The Importance of Food Verification
Food verification involves obtaining and evaluating scientific and technical information that ensures the food safety plan as a whole, or individual control measures, will effectively control identified hazards. This information can come from a variety of sources, including mathematical models, regulatory resources and validation studies.
According to Quality Assurance Magazine, the validation process requires defining methods, selecting a surrogate or pathogen, identifying worst-case scenarios and executing a study with a qualified expert.
Some food processing facilities cannot control the presence of certain biological, chemical or physical hazards in their final products. Rather than eliminating the risk, they rely on prerequisite programs and preventive controls at their suppliers. The supplier controls the hazard through certification of analysis (COA) with every shipment, site visits or results from third party audits. The food processor then uses these documents as evidence that the supplier controlled the hazard in their raw materials or ingredients and then integrates this information into their Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HARCP) plan to document their food safety system.
Process preventive controls are procedures, practices and processes that control reasonably foreseeable hazards identified in the hazard analysis. They include monitoring procedures, critical limits and corrective actions as appropriate to the food, facility, nature of the control and its role in the food safety system.
A recall plan must be included in all animal food production facilities that have a hazard requiring a preventive control. It requires an investigation and evaluation of the affected animal foods to determine their safety, as well as corrective and preventive actions.
The prerequisite programs that a food business has in place form the foundation of all higher-level food safety plans. They include operations needed to create a safe environment for the production of wholesome foods. These operations include, but are not limited to:
The PRPs of a food business address the food safety risks identified in the hazard analysis, making it more manageable for the Critical Control Points (CCPs) and Process Control Points (PC) to reduce those hazards to an acceptable level. For example, if your CCP is monitoring environmental conditions, then the capacity of that CCP to monitor for bacterial contamination in the air or water will depend on whether you have an effective operational prerequisite program (OPRP) in place.
All OPRPs must be in place, monitored and verified on an ongoing basis. The verification of a PRP is performed at pre-established intervals by the designated verifier for that particular program. This verifier can be from any department in your establishment/plant.
Verification is one of the more complicated of the HACCP principles, requiring food safety professionals to verify all elements of their food safety programs. As defined by the National Academy Committee on Microbiological Criteria, verification includes activities other than monitoring and focuses on the overall food safety system rather than individual critical control points.
For example, a manager may inspect storage spaces to ensure that practices are in place to avoid cross-contamination from allergens. This is a form of verification that is not a requirement under most segments of the industry, but can be an important part of your preventive controls to minimize risk.
Validation is the process of obtaining scientific and technical evidence that an established good manufacturing practice, combination of GMPs or a food safety plan as a whole, when properly implemented, can consistently control the significant hazards relevant to your food business under production conditions. Quality Assurance Magazine explains that validation includes determining the methods, selecting a surrogate or pathogenic microorganism, identifying worst-case scenarios, executing the validation study with a qualified expert and preparing a validation report.
An environmental monitoring program is a powerful tool that can identify a contamination before it spreads throughout your facility and into your product. It’s an early warning system that helps you pivot quickly and create safeguards for your company and consumers.
According to Quality Assurance Magazine, “Validation is the process of conducting a challenge test to ensure that an established good manufacturing practice or critical control point (CCP) can deliver the intended results.” A key element of validation is choosing a surrogate or pathogenic microorganism, identifying worst-case scenarios, designing and carrying out the validation study by a qualified food safety expert, examining the data from the challenge tests, and preparing a validation report.
Verification is the ongoing activity of assessing whether a validated process is operating as intended and if it complies with the food safety standards set by your organization and regulatory agencies. This includes analyzing the results of the HACCP plan, sanitation standard operating procedures, and records that monitor preventive controls.