Step 11 (Principle 6) in HACCP requires the establishment of verification procedures & it’s often an area that people find tricky. Verification simply means proving that the HACCP system is followed & that it achieves what it was designed to do.
Verification provides assurance that the HACCP plan is being complied with on a day-to-day basis & that it results in the production of food that is safe to eat (& is of good quality if this is also the purpose of your HACCP system).
Verification differs from monitoring in that monitoring gives us immediate feedback on the ongoing performance of the process. Verification is a check on the entire HACCP system to ensure that it is capable, as written, of producing food that is safe to eat & that it is being followed. The information obtained through verification should be used to improve the HACCP system.
Verification consists of three types of activities:
Validation provides assurance that the HACCP system will work when implemented.
Before implementing the HACCP system you should be confident that it’s correct & valid. This involves reviewing the documentation you created in steps 1 thru 10 to ensure that the details are correct, that you’ve not omitted hazards & that the control measures, critical limits, monitoring & corrective actions are appropriate. This may be done by the HACCP team or by an external specialist & ensures nothing has been missed.
If you’re unable to justify every critical control point, you’ll need to run trials to prove that the critical limits you’ve chosen do result in safe food.
You must also validate that finished products can achieve the use-by or best before date you put on them. To do this you or someone on your behalf, needs to conduct shelf life trials. The trial results should be kept as these are very important records.
2. Review of Monitoring Results
Monitoring results provide assurance that the HACCP system currently works.
The records of monitoring activities & any corrective actions taken should be reviewed on a daily basis if in a business consisting of more than one person. This is usually done on a daily basis by the owner, manager or supervisor.
The records are signed, initialed & dated as they are reviewed. Provision is usually made for this on the monitoring form.
3. Verifying Activities
Verifying activities provide assurance that the HACCP system has worked in the past. Verifying activities consists of the following:
Auditing which involves:
Document review – reviewing all the HACCP documentation to check that it complies with HACCP principles & that, as written, it’ll control food safety hazards (& quality hazards).
Compliance audit – examining practices to ensure the HACCP system is complied with. This involves observing people, observing hygiene standards, asking questions & examining records.
Audits can be:
- External – conducted by people who do not work for the organisation being audited.
- Internal – conducted by people who work for the organisation being audited (or their representatives). It’s essential that an internal audit schedule is established to ensure that all documents in the system are internally audited at least annually. Some systems demand more frequent audits. It’s also important that the people who conduct the internal audit are trained in auditing food safety systems & that an internal auditing procedure is written.
Reviewing Corrective Actions
You should examine the:
- Corrective actions taken when a problem occurred in the HACCP system before the product reached the customer; and
- Customer complaints to determine whether there are any recurring problems that indicate the HACCP system is not achieving its aim.
Finished Product Testing
Tests must be done to ensure that the HACCP plan results in finished products that meet your product descriptions (specifications). This may mean that you have to test for microorganisms, chemical residues, physical hazards, the physical & chemical structure of the product (e.g. particle size, pH, water activity), organoleptic qualities (e.g. taste, smell, texture), appearance, & shelf life. If it is in your product description (specification) you should test it to verify that your HACCP system works.
A verification schedule should be created showing when each of the above activities should occur during the year & who is responsible for each activity.
All the best – Liz