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NCIMS Dairy HACCP - Questions and Answers

June 2002; Updated February 24, 2005, October 2007, February 2008, November 2008, October 2010

Return to Dairy HCAAP

National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS)

Questions and Answers

The answers to these questions have been prepared by the NCIMS HACCP Technical Resource Team and are based on the NCIMS HACCP Requirements. The Technical Resource Team is comprised of federal, state, and industry representatives. Additional questions and answers, accepted by the NCIMS HACCP Technical Resource Team after the issuance of MI-07-4, are indicated by a note in square brackets, [like this], preceeding each addition. Questions and answers are organized into the following categories.

 


 

General

  1. What is the NCIMS HACCP committee mission?

    A: To address how a voluntary HACCP System should be implemented, evaluated, monitored and enforced under the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) as an alternative to the traditional Inspection/Rating/Check Rating System. This program will:

    • Utilize current National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) HACCP principles that are consistent with current FDA HACCP recommendations.
    • Continue to assure at least the same level of milk safety provided by the traditional Inspection/Rating/Check Rating System.
    • Continue to provide uniformity and reciprocity under the HACCP alternative to the traditional Inspection/ Rating/Check Rating System. 
     
  2. Why would the NCIMS choose the HACCP system for study?

    A: HACCP is the internationally-accepted, science-based system for ensuring food safety controls, harmonized with the current recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF). In the U.S., Meat and Poultry are regulated under HACCP by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Seafood is regulated under HACCP by the FDA and new regulations have been proposed for juices. In addition, FDA also has an Advance Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) published for HACCP for the rest of the food industry.

  3. What is HACCP?

    A: HACCP is a science-based system used to ensure that food safety hazards are controlled to prevent unsafe food from reaching the consumer.

  4. How does HACCP differ from traditional food safety systems?

    A: HACCP places more ownership of the responsibility on the food processor to identify and control hazards and to document the effectiveness of the system. In addition, it requires constant verification that the system is working.

  5. How much authority is given up by the regulatory agency when HACCP is adopted?

    A: None. The regulatory agency retains its authority and responsibility for oversight to verify that food is manufactured according to the firm's HACCP plan and is handled in such a way that its safety is assured.

  6. What are the advantages of adopting the HACCP System?

    A: Safety is enhanced by a proactive approach of continuous monitoring of food safety controls and documentation of results and corrective actions. This monitoring takes place in "real time" rather than a reactive, after-the-fact approach.

  7. How does HACCP enhance food safety?

    A: HACCP requires monitoring to reveal when food safety limits have been violated. This results in taking corrective actions to reinstate control and through documented procedures to prevent recurrence. The operation of the system is constantly verified.

  8. What is the regulatory agency's role in HACCP?

    A: As noted previously, regulatory authority and responsibility for oversight in the safety of food have not changed, but HACCP allows more flexibility to use resources wisely and gives the regulator a continuous picture of food safety controls applied and documentation of corrective actions.

  9. What is wrong with the PMO that it requires new HACCP regulations?

    A: Nothing. The committee is developing guidelines for an alternative voluntary HACCP program. This is another tool the states and industry have available for assuring the safety of milk and milk products.

  10. Is mandatory HACCP under the NCIMS program on the horizon?

    A: No, HACCP is a voluntary alternative to the traditional system under the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.

  11. What food safety issues does HACCP address?

    A: HACCP evaluates and addresses potential biological, physical, and chemical hazards. These hazards may be introduced from raw materials, the process, equipment, the environment, and employees.

  12. How will the components of the PMO be addressed in HACCP?

    A: The PMO represents the cumulative wisdom and knowledge for producing safe dairy products. The expectation of the committee is that food safety controls addressed in the PMO will be addressed in HACCP to provide an equivalent margin of safety to the consumer.

  13. How much of HACCP did the committee have to "reinvent"?

    A: The committee turned to the 1997 National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) document for guidance on the HACCP system. This document provided guidance for the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) "MegaReg", the FDA seafood HACCP regulation, and the FDA juice regulation, as well as being harmonized with Codex Alimentarius international guidelines. The committee did not make major departures from the structure of the internationally accepted HACCP system.

  14. How can input be provided to the HACCP Implementation committee?

    A: The committee welcomes and encourages outside input, which will assist it in accomplishing its tasks in an effective and timely manner. The committee asks that comments honor its mission statement, its previous deliberations, and its time constraints. Observers are welcome at meetings and are welcome to provide relevant input during deliberations. However, time does not allow for reviewing and revisiting past deliberations during committee meetings. For the current Chair, see the list of HACCP Implementation Committee members.

