The first part when developing a HACCP plan is to undertake the 5 preliminary steps. The preliminary steps are intended to help you gather and collate background information that will help with implementation of the 7 principles of HACCP. The HACCP preliminary steps form an important precursor to effectively identifying and controlling food safety hazards within your food business.
Reference is often made to flow process charts. Step 4 of the HACCP preliminary steps requires a food business to document the product / process flow. Step 5 requires that this flow process is then verified (checked that it is correct).
What is a Flow Process Chart?
A flow process chart is a pictorial representation of a process. Within the food industry, it generally represents all the steps that raw materials go through to become a finished product.
Steps in a flow process chart can include Receival of raw materials, store of ingredients, preparation, cooking, cooling, packing, labelling, bulk storage and distribution.
Depending on your process you may have many more or less steps and types of steps than these listed.
If you do not verify (check that it is correct) the flow process chart prior to undertaking the 7 principles of HACCP, you will be at risk of not identifying all possible hazards at all possible steps in your process. Also, during a certification audit, the auditor will be looking to see if you have verified your flow process chart and will most likely perform their own check during the site inspection. If you want to avoid getting a non-conformance raised against your system, correct flow chart verification is essential.
How to verify your process
The easiest way to verify your flow process is to grab a copy of the flow process (that you have documented) and physically walk the process from start to finish. Look to see that you have included all steps on your documented chart and also check that you don’t have steps documented on your chart that don’t actually exist in real life.
When to Verify
You flow process needs to be verified (as a minimum) once every 12 months (but double check your certification standard for the frequency). Verification is also required whenever there is a change to your process. The HACCP team should confirm the processing operation against the flow diagram during all stages and hours of operation and amend the flow diagram where appropriate.
If you want to recap on the HACCP Basics (including flow process charts) check out the following free webseminar – The HACCP Basics