Script: Designing a HACCP Plan – Part 5
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Hello and welcome! This is Sheila Johnson and Dr. Ron Jones from the Food Safety and
Inspection Service. Today we will be discussing part five in a ten part series on how
meat and poultry plants go about Designing a HACCP Plan. For a quick review we’ve
covered a general overview of HACCP, the preliminary steps and the first two
principles - Conducting a Hazard Analysis and Identifying Critical Control Points. Now
let’s tackle step three - Establishing Critical Limits.
Ron, can you tell us what critical control points are?
Critical limits are measureable or observable values that can be used to judge whether
specific food safety standards have been met. They’re important because if a process
can meet specific food safety standards, the resulting product will meet a certain
food safety level. The critical limits are designed to ensure that the process meets
standards for food safety which have been scientifically determined through validated
When do you need critical limits?
Each critical control point will have at least one (possibly more) preventative
measures that need to be controlled to assure prevention, elimination or reduction of
foods safety hazards. So, at each critical control point in the HACCP plan, the
establishment must identify corresponding critical limits.
How do plants determine critical limits?
Critical limits can come from a variety of sources. They may be based on FSIS
regulations or guidelines, FDA tolerances and action levels, scientific and technical
literature, surveys, experimental studies or the recommendations of recognized experts
in the industry, academia, trade associations or processing authorities.
What are some common critical limits?
Most often, critical limits are parameters such as temperature, time, pH, physical
dimensions, or the absence of target pathogens. To be effective, each critical limit
must be actual values that can be measured and based on factual information. The
objectives should be measureable or observable and they must be appropriate for the
food product and operation. When determining your critical limits you should consider
the type of equipment, the volume of product being produced, how the critical limit
will be monitored and the frequency of the monitoring.
What information on critical limits are plants required to keep?
I’m glad you asked Sheila. Each establishment must be able to provide a basis
for their decision regarding how they selected and developed their critical limits.
This supporting documentation needs to be available for the inspector to review. A
production process that has not met the critical limits may have produced an unsafe
Can you provide us with an example or two of
Yes, a critical limit could be that all poultry must be chilled immediately after
processing to a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less. This critical control
limit would be based on the Code of Federal Regulations – 9 CFR 381.66(b). This
temperature has been demonstrated through scientific studies to keep pathogens such as
Salmonella from growing. Another example could be cooking beef jerky produced under
the heat treated HACCP process to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit
for 15 seconds. This limit is based on the industry standard which was determined by
microbiological testing that confirms the effectiveness of destroying the pathogen
Well Ron thanks for the information on critical limits. Also, thanks to all of you out
there for listening. For more information on Designing a HACCP plan visit
www.fsis.usda.gov. Join us for the next episode
in our series “Designing a HACCP Plan” where we will talk about the fourth HACCP
Principle “Establishing Monitoring Procedures.”
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