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HACCP Update: Best Practices

The HACCP Update section of Food Manufacturing is designed to offer our readers insight into the state of HACCP implementation and compliance across the Industry. We received hundreds of responses to this month's survey on best practices.

This article originally ran in the April 2012 issue of Food Manufacturing.

The HACCP Update section of Food Manufacturing is designed to offer our readers insight into the state of HACCP implementation and compliance across the Industry. We received hundreds of responses to this month's survey on best practices.

This month we've revisited a survey from last April on industry best practices in developing HACCP planning, with the goal of identifying how industry views of HACCP planning have changed over the past year.

This month's survey has revealed that many opinions and attitudes about HACCP planning have remained steady over the course of the year, and the areas defined by sharp differences from the responses to last year's survey illustrate an increasing interest in an open, collaborative planning process.

When asked how satisfied, overall, they were with the effectiveness of their facility's HACCP plans, survey respondents reported:

  • Very satisfied—35.2%
  • Satisfied—50.0%
  • Neutral—7.4%
  • Needs Improvement—7.4%

The "satisfied" and "very satisfied" figures are nearly identical from last year. Worth noting is that the "needs improvement" figure is up from 1.8 percent last year, and "neutral" is down by nearly the same margin. This suggests that food manufacturers are more likely to see HACCP planning in black and white terms; anything less than satisfactory now needs improvement.
And, like last year, food manufacturers are looking for improvement solutions in a variety of places. When asked which planning methods have contributed to a successful HACCP plan for their facilities, food processors responded:

  • Utilizing in-house experts such as QA/QC professionals—73.6%
  • Combing HACCP regulations and literature on our own and customizing a plan for our facility—73.6%
  • Speaking with regulators/auditors—62.3%
  • Speaking with experts/consultants to help determine critical control points in our facility—66.0%
  • Asking for input from workers on the plant floor—47.2%
  • Other—7.5%

Most of these figures stayed reliably steady, but "combing HACCP regulations and literature on our own and customizing a plan for our facility" jumped up from 47.4 percent last year, and "speaking with regulators/auditors" is up from 36.8 percent last year as well. These two resources are significant in that manufacturers are now reporting seeking guidance from regulatory officials and literature at a much higher rate than in the past. Some of the uptick is likely attributable to the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which strengthens and more explicitly defines food safety regulations and standards for food manufacturers.

Food manufacturers also report a slightly higher interest this year in becoming involved in organizations or programs that amassed HACCP knowledge across the industry. Last year a plurality of respondents (36.8 percent) said they would not be interested. This year, 40.7 percent said "maybe," with 29.6 percent reporting definite interest and an equal number saying "no."

Though hesitation still exists with regard to sharing HACCP knowledge industry-wide, knowledge sharing is growing much more rapidly within organizations. This year, food processors were asked, "After developing your own plan, has your facility assisted any others in developing and implementing its own plan?" They responded:

  • Yes, at another facility in our organization—43.4%
  • Yes, at another facility outside our organization—17.0%
  • No—39.6%

These figures are noteworthy, as last year 61.4 percent of readers reported no involvement in developing and implementing plans in other facilities. HACCP cooperation across companies rose only a few points — up from 12.3 percent last year — but intra-organizational cooperation is up from 26.3 percent.
The growing consumer focus on food safety along with the FSMA have increased industry focus on HACCP planning and spurred cooperation and knowledge sharing among manufacturers.

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