A Perfect Blend of ISO and HACCP, Part 3

One way to determine both the drawbacks and benefits of combining HACCP and ISO is to formulate risk analysis, which involves management, assessment and communications. These three aspects help to clarify the picture of risks and benefits involved with what is being proposed. In this article, risk management and assessment factors will be examined. In future articles, risk communication of using both ISO and HACCP in the same poultry system will be examined in further detail.

Risk management is a tool that is used to weigh the cost and benefits of various programs. Risk management is intertwined with risk assessment and risk communication in order to provide the best measurement of implementation or shelving a particular program. The program in question seeks to combine HACCP and ISO standards. The next step is to ask “Is the risk worth the cost?” from a risk management point of view. Before risk management, risk assessment must be considered.

In this case, poultry plants are being considered. This involves slaughter and processing operations; the inflow of personnel whether from the industry production or government point of view; the use and maintenance of machinery; volume and type of production; inspection services rendered; sanitation issues; employee training, including hygiene and handling of product especially once exiting the chilling system; and, finally, how product is handled once in processing areas and in the freezers and coolers.

It is important to consider the history of the extent to which an establishment has gone and will go in order to 1) implement the reduction of pathogens and other hazards, and 2) verify hazard and pathogen reduction.

How are these measures qualified and quantified? What tests are done so that physical hazards and chemical hazards are minimized? What records of such testing demonstrate this control of one’s process and how consistent is the data? Does the establishment’s machinery reduce all three types of hazards or is the plant merely concerned with pathogen reduction, i.e., control of bacteriological hazard? Can the plant demonstrate that the physical and chemical hazards are non-existent within the operations? Is the documentation present? Is the plant’s process fluid enough to be amenable to changes within the process?

Within the mode of risk assessment, there are several steps that take place to provide the final goal of obtaining scientific information with which to base one’s decision.

Those steps are:

  • Hazard identification; what are the hazards in the poultry plant taking into consideration its history as well as its long term goal for production. These would include all the possible physical, chemical and biological hazards in the particular establishment;
  • Release assessment (hazard characterization) is that information which is derived from determining the biological pathways that might allow pathogenic agents to gain a foothold and hamper pathogen reduction. This is involved in setting up HACCP, i.e. where would a pathogen most likely succeed in affecting the product?
  • Exposure assessment is involved with what routes are necessary for the consumer to be exposed to a hazard. This is where exposure of consumers to various hazards must be ascertained and stopped through decisions made by an establishment;

Consequence assessment (risk characterization) determines the relationship between exposure and risk. How risky is the establishment’s process and is this getting out to consumers? There are both direct and indirect risks. For example, what is the probability that a consumer will ingest metals, oils, or pathogens once the product leaves the facility (direct risk)? What is the cost in terms of medical insurance, doctor’s fees, hospital costs, when the consumer ingests a hazardous substance? What about lawsuit and the ensuing fees when the consumer makes a complaint (indirect risk)? In doing a risk assessment, one can do quantitative using mathematical models and qualitative in which various issues are discussed and considered scientifically. The above discussion is an example of qualitative risk assessment.

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