Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point

Gerald Hauer, DVM
Bison Production Specialist
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development
Bison Centre of Excellence, Leduc, Alberta.
Phone: (780) 986-4100

Reprinted from The Tracker, volume 3, issue 4, April 1999


In a world that is getting increasingly concerned about food safety and quality control, animal industries are instituting measures that will increase consumer confidence in their products.  The bison industry is working on instituting a HACCP program that will help ensure the safety and quality of bison meat.  This article explains some of the concepts behind the HACCP program.

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the safety of the food that they are eating.  Several highly publicized outbreaks of food poisoning from contaminated meat in the last few years have made the public more aware of the potential risks that exist in the production of food products.  In response to people=s concerns, food industries are adopting a process which helps them ensure that a safe and wholesome product reaches the public.  This process is the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system.  Soon the US, Japan, and the European countries will require us to use the HACCP system to make our foods eligible for export to their markets.

HACCP (pronounced hassep) was developed in the 1960=s by the Pillsbury Company, NASA, and the US military to ensure that safe food was sent with the astronauts aboard space missions.  It has since been adopted by the food processing industries to ensure that the products reaching the consumer are as safe as possible.  HACCP takes a proactive  approach and tries to prevent problems from occurring rather than relying on inspection of the finished product to eliminate dangers.  It examines every step  in the production of food right from the farm through to processing and retailing.  The terms Agate to plate@ and Afarm to fork@ have been used when describing the system.

The Canadian Bison Association (CBA) set up a HACCP committee that has been working on a program for the past year.  They have carefully analyzed the bison industry for physical, chemical, and biological hazards that could adversely affect bison meat.  The hazards that they have identified can be broken down into two categories.  One category is hazards over which we have complete control and by using optimum husbandry and record keeping can completely eliminate from the retail product.  These are called the critical control points and include hazards such as broken needles left in retail meat cuts, drug residues, and contamination with heavy metals.  The other category is hazards that we can reduce but do not have the ability or scientific knowledge to completely eliminate.  They include things like bacterial contamination of meat and scar tissue formation.  By using good production practices on our farms we should aim to minimize these hazards although we don’t have the ability to guarantee that they won’t occur.

The HACCP program for the bison industry will focus on the hazards that can be completely eliminated.  An example would be a broken needle at an injection site of a bison bull which is something that should never reach a consumer’s plate.  If a needle breaks off in an animal and can’t be retrieved, the incident should be recorded so that when the animal is slaughtered the needle is removed or the meat is thrown away.

Another important feature of the HACCP system is the maintenance of an accurate record keeping and an animal identification system.  The ability to trace back food products back to its origin is important in ensuring food safety.  This means that if a person gets sick from eating any food product, investigators can work their way backwards from the purchaser, retailer, processor, and finally the producer to see where the problem originated.  This makes people accountable at each step in the  process for the meat they produce and makes them take responsibility for the practices that they follow.

You might be wondering why you would want to participate in such a program.  As I mentioned before, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned and are demanding assurances of food safety.  In response the meat processing industry is going with the HACCP strategy and in my opinion bison producers will have to keep up or be left behind.  Some food retail chains have already made it a policy to only purchase product that originates from a HACCP program.  You can choose to not participate in the program but then you will need to find your own market for your product.

The CBA HACCP committee aims to have its program in place in the next 18 months.  The details have not been finalized but what they hope to develop is a voluntary HACCP program that ensures participants are producing a safe food product.  There will be 3-4 critical control points (examples are broken needles, drug residues, heavy metal contamination) that will be monitored.  The HACCP program will require accurate records so that auditors can be sure that the rules are followed.  As well the CBA will also be coming out with a set of Good Production Practices to help farmers with their production of bison.  They will be based on common sense and will include a lot of methods already employed by bison producers.  When the HACCP Committee completes the program more details will be available on how it will affect you, the bison producer.

I would like to thank Dr. John Grinde, member of the CBA HACCP Committee, for his assistance with this article.

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