Part3: Determining Critical Control Points in Food Production Processes

Determining Critical Control Points

All the food people eat must be absolutely pure and clean. This is one of the most important imperatives in the food industry. One decisive criterion here is that your products leave your factory without any metal contaminations and other contaminants. The inspection of products for metallic contaminations has become an indispensable element of responsible food production, an inherent part of any HACCP concept (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), and a prerequisite of successful IFS certification.

What are Critical Control Points?

In a comprehensive and systematic HACCP concept it is not enough to only inspect the final product for contaminations, because this means that there still is danger due to contaminations in raw materials which during processing are reduced to such small pieces that they can no longer be reliably detected in a final inspection. To guarantee optimal food safety, inspections must therefore be performed at various points in the production process. The HACCP concept specifies that all the points where missing inspection involves an unacceptable health risk for consumers must be determined. These points in the production process are referred to as CCPs (Critical Control Points).

For defining the proper CCPs and thus for achieving a safe HAACP concept the potential hazards in the production process must first be identified by way of a so-called hazard analysis.

Hazard analysis

In a hazard analysis all the physical, chemical, and biological hazards that might possibly occur must be identified.  Physical hazards for example include the contamination of the product with metals, glass splinters, bones, etc.  

A risk assessment also must be performed, analysing on the one hand the probability of contamination, and on the other hand the effects of such contamination.

Summarising, the following questions should thus be answered in the hazard analysis:

  • What kinds of contamination may occur during production?
  • What is the probability of occurrence of these contaminations?
  • What are the possible consequences of these contaminations? 

Identification of critical control points

Using a decision tree has proven to be a useful aid for identifying Critical Control Points:

Inspection systems such as e.g. metal detectors or X-ray scanners that detect and signal or automatically separate possible contaminations are used at the identified CCPs.

Critical limits

Once the Critical Control Points have been determined, specific limits are defined for each of these control points. Food safety only is guaranteed if these limits are observed. For the use of metal detectors or X-ray scanners these limits particularly refer to the scanning sensitivity, i.e. to the size of the detectable contamination, and to the corresponding signalling or eject devices.

Establishing a monitoring system

Monitoring systems that monitor whether the defined limits are observed and indicate a possible loss of control are set up for each Critical Control Point. For metal detectors and X-ray systems this is done for example by way of test pieces that are used to check proper equipment function in regular intervals.   

Taking corrective measures

If the limits of a Critical Control Point are not observed, previously defined corrective measures must be taken.

Here you can find all parts of our guidelines on contaminant detection in the food industry

Part 1: Basics of Metal Detection in the Food Industry
Part 2: Use of X-ray Inspection Systems in the Food Industry
Part 3: Determining Critical Control Points in Food Production Processes
Part 4: Testing of Contaminant Detector Performance According to BRC Standards