Verification and validation comprise principle 6 of the HACCP study and must be carried out for each identified CCP in the HACCP plan. Verification is defined as the application of tests, procedures, and evaluations, in addition to monitoring, that determine the validity of the HACCP plan and that the system is operating as written . Verification deals with implementation of the HACCP plan. It must be a routine part of the daily production process. The purpose of verification is to confirm through documentation that food safety has been achieved at the CCPs according to the implemented HACCP plan .
Major verification activities include plant audits, calibration of instruments and equipment, CCP records review, targeted sampling, and microbiological testing . The objective of audit verification is to compare actual practices with what is contained in the HACCP plan. Audits can be performed by a member of the HACCP team, plant management, outside experts or consultants, regulatory agencies, and customers. If the calibration of instruments and equipment is not done on a scheduled and frequent basis, significant deviations at a CCP might go unnoticed, thus creating a potential health hazard. If this happens, the CCP would be considered out of control since the last documented acceptable calibration. The CCP record review involves examining two types of records generated at each CCP: monitoring and corrective action. These records are valuable management tools, providing documentation that CCPs are operating within established safety parameters and that deviations are being handled in a safe and appropriate manner. Verification also includes targeted sampling and microbiological testing. Vendor compliance can be checked by targeted sampling when receipt of material is a CCP, and purchase specifications are relied on as control limits. Microbiological testing can be used as a verification tool to determine if the overall operation is under control.
In 1986 the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Food (ICMSF) published a statistically based acceptance sampling plan for testing microbiological hazards in foods . Although acceptance sampling utilizes random sample collection and has good statistical validity, the nonrandom distribution of pathogens and low probability for detection gives no guarantee that their number is below a safe level or that they are absent from fruit and vegetable products . While acknowledging this inherent flaw, acceptance sampling is based on sound science and therefore can serve as an important verification tool in the design and validation of process control through monitoring . Microbiological results obtained for a food product can tell about the process: whether the process at the time of sampling was good (under control) or bad (out-of-control) in its abatement of microorganisms and/or human pathogens. Also, to improve verification, the stringency of acceptance sampling plans can be increased by modifying the operating characteristic (OC) curves associated with these plans to increase sample size draw or lower acceptance numbers. These more rigorous criteria for acceptance will ensure a higher probability for making the correct decision to pass or fail inspection by these plans . As noted by Leaper, some end product testing, particularly for verification purposes, will always be required by customers to document product safety to consumers .
Validation of the HACCP plan should be performed whenever there are indications that a process is unstable or out of control, or whenever there is a change in product, formulation, or processing equipment. HACCP revalidation should be performed on a periodic basis, even if no changes have occurred in the process, so the plan will retain its support base .
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