Flow diagram is a critical first step of HACCP

A complete flow diagram is an important step to making sure all hazards are identified.

A flow diagram is a document that should consist of every aspect or activity of a production process in making a product. This typically begins with receiving meat, ingredients, and packaging – then continues through the steps of making a product and concludes with packaging, storage and distribution. Essentially, the flow diagram continues until the product is no longer in the control of the establishment, nor the establishment’s responsibility. A flow diagram is an important document in a HACCP plan. It should be in a simple format that is clearly able to be interpreted.

Starting with a model flow diagram is acceptable. Examine the model and determine what is different and add or delete steps as necessary. There are model diagrams available on University of Wisconsin – Madison Center for Meat Process Validation’s website. Other models are available to use as a template as well. The visual aspect of having boxes with arrows showing the flow of processing is important in identifying hazards. The visual layout of the diagram can assist in determining areas where new hazards may be introduced or where cross-contamination may be likely.  A facility diagram can also assist with this. Including details about equipment and where in the process certain procedures occur is important. Having information such as the specifications of equipment available to the HACCP team can be important even if that level of detail is not included on the actual flow diagram document.

The flow diagram is used to identify critical control points. Each step in a flow diagram must be assessed for potential hazards and used to identify the critical control points in the process. Once the flow diagram is completed, it needs to be verified. Verification of the flow chart may be the most important part, because a missed step could result in a hazard not being identified. A physical assessment of the plant and process should be completed with the diagram in hand to determine if anything is missing. As part of a HACCP plan, USDA requires a flow diagram with critical control points (CCPs) identified on the document.

Reassessing a HACCP plan, typically on an annual basis or any time a change in the process occurs, is a required part of a successful HACCP plan. Updating the flow diagram every time there is a change will assist in the reassessment process.

Michigan State University Extension will offer a two-day certificate training Development and Implementation of HACCP and Prerequisite Programs on Dec. 9 and 10, 2013, on the MSU Campus in East Lansing. Registration is available online.

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