HACCP Terms of Reference – Top Tips
HACCP (danger examination basic Control Points) is a proactive approach to food safety that involves identifying points in the time of action of producing or manufacturing food that are basic to food safety. A meaningful stage in the preparation of the HACCP documentation is the Terms of Reference document. To this day, many companies nevertheless don’t use enough time or effort on this document and however it is the very foundation of the HACCP system. This article will explain why this is important and discuss the meaningful elements of creating a good terms of reference document.
The Terms of Reference document is truly the first document a HACCP team should compile for each product or product group to be placed under HACCP Study. It should be compiled and agreed by the whole HACCP team as it outlines the foundation of the HACCP plan and many of its structures. This can affect decisions taken on food safety later on. Lets look at each area of the Terms of Reference document in a HACCP plan. The Terms of Reference should contain the following information:
1. Product / course of action Details – this is a description of what we are going to be producing, manufacturing or preparing. It should, in effect, be a description of the time of action flow diagram in such a way that you could truly draw up a course of action flow diagram from it. This method that there should be sufficient detail to be able to draw the time of action flow boxes on paper and connect them up to form the time of action flow diagram. A good way to do this is to describe exactly how the product is made, what elements go into it, how elements and packaging are stored and processed. Ensure that this is described in ordern from start to finish. This section should also state what products or product groups are covered by this HACCP plan.
2. Scope of Hazards – here we outline the types and character of the hazards that are to be assessed in the danger examination. For example; in a meat processing operation this will typically say ‘This HACCP plan is concerned with microbial, chemical and physical hazards. The main hazards that are likely to cause a problem are microbes such as E.Coli, coliforms and salmonella.’ You would then go on to describe the main ways in which these microbes can cause problems in the time of action. For example cross contamination, inadequate cooking or cooling.
3. Scope of Safety – this section is easy. This is simply a statement of where the food safety responsibilities (and consequently the time of action flow diagram) begin and end. It will typically read ‘Our Company’s food safety responsibility begins when we take delivery and sign for any raw material, ingredient, food product or packaging and ends when our customer takes delivery of our finished product.’
4. Product Specification – here we want to include the applicable details of what is in the product or its recipe. If we have a separate detailed product specification document then we can simply provide a reference to that document.
5. Intended Use – this is a very important part of the Terms of Reference document as it describes who the finished product is intended for consumption by. This section should mention any susceptible groups such as the elderly, infants, pregnant mothers or allergen sufferers. If there are any such susceptible consumers of the product then these must be take in to account during the risk assessment part of the danger examination. This section will remind the HACCP team of this.
6. HACCP Team – finally; the HACCP team itself for the product being studied must be proven. Here we need to outline the roles, responsibilities, training and experience of the HACCP team. For example, we will need a HACCP chairman or coordinator who will make final decisions in the event of disagreement and who will keep progress moving forward. We may also need a HACCP Secretary to take notes and minutes. We will definitely need people who can do the functional work of writing up and verifying course of action flows and then those who are responsible for day to day running of the system in addition as training.
As you can see there is more to the Terms of Reference than meets the eye so it is important to get this document correct from the start. Errors and omissions at this stage of the HACCP plan represent the thin end of the wedge and can become major issues that affect food safety later in the HACCP documentation course of action.