A HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) Plan is the foundation for most food safety programs. It provides for the food safety requirements that accomplish a science-based risk assessment, and risk control management system, for inbound suppliers through internal manufacturing processes and ultimately to pre-shipment review and sending finished products out the door and into commerce—upstream, downstream, and internally. In other words, they set a company’s food safety standards “for what comes in, what you do with it, and what goes out.” The same will hold true for HARPC (Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls) plans under FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Explore this issueDecember/January 2015
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But managing robust HACCP/HARPC plans presents many challenges, including monitoring multiple, complex plans across a company’s facilities/operations; verifying workflow and completion of all tasks associated with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Prerequisite Programs (PRPs) and Critical Control Points (CCPs); validating that the plan elements are working; getting timely non-conformance information for Corrective/Preventive Actions (CAPA); ensuring all requirements are met prior to sending product into commerce; analyzing data across the entire operation, which is typically in paper form, for continuous improvement; and accessing accurate data and records for HACCP/HARPC audits.
This is why more and more food and beverage companies are deploying software solutions for HACCP/HARPC automation. This wasn’t always the case. In the past, food safety technology adoption was difficult because safety and quality assurance folks for the most part aren’t sitting at their desks in front of computers—and enterprise systems were often too expensive for the food industry’s slim profit margins.
But today, highly secure, cloud-based HACCP/HARPC automation technologies make this type of automation both possible and practical. Cloud solutions require no capital hardware/software investments and can be accessed anywhere, at any time, from mobile devices. This makes them both affordable and effective to provide key benefits for HACCP/HARPC management, including the ability to automate food safety plans for every product group and facility; access all of your organization’s safety data from a single, central repository for trending; respond “on demand” to USDA, FDA, and customer inquiries and audits; and get real-time, non-compliance alerts for timely CAPAs.
How Does HACCP/HARPC Automation Work?
There are a variety of HACCP/HARPC automation solutions on the market and you will have to evaluate which of the options best meet your needs, but in general, some of the capabilities you should look for in these applications include functionality that allows you to do the following.
- Define, manage, and maintain HACCP/HARPC program and document requirements and records—for CCPs, PRPs, SOPs, and more—for multiple plans and facilities.
- Automate workflow and task scheduling—including CCP monitoring activities; send auto-notifications when tasks are due; and issue escalating alerts if tasks aren’t completed on time.
- Define specifications, and then capture safety data—from suppliers, equipment, direct observation, and internal/external labs—electronically and in real time.
- Automatically analyze captured data, against specifications and requirements, and issue non-conformance alerts in real time.
- Generate, resolve, and document CAPAs before a food safety issue gets “out of control.”
- Access all food safety and quality assurance (FSQA) data and records from a single, centralized repository for reporting, benchmarking, trending, and continuous improvement.
- Have on-demand access to the records and documentation you need to respond promptly to USDA, FDA, and customer inquiries and audits.
Key Benefits of HACCP/HARPC Automation
Get Out From Under “Mountains” of Paper. HACCP plans place a heavy burden on FSQA departments trying to comply using manual processes and records—and it is expected that HARPC plans will do the same. Automation can help you get out from under all of this paper with functionality that manages, verifies, and maintains programs and associated data and records. HACCP/HARPC automaton allows for the following abilities.
- Easily access and revise plans and flowcharts for annual and/or mandated reassessments, new regulatory requirements, and new or revised processes.
- Automatically generate unalterable time/date stamps on all records—including non-conformance alerts and CAPA documents—to ensure greater efficacy of records. Some automation solutions also support electronic signatures and 21 CFR Part 11 compliance.
- Facilitate faster shipment of product to customers—including Certificate of Analysis (COA) generation or positive release documentation—when no non-conformances are detected. If using a cloud-based system with roles-based security, you might even allow customers “visibility and transparency” by allowing them to access the FSQA documentation and records for the products they receive.
Automatic COA generation…allows product to move faster to the next point in your value chain—meaning that shipment to customers can be expedited.