  15. Why do we need a voluntary alternative to the PMO? If there are two programs available, that makes it harder to manage and support. Is the goal for HACCP to replace the PMO system if it is proven to work? Why was HACCP formed? Is it that the current operating system is not adequate?

    A: It has never been said that the current system is not adequate. HACCP allows processors to take a systematic approach in identifying and managing food safety hazards when the NACMCF principles are applied. HACCP is a science-based system used to ensure that food safety hazards are controlled to prevent unsafe food from reaching the consumer.

  16. How does the fact that some plants could be under the HACCP program and others under the current program promote uniformity within the NCIMS?

    A: FDA State program evaluations will continue to be conducted and include plants utilizing the traditional system and plants utilizing the HACCP system to promote uniformity within NCIMS.

  17. Could the critical control limit be a range?

    A: No, the critical limit must have a specific cut off.

  18. By definition, a critical limit is based on scientific evidence. If this is so, why can a critical limit for pasteurization not be based on thermal death curve values rather than on regulatory definitions such as 145° F for 30 minutes or 161° F for 15 seconds? (i.e. Why not 170° F for 10 seconds, if based on thermal death curve data?

    A: The definitions of pasteurization, which are cited in the question, are based on science. These temperatures and times have been adjusted over the years to help insure the destruction of pathogens in milk and milk products. If a firm wanted to use different definitions, the data must be submitted to FDA for approval.

  19. Should we get caught up in definitions of deviation, deficiency and non-conformity? In our plant's quality system any deviation is a non-conformity and is either major or minor. Internal to plant understanding that an outside auditor will use deviation and deficiency terms, can we continue to say any deviation is considered a non-conformity?

    A: Internally, plant personnel can use their own definitions, but the plant needs to recognize that the NCIMS HACCP program has specific definitions for these terms and we would encourage that they be used.

  20. Have any state regulators been part of an industry HACCP team?

    A: No, but the plant should utilize the resources provided by FDA and the state regulator.

  21. Should states lacking the authority to issue permits under the NCIMS HACCP Program because they have failed to adopt the 2003 Grade "A" PMO be automatically excluded from participating in the HACCP alternative until they do have the authority?

    A: The question was sent to the NCIMS Executive Board for resolution. The following motion was agreed to by the NCIMS Executive Board and FDA.

    "After further discussion a motion passed unanimously for FDA to continue to accept HACCP listings from states already participating in the HACCP pilot program and additional states that wish to participate in HACCP listings, and recognize that they may not have the enabling legislation, but point out they must have legislation adopted within the 6 year time frame as recommended by the Liaison Committee for State Program Evaluations."

    "It was agreed that if a State does not adopt legislation within the 6 year period they may be considered in non-compliance on the next State Program Evaluation, which would trigger an Action Plan, and if the Action Plan is not followed the issue would be turned over to the Executive Board."

  22. [Added November 2008] On the Milk plant, Receiving Station or Transfer Station NCIMS HACCP System Audit Report Form FD 2359m (10/06) is Section 12-c necessary as it applies to a requirement of the state regulatory agency, not the HACCP plant?

    A: Yes, during a State HACCP listing audit or an FDA audit of HACCP a listing.

    Part of the milk plant’s HACCP system (as it is audited by the State for an IMS listing, or by FDA for continuation of an IMS listing) is that the State Regulatory agency issue a report, set timelines (normally with the HACCP plant’s concurrence) to complete the identified deficiencies of the HACCP audit, and follow up on the timelines to be sure that corrections were made.

    During State regulatory audits and State follow-up audits, Section 12-c would not normally be marked but would serve as a reminder to issue a report, set time frames (normally with plant concurrence) for correction and follow up to verify that the corrections were made.

 

Prerequisite Programs

  1. What is the time requirement for retaining Prerequisite Program (PP) records?

    A: In Appendix K of the PMO it explains that "All records required by this part shall be retained at the milk plant, receiving station or transfer station facility for, in the case of perishable or refrigerated products, at least one (1) year after the date that such products were prepared, and for, in the case of frozen, preserved, or shelf- stable products, two (2) years or the shelf life of the product, whichever is greater, after the date that the products were prepared unless longer retention time is required by other regulations.

  2. Should the cleaning and sanitizing of milk tankers that leave the establishment destined for a co-op be included in the plant's PP for cleaning even though those tankers may not deliver milk back to the firm?

    A: Yes, tanker cleaning should be part of the PP since there is a possibility that some of the tankers will deliver milk back to the firm.

