Automated HACCP Data Collection
By Matt Ruth on Aug 09, 2010
In the past few decades we have certainly benefited from many of the new materials, products, and engineering developments spun off from the NASA Space program. One in particular comes to mind. In 1959 NASA adopted the HACCP program with the cooperation of Pillsbury who had pioneered this approach to ensure the integrity of their food manufacturing processes. NASA was searching for the most effective way to protect the purity and safety of the food supply our astronauts would live on throughout their space journeys. The HACCP program filled the bill.
HACCP, as all food providers now know, stands for Hazard Analysis-Critical Control Points. In a food preparation line, what and where are the entry points where something could go wrong affecting either the materials or the process itself? Once these CCPs are identified and noted, then each point can be controlled and monitored to ensure compliance to set standards
For example, for a bread or dough manufacturing process some of the CCPs would include the material storage silos, oven temperatures and timing cycles, along with CIP (clean in process) schedule compliance on the mixing, slicing, and packaging machinery lines. For every delivery of flour into its silo, the magnetic detectors monitoring metal content would have to be read and recorded. Each of the ingredient silos would be periodically monitored for foreign objects such as insects and mice droppings etc. Every batch would have its oven temperature and timing data recorded. Then as each batch left the packaging line, records would be available to show that data was collected on every CCP and complied with the set targets.
As the FDA became aware of the potential benefits of HACCP to ensure the integrity of the food supply chain, regulations were introduced requiring this approach. Fruit Juice was first (21C FR120) followed in 1997 with regulations for the fish and sea food industries (21CFR123). The USDA, responsible for the meat and poultry industries issued regulations in 1997 first mandating the HACCP program in slaughtering establishments (9CFR417). By 2000 all establishments involved with meat and poultry production were included in this regulation.
Briefly, these regulations require all producers to list the CCPs, their critical limits, the monitoring procedures and frequencies used, the corrective actions to be followed in response to deviation from a critical limit, and most importantly the maintenance of a recordkeeping system. These records must be signed and verified by a responsible establishment official and stored for a minimum of one to two years depending on the food category.
Records are a necessary tool in all manufacturing industries but for companies in the food supply chain they are both mandatory and invaluable. They provide the data to date product production, identify the source and arrival time of every ingredient, and a record of all control and process variables. The variety of SCADA computer systems available provides a data collection option for all user companies, large or small, depending on their individual preference and needs. The HACCP data can readily be incorporated into one’s existing system with a few modifications.
One problem that does arise is the HACCP data that must be collected and entered manually since sensors are not available for these specific measurements. The visual reading of the magnetic sensor located in the flour silo would be a good example of this. Another would be the visual check for animal droppings in the various storage bins. If the monitoring procedures and frequencies required these readings to be taken with each flour delivery or perhaps once during an operating shift for other storage bins, what assurance does one have with the validity of the written check list. Was the reading really taken at the time entered or could it have been entered after the fact, hours after the set schedule? When data is automatically collected and stored from sensors (pressure, temperature, volume, time etc.) the accuracy is highly reliable and usually unquestionable. Unfortunately we can’t guarantee the validity of manual entries. Or can we?
In recent years technology has been developed to vastly improve the validity and the confidence one has in manual entry data. Using hand held wireless transmitters the data technician can manually update the SCADA computer with his/her identity, the time of each reading and the status involved. Combined with all of the data automatically collected and recorded from process sensors, the HACCP record keeping system is now complete, and certainly more valid and reliable.
Avanceon* is one of the country’s largest and most experienced Control System Integrators, specializing in MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) for the Food & Beverage and Pharmaceutical markets. They have furnished numerous systems to food processors of all sizes to help them comply with their HACCP record keeping requirements. One of the major benefits of these systems is the complete elimination or a vast reduction in the paper storage requirements for past records. All of the data is computer stored (with backup, or course) and the ease of searching for data on past shipments borders on being phenomenal.
To summarize, statistics show a remarkable percentage improvement in the reduction of Salmonella pathogens in the meat and poultry industries following HACCP guidelines. Similar improvements have been accomplished to prevent botulism in the processed food industries. Proper implementation of HACCP procedures combined with automated data collection will continue to protect the safety of our food supply in addition to providing opportunities for improved process efficiency.
*Avanceon is a CSIA Certified Member. www.avanceon.com