with the permission of CODEX