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What is HACCP? Why is it important?

A hygiene inspector in a food factory

In space, no one can hear you retch.

It’s the late 1950s. The space race is in full swing and NASA is developing the technology it needs to send a human into space. Here’s the problem: Any human in space will be there for a fair while. Humans who are anywhere for a “fair while” have an annoying need to eat food. Unfortunately, food has an even more annoying disposition of sometimes containing pathogens that can make people ill. So, NASA needed a way of making ABSOLUTELY sure that the food they sent into space was free from any kind of contamination.

If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know how bad it can be. Now imagine being trapped inside a tin can, floating in zero gravity, and hurtling around the earth at speeds of around 17,500 miles an hour. You’re desperately trying to keep your wits about you and your lunch inside you as your ability to think clearly and act promptly is severely diminished at a time when both of those traits are critical for your safety and the safety of everyone else on board.

It was with this in mind that NASA approached food scientists from both the US Army and the Pillsbury Company. Their goal was to create a system of food safety which effectively reduced the chances of food contamination to zero, something never even attempted (or indeed needed) before.

What resulted from this high-level, collaborative effort was what we know today as HACCP. Or at least what would become HACCP. Over the years, the system created for the benefit of astronauts has been tweaked and amended until it, today, has been adopted by food manufacturers all over the world.

But why is it so important?

HACCP itself is split into two stages (which are then further divided into various different steps). The first stage is Hazard Analysis where information is collected and evaluated on every individual ingredient throughout its journey, from its humble beginnings right through to being prepared, packaged, and sold; the second stage involves the monitoring of Critical Control Points and establishing where control measures are needed. This means identifying the points during the journey of an ingredient where some kind of action is needed in order to prevent, reduce, or eliminate pathogens and then establishing a system to monitor and control those points.

What makes HACCP different from systems of food safety that went before it is just how much it focusses on prevention. Previously, systems involved keeping a general level of cleanliness and only testing the food for pathogens once it had been created. By changing the focus to prevention and working to keep every ingredient contaminant-free throughout its lifecycle, HACCP is able to help avoid any risk of contaminated products making their way to consumers. This avoids potential lengthy and costly legal battles with victims, expensive and reputationally damaging product recalls, prevents the need to reprocess or destroy whole batches of food, and ultimately saves time, money, effort, and resources.

Online Food Safety & Hygiene Certification Courses

Here at iHASCO, we offer an Online Food Safety & Hygiene Certification Course bundle that was designed for anyone working where food is made, sold, served, or needs adequate food hygiene training.

Included in this bundle are our upcoming HACCP Training and Food Safety & Hygiene Level 3 Training courses, which will be coming out later this year. You can register your interest in either of the courses today and be the first to know when it is released! Or for now, you can read our useful 'The HACCP System: Simplified' PDF - this document outlines the 12 steps of HACCP and splits them into bite-sized chunks.

Claim a no-obligation free trial to any of the courses today!

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