Columns Food Fund Fridays

September 27, 2013 at 11:38 am

Food Fund Friday – Open-Source HAACP Program

Under current state and federal laws, food growers and manufacturers must have Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points or HACCP plans in place as a preventative measure against foodborne illness or contamination. Everyone who wants to sell fish, meat, produce, juice, or school food is required to draw up a HAACP plan and pay for verification from an outside party that it’s working.

Originally developed in the 1960s in a joint effort between the Pillsbury Corporation and NASA to make space food safe for consumption, HAACP plans weren’t required until the 1990s. After an E.coli outbreak in the Northwest United States which sickened hundreds, the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Systems (HACCP) Rule was put into place in 1996.

Each HAACP plan is based on seven principles:

  1. Conduct a hazard analysis
  2. Identify critical control points (places in food manufacturing where food safety hazards can be prevented)
  3. Establish critical limits for each critical control point
  4. Establish critical control point monitoring requirements
  5. Establish corrective actions
  6. Establish procedures to ensure HAACP system is working as intended
  7. Establish record-keeping procedures

If only HAACP plans were so simple. [Tom Arthur - Flickr]

If only HAACP plans were so simple.
[Tom Arthur – Flickr]

In essence, it’s a written review of the “assembly line” steps of your business – looking in particular at where things might go wrong. Though having HAACP plans in place is a good step toward food safety, the process of verification can be cost prohibitive. Because these documents have traditionally been so expensive to produce, they’re considered secret intellectual property of the company who created them. There’s not much room for sharing with producers for whom these additional initial costs may be too high to overcome. That’s why Underground Meat Collective, based in Madison, WI, wants to create an open-source HAACP plan for salami producers everywhere. 

They have been a state-certified facility for two years but, in order to expand, have to create their own HACCP plan to satisfy USDA requirements. A verified plan, according to their Kickstarter video, costs $35,000-40,000 to create.

“We don’t see it as a thing where just big companies with a lot of money should have access to this information. We want to see tons of small producers and even farmers who want to do this be able to without researching food safety information that’s already been done.”

The pitch? Share food safety information with small producers and get some salami in the bargain. It’s unclear how much these HAACP plans will have to be changed to adapt to new processing facilities or whether, in order to use the verified process, salami makers will have to stick with Underground Meat’s particular model. However, the act of freely putting more information about complicated legal processes in the open will undoubtedly be of help to many.

-Tove K. Danovich