Making It Safe: A HACCP Food Safety Program for Small Food Processors in the Southwest

– [Announcer] The
following is a production of New Mexico State University. – This morning environment
department officials shut down operations here
at La Otra Vida Foods, after food poisoning was traced back to pickled jalapeno peppers packaged and distributed by the company. So far five people remain hospitalized while 35 have been treated and released. – [Narrator] Food borne
illnesses are bad news, for consumers, for small food processors, and for health authorities. An estimated 9,000 deaths
each year in the United States can be attributed to contaminated food. In addition, tens of millions
of episodes of illness result from food borne pathogens. When our safety net fails
and illness results, consumer confidence in
our food system erodes. And the effect on the food
industry can be far-reaching. – I have two responsibilities as a New Mexico food producer and processor, and particularly because I’m small I have concerns about my consumer. I want a product on the
market that is safe. Something that they have confidence in, and something that will
remain for a long time. I also feel another
responsibility to my colleagues. New Mexico puts out many products. And I don’t know if our consumers always can differentiate between my
product and someone else’s, and if mine has to be recalled, then I think it’s going to
reflect all of New Mexico products which is going
to hurt the industry. – There’s nothing worse for business than to produce an unsafe food product that has injured, and
perhaps even killed someone. When I receive a letter from another state that indicates that they
have embargoed a product, it means that we have all failed in our responsibility
to protect the consumer, and our responsibility in food safety. It also means that
public confidence is lost in all New Mexico food products. – [Narrator] Southwestern
foods have grown in popularity in recent years, providing opportunities for many small scale operators to produce, process, and market a variety
of regional favorites. Those who have taken advantage
of the increased opportunity know that with it comes the responsibility of producing a product that
is safe for the consumer. – There’s a number of
issues that can occur when you scale up from
a ma and pa operation of a local or home produced food, to something that is then
commercially distributed. And again, it happens fairly commonly, somebody’s got a good barbecue sauce, or a good salsa or a good
recipe for this or that, and a lot of people say, well, why don’t you fix it and
sell it to a lot of people? Certainly this is nothing that the health department or the environment department is opposed to. But we need to keep in mind
that when one makes a shift to commercial food production, that, the person responsible
for that food production needs to be very careful about how they prepare that food and how they store it, to avoid the problem of food contamination or producing a product that
might make several people sick, or in a worst case
scenario, even kill people. – [Narrator] While recipes
and food processing procedures will vary from product to product, small food processors share
basic safety practices. For example, it’s plain common sense to make sure that those who
work in your food operation take care that foreign
object like hair, jewelry, and buttons, don’t find
their way into your product. That employees wash
their hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds. That work surfaces are
kept clean and sanitized. That cleaning chemicals and pesticides are stored where they don’t come in contact with, and contaminate food. And that food handlers use
disposable towels and gloves, to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Many southwestern specialty
foods such as salsas and pickles must be acidified to ensure their safety. While recipes may differ,
processors of these specialty items must be
sure that the correct amount of acid is added to their products to reduce the risk of
spreading food borne illness. Common sense is the key to food safety. And it is the underlying philosophy of an important food safety program that followed step by
step, will help ensure that a safe product leaves
your food processing operation. This program is called HACCP, for Hazard Analysis
Critical Control Points. HACCP was developed by
the Pillsbury company and NASA in the 1960’s
to proved safe foods for astronauts in the space program. Since then, this safety
program has been adopted by many large and small food
businesses with great success. Developing a HACCP
program for your business requires seven steps. One, identify hazards. Two, identify critical control points. Three, establish critical limits. Four, establish monitoring procedures. Five, establish corrective action. Six, verify that the system is working. And seven, establish a
record keeping system. There are experienced people
in the environment department, the health department, and the
cooperative extension service who can help you get
started on a HACCP plan. Those people can put you in
touch with a food processing professional to review your plan, and give you an official okay. – HACCP is a series of steps that helps us catch our mistakes before they happen. I find it very beneficial, particularly in a small company like ours. The cost of HACCP is actually minimal when you consider the benefits that’s derived from these steps. And that is, happy consumers, and one is able to remain
in business for a long time because of the check points. I leave at night, my processing plant, and I can… – [Narrator] Let’s look more closely at how a small food processing operation might set up a HACCP program. First, it is useful to make a
recipe or process flow chart. A step by step description
of how your product is made. From receiving the raw ingredients, to processing and storing
the finished product. Write your ingredients at
the top of your worksheet. Then note what happens to each ingredient. Include, inspection at time of delivery, any chopping or grinding,
weighing or measuring, mixing, cooking, and packaging. When you’re sure that
you’ve included every step in your process, you’re ready to begin the seven steps of the HACCP plan. By first identifying food related hazards. What factors may make food
unsafe for consumption? Biological hazards, bacteria, molds, viruses, or parasites, cause
illnesses like botulism, salmonellosis, and listeriosis. Fresh and processed ingredients
must be carefully monitored to eliminate biological risks. Chemical hazards occur where
foods could be contaminated with pesticides, or, where
they might come in contact with cleaning compounds
or sanitizing chemicals. Physical hazards include
