Biological, chemical and physical hazards assessed with HACCP

Part of a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan is a comprehensive hazard assessment.

A Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan includes many components and is based on seven principles. The first step is to conduct a hazard analysis. This becomes a critical step as it then serves as the basis for the rest of the plan. Hazards are identified as part of the hazard analysis and then evaluated on their likelihood to occur and the severity at which it could cause illness or injury.

All hazards are assessed and categorized into three groups: biological, chemical and physical hazards. A general definition of a hazard as related to food safety is conditions or contaminants that can cause illness or injury.

Biological hazards include microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, yeasts, molds and parasites. Some of these are pathogens or may produce toxins. A pathogenic microorganism causes disease and can vary in the degree of severity. Examples of biological hazards include Salmonella, E. coli and Clostridium botulinum.

Chemical hazards vary in the aspect of production they are related to. Some potential chemical hazards could be prior to a processor receiving product, such as the improper use of pesticides or antimicrobial residues. Others could be chemicals used on processing equipment such as oils used on equipment or sanitizers. Furthermore, other potential chemical hazards may include substances that are safe or used in processing at certain levels but can cause illness or injury if consumed at too high of a concentration, such as sodium nitrite or antimicrobial solutions used in intervention steps. The HACCP team will need to evaluate in the hazard analysis the likelihood of the chemical to cause illness or injury. Generally, an operation’s Standard Operating Procedures will address the acceptable use of products which could become hazards if not properly handled and monitored.

Physical hazards include objects that are hard or sharp such as glass, metal, plastic, stones, pits, wood, or even bone. Physical hazards can lead to injuries such as choking, cuts, or broken teeth. Some foreign material in food products may not be a physical hazard but rather an undesirable foreign material such as hair, insects, or sand that are not likely to cause injuries. 

To learn more about conducting a hazard analysis and the types of hazards associated with food production, register for Development and Implementation of HACCP and Prerequisite Programs training conducted by Michigan State University Extension on August 26-27, 2013 in East Lansing, Mich. This will be a certificate course in the Introduction to HACCP as accredited by the International HACCP Alliance.

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