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Food safety management consisting of prerequisite programmes (GAP and GHP) and upgraded with a HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control points) system is a roadmap for aquaponic producers for reducing the risks that may jeopardize product safety. A comprehensive HACCP plan describes procedures for all aspects of production and processing. It also provides a structure for assessing an operation, and serves as a reference for workers during training. Because a HACCP system always has to be adapted to each individual set-up, a generic approach is presented in Table 4.
If they are selling produce to the final consumer or other food business operators, the aquaponic producer should check the efficiency of the food safety management system by sampling and analysing the final produce/product. For this purpose, aquaponic producers should collaborate with an accredited laboratory performing microbiological analysis of the final products at least once per year. Beside food products, food contact surfaces can also be sampled and analysed. Additionally, chemical analyses of residues are also recommended.
Table 4: Generic approach for establishing a HACCP plan
STEP DESCRIPTION PRODUCT DESCRIPTION In brief, the product description should include the name of the product, its potential to support microbial growth, appropriate packaging, and intended use, including target population. It is important, for example, to take into consideration whether sensitive segments of the population may consume the product (i.e. elderly, immune-suppressed, pregnant women and infants) FLOW CHART It is easier to identify routes of potential contamination and suggest methods of control if there is a flow diagram. The review of the flow from the point at which materials enter the system, through harvesting and processing, is the feature that makes a food safety management system a specific and important tool for the identification and control of potential hazards. The process flow diagram helps to identify the important process steps. Each process step should be considered in detail and the information expanded to include all relevant process data HAZARD ANALYSIS After listing all the hazards that may be reasonably expected, the potential risk of each hazard at each step of the process should be assessed by considering its likelihood of occurrence and severity using the following model: The estimate of the risk of a hazard occurring is based upon a combination of experience and information in the literature. Severity is the degree of seriousness of the consequences of a hazard if the hazard is not controlled. Hazards may have already been addressed through good agricultural practice (GAP) and good hygiene practice (GHP) CRITICAL CONTROL POINT (CCP) A critical control point (CCP) is defined as ‘a step at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level’. The determination of a CCP can be facilitated by the application of a decision tree (see below) which indicates a logical reasoning approach. The application of the decision tree should be flexible according to the type of the unit under analysis. It is important to stress that if the hazard/s are already managed by the pre-requisite programmes (GAP/GHP) then the step in the process is not classified as CCP CRITICAL LIMITS For each CCP determined in the previous step (if any, otherwise we stop at the previous step) critical limits have to be defined. Critical limits are defined as criteria that separate acceptability from unacceptability regarding the safety of your end product. Critical limits may be set for factors such as temperature, time (minimum time exposure), physical product dimensions, moisture level, etc. The critical limits should meet the requirementsof regulations (if any) and/or internal standards. It is essential that the person responsible for establishing critical limits has knowledge of the process and of the legal and commercial standards required for the product. Sources of information on critical limits include: Scientific publications/research data Regulatory requirements and guidelines Experimental studies If the information needed to establish critical limits is not available, a conservative value should be selected or regulatory limits used. Once the critical limits are established, they have to be recorded MONITORING Monitoring is ‘the act of conducting a planned sequence of observations or measurements of control parameters to assess whether a CCP is under control’. Monitoring is the scheduled measurement or observation of a CCP relative to its critical limits. The monitoring procedures must be able to detect loss of control at the CCP. The monitoring specifications for each CCP should give information on: What will be monitored How critical limits and preventive measures will be monitored Frequency of monitoring Who will monitor CORRECTIVE ACTIONS Corrective action is ‘any action to be taken when the results of monitoring at the CCP indicate a loss of control’. The diversity of possible deviations at each CCP means that more than one corrective action may be necessary. When a deviation occurs, it will most likely be noticed during the routine monitoring of the CCP. The deviation procedures at each CCP should be recorded. Corrective action procedures are necessary to determine the cause of the problem, take action to prevent recurrence, and follow up with monitoring and reassessment to ensure that the action taken is effective. If the corrective action does not address the root cause of the deviation, the deviation could recur DOCUMENTATION Records are essential for reviewing the adherence of the HACCP system to the HACCP plan. A record shows the process history, the monitoring, the deviations and the corrective actions that occurred at the identified CCP. It may be in any form, e.g. processing chart, written record, computerized record. Three types of records should be kept as part of the HACCP programme: Support documentation for developing the HACCP plan (e.g. product description, flow diagram, hazard analysis, identification of CCPs) Records generated by the HACCP system (monitoring records for all CCPs, deviation and corrective action records) Documentation of methods and procedures used
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