On 1st January 2006 the European Food Regulations EC Regulation 852/2004 was implemented in the Britain through the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2005 and similar legislation for the rest of the UK.
These EU based food hygiene regulations had largely the same requirements as the old UK regulations. The one major departure is that the 2005 Regulations demand that all food businesses have in place a written Food Safety Management System based on HACCP principles, with appropriate records.
It is this requirement for a written HACCP based system, with records, that has brought into prominence the use of HACCP software.
Before we consider the actual use of HACCP software we must define what HACCP is. HACCP stands for “Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point”. HACCP is an internationally recognised food safety management system that allows the critical food safety steps in the food business to be identified and then controls put in place to ensure each critical step is completed safely. It is a system that lends itself to the use of HACCP software.
Although the HACCP system is quite straightforward, it can be daunting for those in the food trade who are not use to considering terms like analysis, monitoring, control, validation etc. and it is here that HACCP software cam help.
That is not to say that HACCP software is essential for the implementation of a HACCP system. There are a number of paper-based HACCP management systems. Assured Safe Catering, is one long established system that requires the identification of the critical steps in a catering business, and these will be similar for most caterers (e.g. purchase, storage, preparation, cooking, cooling, reheating and service). Once the critical steps have been identified for an individual business and the critical limit set e.g. a minimum cooking temperature of 75°C, written records are kept of the temperatures achieved (and of the monitoring of other critical limits). This system can be very effective although those implementing it will need to have a very good understanding of the HACCP principles that underlie it. However, it cannot provide the prompts and guidance that can be incorporated in good HACCP software.
To provide more guidance and produce less form filling than is necessary in the Assured Safe Catering system; the Food Standards Agency sponsored the development of Safer Food Better Business (SFBB). This comprises a manual that describes in words and pictures a range of catering (and food retailing) systems that are common and identifies the critical points, critical limits, controls, and appropriate monitoring in each case. The use of a simple diary for record keeping reduces the paperwork and time required for this system.
HACCP software is therefore only one way in which the requirement for each food business to implement a food safety management system based on HACCP principles can be achieved. However, depending on its structure HACCP software can be easy to use, provide a ready identification of critical control points, give guidance on critical limits, monitoring and reduce the amount of paperwork necessary.