With the coming into force of the "Hygiene Package," the European Community has entrusted the responsibility for food safety to operators in the sector, through the implementation of a self-checking program based on the HACCP principles.
Developing a self-checking program based on HACCP means dealing with a series of actions that require a significant commitment from food business operators, not just financially but also in terms of management and time. Where financial resources and qualified staff are available, for example in larger businesses, this is less of a problem. However, smaller companies are likely to find greater difficulties.
The self-checking program must take into account the following:
- facility size
- raw materials used
- production procedures
- premises and equipment
- finished products
- system for placing on the market
Where the prerequisite requirements (whether or not supplemented with guides to good practices) achieve the objective of controlling hazards in food, it should be considered, based on the principle of proportionality, that the obligations laid down under the food hygiene rules have been met and that there is no need to proceed with the obligation to put in place, implement and maintain a permanent procedure based on the HACCP principles. It is clear that the food business operator must prepare a written self-checking program that covers all of the prerequisite procedures put in place by the facility manager, the results of the checks and the measures adopted following these results.
In the dairy sector, specifically, the basic hygiene procedures are as follows:
• infrastructural and equipment maintenance
• management of raw materials
• handling of food waste and by-products
• pest control procedures
• sanitation procedures (cleaning and disinfection)
• water quality management
• temperature control
• staff hygiene and health
• traceability and withdrawal of foods
• respect for food safety and process hygiene criteria
These requirements are designed to control hazards in a general way and they are clearly prescribed in Community law. They may be supplemented with guides to good practices established by the different food sectors.