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HACCP and Kosher

What is HACCP? Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Program mandated by the Federal & State Governments. They are mandated in certain food industries that are susceptible to chemical and physical hazards. The Haccp programs for the meat, poultry and seafood industry becomes mandatory in latter part of next January. The system is a preventive system for assuring the safe production of food products, processed & not processed. The principles of Haccp are that of prevention rather than inspection. The Haccp principles are applicable to all phases of food production, including preparation & handling, processing, distribution & consumer handling & use. If the "how" and "where" are known, the prevention is easy and obvious. The Haccp program deals with controlling the factors affecting the ingredients, product & process, & to make the product safely and to prove that the food product was made safely.

HACCP covers all types of potential food safety hazards - biological, physical & chemical, regardless whether they are naturally occurring in the food, environment or generated by a mistake in the manufacturing process. The physical hazard (piece of metal) is the most obvious to the consumer, the chemical hazard is the most feared hazard, but contamination with non-visible salmonella or E coli etc may affect hundreds or even thousands of consumers. In order to prevent the above hazards the HACCP system was developed to 1- Identification & assessment of the hazards associated with food production. 2- to determine the critical control points that must be controlled to prevent an identifiable hazard. 3- to establish a system to monitor all critical control points (checks and balances). A "CCP" = Critical Control Point is identified as a point in the manufacture of a food product whose loss of control would (or may) result in an unacceptable food safety risk. The designated personnel responsible for implementing and maintaining the Haccp program should be cognizant of the following among others; a) Continuous monitoring & recording of data such as temperature. b) Control the conditions of an operation to maintain compliance with the established criteria, and to correct any procedure that prevents the criteria from being met. c) Control any deviation in the critical limits that were established for example cooking temperatures and time, refrigeration temperatures. d) Preventive measures for physical, chemical or other factors that can be used to control an identified health hazard. e) Most important is verification and documentation that every phase of the HACCP is being complied with. In controlling bacteria it is not only the temperature that is crucial but the length of time that the product is exposed to the temperature. (To be continued).

HACCP (= has-sip) is a systematic approach to (a) evaluate all of the individual components of the particular food production, and (b) to ensure that any changes in the system will be evaluated for all of the safety concerns before being put into effect. NOTE: Any one responsibly involved in the certification process of kosher production must posses a thorough knowledge of HACCP. Thorough documentation is a key element in assuring that the HACCP & the kosher procedures will operate correctly. The documentation must cover the operating procedures and the employee tasks, which must be spelled out and documented so that employee-related errors will be minimized. HACCP is not an integral part of QC (quality control). The producer in order to control hazards associated with raw ingredients he should use (a) specifications for all raw ingredients, and (b) use a mechanism for approving ingredient suppliers, just as he would for his kosher requirements. Document control procedures should be used to assure that everyone is using the current version of each procedure.

Evaluation of plant layout, equipment design, equipment operation, and processing parameters are to be considered when deciding on critical limits for HACCP. This will also control the proper precautions for kosher production of Dairy, Meat etc. Written HACCP & kosher procedures should be drawn up for employees to follow. Codes are used to identify the manufacturing facility, date of production, production line, product, and batch. This information is particularly useful when there are questions concerning product spoilage, or recalls of a product due to a HACCP or kosher concern. The coding of the outside cases with the codes of the individual containers packed therein will facilitate retrieval of the product.

Foods can be divided into two major categories: low-acid (pH 4.6 or less) and acidic (pH of 4.6 & above). In order for bacteria to grow and multiply it needs a certain environment. It needs moisture, warmth and acidic. The minimum pH for the growth of many of the bacteria in foods is generally a pH of 4.8 or above. Improper storage or the holding temperature is the most common factor that contributes to bacterial foodborne illness. Foodborne disease organisms will grow in foods held at temperatures between 40F & 132F. Therefore, hot foods that are not cooled rapidly for storage or held hot enough prior to consumption may be at temperatures in the "danger-zone", allowing bacterial growth for sufficient time to produce enough organisms or toxin to cause illness.

Inadequate cooking represents a hazard since cooking is relied upon to destroy many foodborne disease organisms and toxins. Undercooking poultry can lead to Salmonella; undercooked seafood can also cause illness. Cross contamination is a cause for concern, foodborne pathogens can be transferred from a raw product to utensils and equipment, which, if then used for cooked or other ready to eat foods, can transfer the pathogens and lead to illness. Utensils and equipment particularly cutting boards, slicers, mixers & grinders because they are hard to clean should never be used for cooked products without a thorough cleaning. As far as kosher is concerned, others do not use for cooking fish the same utensils that were used for meat products even when they were cleaned thoroughly. Cross-contamination can also occur when cooked foods are stored together with raw product, particularly of animal or poultry origin. Some pathogens may survive the cooking process or cross contamination, this is a particular concern when leftovers are warmed rather than thoroughly reheated.

There are basically three major ways of preventing foodborne disease: a) Prevent contamination of foods, by personal hygiene practices, separating raw foods from cooked foods and cleaned/sanitized equipment. b) Destroy foodborne disease agents that may be present in foods, by proper cooking above 150F internal temperature. c) Prevent foodborne disease agents from growing in foods, by reducing the temperature of cooked foods to less than 40F within 4 hours, or keeping the foods constantly above 145F. As was stated earlier lowering the pH to less than 4.5 will also prevent or at least slow the growth of foodborne pathogens.

Some symptoms of contacting the "Botulism", "Salmonella", "E coli ", Listeria", etc. are foodborne disease are vomiting, diarrhea, blurred or double vision, dry mouth, sudden fever, intense headache, nausea etc. The symptoms may develop in 12-36 hours or may appear 3-4 days after ingestion. Microorganisms due to spoilage are not a health hazard. Spoilage organisms affect the quality of the food product, not the safety of the food. The individual responsible for the kosher supervision should have a close working relationship with the individual responsible for the HACCP program. The kosher supervisor may have specific guidelines in place that he must communicate to the HACCP consultant so as not to jeopardize the guidelines. He should be familiar with the process flow diagram, all of the process components, the sources, ingredients and equipment being used, so as to coordinate between the kosher requirements and the HACCP requirements. The recall of the Fleischmann's kosher for Passover vinegar could have been completely prevented, had the kosher supervisor utilized HACCP controls for the production. NOTE: There is currently a recall on certain sizes of Hunt's ketchup squeeze bottles due to "foodborne pathogens" present in the product. Check with manufacturer for the specific code numbers. Always check the FDA website for recalls due to foodborne pathogens.