Introduction

might contaminate fruits and vegetables during handling between the farm and consumer. The basic objective of HACCP is to ensure consistent and safe food production. By identifying in advance potential problems in a fruit or vegetable operation and establishing control measures at those stages critical for food safety, potential microbiological, chemical, or physical hazards can be reduced, prevented, or eliminated. HACCP is based on two important concepts in safe food production: prevention and documentation [1]. HACCP is a tool that can determine how and where safety hazards may exist in a food operation and how to prevent their occurrence. Once located, these hazards may then be confirmed and controlled through documentation (record-keeping) procedures.

During HACCP implementation and maintenance, an understanding of the production system in relation to process control is of paramount importance. There are many sources of variation that must be recognized and reduced to achieve consistent control over product quality and safety. Properly defining and documenting a process is an important first step toward understanding and gaining control over the process. Summers has identified a process as simply taking inputs and performing value-added activities on those inputs to create an output [2]. Take, for example, the fresh-cut (minimally processed) produce process for making a salad product. Inputs such as raw materials (lettuce, red cabbage, carrots), people (plant workforce), machines (processing equipment), and methods (machine settings, quality control, etc.) perform value-added activities (grading, cutting, washing, drying, and packaging) to transform whole produce into a 3/8 inch chopped salad product contained in a 14-ounce bag. Complementary to this production process is the need to ensure consistent product safety. Thus HACCP serves as that portion of the establishment's overall process control system that focuses on safety [3].

The need and value of process control technology and its integration into the HACCP process is addressed in this chapter. Although HACCP is often referred to as a preventive system, from a statistical standpoint HACCP would be more appropriately described as a means of minimizing the variability of safety parameters in a processing system [3]. However, in order to achieve consistency of operation, process control techniques must be coupled with HACCP principles to keep those parameters being monitored under control and within safety limits. This chapter also focuses on how a statistical approach to safety, such as statistical process control (SPC), can be effectively applied to the HACCP process.

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