Pre-harvest food safety (Proceedings)


The concern that consumers and retailers have for food safety has shifted need for food safety programs back to farm level.

The concern that consumers and retailers have for food safety has shifted need for food safety programs back to farm level. There have been several names for these type of programs such as farm to fork or gate to plate. Traditional on farm food safety programs has been focused on removing animals from the system that were carrying federally regulated food safety pathogens such as tuberculosis, brucellosis and BSE. However, many potential food borne pathogens are not controlled at the farm level by the federal government (Salmonella, E. coli O157, etc.). There have been some requirements that have been instituted by end retailers that have then flowed back into the production chain. For example, McDonalds has specified that it will not buy beef that has been fed ruminant by products. This requirement has been pushed back onto slaughter plants and feedlots with assurance statements that ruminant by products feeds have not been used.

There are many things that livestock producers can do proactively to assure that steps have been taken to decrease the risk of food borne pathogens and potentially limit their liability. The hazard analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) concept used in food production can be applied at the farm level. There are 7 steps involved with establishing a HACCP program.

      1) Conduct a hazard analysis

      2) Determine the critical control points

      3) Establish critical limits

      4) Establish monitoring procedures

      5) Establish corrective actions

      6) Establish verification procedures

      7) Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures

Prior to beginning the formal HACCP procedure the producer should establish a HACCP team including the owner/manger(s) of the operation, veterinarian, nutritional adviser, extension educator, university specialists, and suppliers. The distribution and raising conditions of the livestock (cow-calf, feedlot, or dairy) will indicate certain hazards that may be important. Additionally, it is important to develop a flow diagram that describes the production process. The flow diagram will help identify areas that are susceptible to hazard introduction and points where control process can be instituted.

Hazard analysis

The purpose of the hazard analysis is to develop a list of hazards that are reasonably likely to occur. Hazards that are not reasonably likely to occur would not be considered within the HACCP plan. A hazard is defined as a biological, chemical, or physical agent that is reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of its control. The first stage of the hazard analysis is to identify all potential hazards. A hazard evaluation is then conducted to determine which hazards will be addressed in the HACCP plan based on severity of the potential hazard and its likely occurrence.

Determine critical control points

A critical control point (CCP)is defined as a step at which control can be applied to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level. An algorithm can be useful to decide if a production step is a CCP (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Critical control point algorithm

Establish critical limits

A critical limit is a maximum and/or minimum value to which a hazard parameter must be controlled at a CCP to prevent, eliminate or reduce a food safety hazard. The critical limit will distinguish between a safe or unsafe operating condition at the CCP.

Establish monitoring procedures

Monitoring is a planned sequence to assess whether a CCP is under control and to produce an accurate record for verification.

Establish corrective actions

When there is a deviation from an established critical limit then a corrective action is necessary. The corrective action should: (a) determine and correct the cause of the noncompliance; (b) determine the disposition of the noncompliant product; and (c) record the corrective actions that have been taken.

Establish verification procedures

Verification is the activities that determine the validity of the HACCP plan and that the system is operating according to the plan. Typically the HACCP plan should be evaluated annually to verify that the plan is being followed and update any changes that need to be made.

Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures

The HACCP plan including the flow diagram and hazard analysis should be maintained. Additionally, any records generated from monitoring procedures and corrective actions should be updated regularly.

There are many interventions that have been proposed as pre-harvest mitigation strategies for livestock producers. The best way to evaluate these interventions is to determine if they fit within the framework of HACCP plan. If there is not a scientifically documentable procedure then it will probably not behoove the producer to implement the intervention.

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