May
11
2012

HACCP versus FMEA

When I ask people who attend my HACCP training courses what feeling do you get in your gut when you hear the word HACCP, a nice warm fuzzy feeling, or a knot? The vast majority, be they the most competent technical manager or a production supervisor who is reluctantly sitting in front of me, say a knot. All of these people are responsible, motivated people, who understand the importance of food safety, otherwise they wouldn’t be in their positions. So why does HACCP instil negative feelings in so many people?

The simple answer to this question is that people simply do not understand HACCP … as I didn’t. However my exposure to FMEA, (Failure Mode and Effect Analysis), helped me sort out in my own head what I believe to be the single most important concept in HACCP – failure and the effect of failure. This is one idea that I believe we do not engage enough with in HACCP. To do this, the first thing we must establish is what does failure mean? Failure in my world means ‘loss of control’.

To explore this concept I will take two examples; pasteurisation and metal detection.

Pasteurisation
With pasteurisation if my controls fail i.e, I do not achieve the time/temperature combination, the pathogens that are present in raw milk, will survive. Hence if I lose control i.e., failure, the effect is very significant as the hazard will be present in the finished product.

Metal detection
With metal detection if my controls fail i.e., metal detector malfunctions, the effect of failure is less significant as the likelihood of metal being present in the product in the first place, is low. This does not mean metal detection is not important. It is, but, the risk to public health from metal detection failure is much lower than the risk to public health from pasteurisation failure.

In the case of pasteurisation, the effect of failure is very significant. In the case of metal detection, the effect of failure is less significant. Hence I would call pasteurisation a Critical Control Point (CCP) and metal detection an Operational Prerequisite (OPRP).

To fully understand HACCP one must be able to visually conceptualise it i.e., draw it. Once you can draw it, you will no longer get the knot in your gut!

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