any foreign objects that could cause serious
harm to consumers. Such as, glass chips from jars or bottles. Once you have identified all the hazards in your recipe or process, you are ready to identify critical control points. These are steps in your operation where the health risk to the
consumer is the greatest. These are the points at which you need to put controls in place to prevent, reduce, or eliminate a hazard. For example, in food such
as peppers or tomatoes, spores of clostridium botulinum can grow, and produce a deadly toxin. Adding an acid such as
vinegar or lemon juice is necessary to prevent spore growth. This acid treatment is therefore
a critical control point. Without it, the food when consumed, could trigger an outbreak of botulism. If your product requires heat processing, the heat treatment may be
a critical control point. You must check with a process
authority for the correct time and temperature for
your particular product. When you review your process flow chart, ask yourself, is this
step specifically designed to eliminate a hazard or reduce a risk to an acceptable level? If the answer is yes,
and if no subsequent step in the process will reduce
or eliminate the hazard, then it is a critical control point. – The amount of spices I add to my product is not a matter of safety,
it’s only a concern for continuity of flavor,
for myself and my customers. When I work with my acid,
which is my vinegar, this is a critical control point, and this is necessary for safety. – [Narrator] After identifying
your critical control points you must decide what criteria must be met to make sure that each hazard
is adequately controlled. These criteria are called critical limits. They most likely include cooking, or refrigeration temperatures
and ph or acid levels. Because these limits are critical for the safety of your product, you’ll want to consult with a
food processing professional to determine critical limits
for your particular product. How do you know that you are
meeting your critical limits? At each critical control
point, for each critical limit, you’ll develop a systematic
monitoring procedure. Some of your monitoring may
involve only visual inspection. Do any of your canning
jars have chips in the rims that would prevent them
from sealing properly? Others may require the use
of simple instrumentation, such as thermometer and timer, to ensure that foods are cooked at the correct temperature for
the correct time period. Or a ph meter, to check that the ph of acidified foods is 4.2 or lower. To make sure that your
monitoring is accurate, you’ll want to verify periodically that your instruments
are working correctly. Reputable manufacturers can instruct you about the correct
procedure for verification, and recalibration, should it be necessary. As you regularly monitor
your processing operation, you’ll also record the results. By maintaining a continuous
log of cooking times, temperatures, acid
levels, and other evidence that you have not
exceeded critical limits, you can document that each batch, or lot produced, is safely produced. Occasionally, something may
go wrong in your operation. Perhaps a heating element fails, and the product isn’t treated
at the proper temperature. What if the ph level is not low enough? What do you do to correct these problems? When you write your HACCP plan, you’ll consult with a food
processing professional to develop a plan to follow, should a problem occur at
a critical control point. With a HACCP program, you,
or a designated employee, will know in advance exactly what to do to put production safely back on track. Identify, control, monitor, correct. Constant vigilance is key to
safely processed food products. And to an effective HACCP program. Verification should include review of your HACCP plan, by an outside source. Internal verification includes regular review of processing records, and periodic calibration
of measuring instruments. – As a regulator or food
processors in New Mexico, I kind of found that we enjoy working with those processing plants which have HACCP plans in place in the operation. Reason being that HACCP is
a very proactive system. Essentially it finds
problems before they exist. Before they happen. As a regulator, I work with
the managers and owners of food processing plants as a partner. I go in there, and check the records, and watch their process,
and verify that each step of the plan is in fact being followed and is being followed correctly. Food that comes out of
these plants is safer than traditional methods. And we find that this
is a recipe for success. – [Narrator] The final
step in establishing your HACCP program is your
record keeping system. Whether your files are kept in notebooks or in filing cabinets, they
provide important documentation that your product was safely produced. The records that you made while monitoring for critical limits and
critical control points should be kept in a permanent
record keeping system. After each batch or product
lot has been processed. It is important to identify each batch with a batch code or lot number. This provides you with
an additional safety net. Should a question arise about the safety of one of your products you’ll be able to immediately identify and
recall the affected products. – As an FDA investigator I
spend a lot of time on the road. My job is consumer protection. However, it’s always a
pleasure to inspect a firm that has a HACCP plan in place, because this indicates to
me that the firm is truly interested in producing
a good, clean, product, and protecting their customers. – [Narrator] A HAACP
program can spell success for small food processing businesses. It increases the safety
of your food products, increases consumer confidence, and ensures that you can
get back on track quickly, if something does go wrong. To get started, call your
state or local health or environment department,
and tell an official, that you’re interested in
starting a HACCP program. Information is also available from the cooperative extension service. – The department of
agriculture reported today that New Mexico food
products are selling well throughout the state,
and nationwide as well. They credit the increase
in sales of value added agricultural products not only
to their enchanting taste, but also to the strong safety record of the many small food processors in the state of New Mexico. – [Narrator] HACCP, it’s
good news for consumers, and good news for your small
food processing business. – [Announcer] The
preceding was a production of New Mexico State University. The views and opinions in this program are those of the author,
and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the NMSU board of regents.

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