  3. We understood that the plant was to determine what Prerequisite Programs (through the hazard analysis process) would be monitored, controlled, and verified. The regulators understanding, on the other hand, is that many if not all of the PP's listed in the Grade "A" PMO, Appendix K, PP's must be written and implemented. Can you please tell us how and who determines which basic PP's should be implemented? What is acceptable documentation for these basic prerequisites programs?

    A: Grade "A" PMO, Appendix K. PP's indicates that dairy plants are required to develop, document and implement brief written PP's and that PP's shall address public health concerns identified in the various regulations. Mandatory programs include the eight required PP's listed in the GRADE "A" PMO, Appendix K, which must be implemented by the plant, if applicable. The exact set of PP's to be implemented should be determined by the plant. In fact, the plant's hazard analysis should clearly identify the PP's that reduce the likelihood of potential food safety hazards.

    The regulator must determine if the PPs developed by the plant adequately address food safety issues. The regulator should also determine if PPs are implemented, monitored and verified by the plant.

  4. Is dirty equipment OK under HACCP?

    A: Dirty equipment is not acceptable under the PMO and is covered in the Grade "A" PMO, Appendix K. PP's.

  5. A milk plant wants to use the same piping system to deliver product recovery water and cleaning and/or sanitizing solutions. What safeguards are needed to protect the public health?

    A: The Grade "A" Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) Item 15p(B) 1 prohibits direct piping connections between pipelines and equipment used to contain or conduct milk and milk products with tanks or circuits containing cleaning and/or sanitizing solutions except when a specific type of block and bleed valve system is used.

    Sub-item (7) of this item allows variations from those specifications if the variations have been individually evaluated and found acceptable and the level of protection is not compromised. A variation must be validated under the milk plant HACCP system. These variations must be accepted by the state and FDA.

    The criteria to be used to accept a variation could include an individual processing plant review of the design of their system. SOPs must be identified to manage potential cross-contamination and must be monitored, documented, and verified. All monitoring and verification records would be reviewed during the regulatory audit including the FDA audit.

  6. With regard to PP's, must all of our records of monitoring, review and corrective action created as part of the PPs be assembled in a central location as is the HACCP Plan and CCP data?

    A: Centralization of PP records is not required, however, to help analyze trends, it may be helpful to consolidate these records.

  7. Should a recall procedure be part of the PPs?

    A: The industry may choose to include its recall procedure in its HACCP system but this is not a requirement of the Grade "A" PMO. The plant must be able to quickly remove product from commerce when it is injurious to health or it is otherwise adulterated.

  8. How are such things as equipment construction (materials, finish, etc.) controlled under HACCP? Are the current requirements (conformance with the PMO or 3A) still applicable or mandatory? Is equipment review still applicable?

    A: Equipment meeting 3-A standards is not required under the current system or under the Grade "A" PMO. Equipment construction is covered in the Grade "A" PMO, Appendix K. Required PPs b. and e. as listed in the Grade "A" PMO, Appendix K or 2 and 5 as they are listed on the Form FDA 2359m.

  9. Are monitoring and record keeping for vitamin addition required under HACCP in the Grade "A" PMO?

    A: The PMO requires vitamin testing and vitamin use volume control in Grade "A" milk plants. No exception is provided for HACCP plants. Section 6 requires:

    Assays of milk and milk products as defined in this Ordinance, to which vitamin(s) A and/or D have been added, shall be made at least annually in a laboratory, which has been accredited by FDA and which is acceptable to the Regulatory Agency, using test methods acceptable to FDA or other official methodologies, which gives statistically equivalent results to the FDA methods. Vitamin testing laboratories are accredited if they have one (1) or more certified analysts and meet the quality control requirements of the program established by FDA. Laboratory accreditation and analyst certification parameters are specified in the EML manual.

    In addition, all facilities fortifying milk or milk products with vitamins must keep volume control records. These volume control records must cross reference the form and amount of vitamin D, vitamin A and/or vitamins A and D used with the amount of products produced and indicate a percent of expected use, plus or minus".

 

Preliminary Steps (flow diagram)

  1. Should the Product or Process flow diagram include a "flow diagram" of the pasteurization process used?

    A: No, it is not necessary or advisable to provide a detailed "flow diagram" of the pasteurization process in the process flow diagram. The purpose of the process flow diagram is to simply show all processing steps from raw material receipt through to finished product distribution, which are directly under the control of the manufacturing facility. The process flow diagram should show pasteurization as a processing step, whereas the details of pasteurization would be described in the hazard analysis.

    It would be important to discuss the mechanics and maintenance of the pasteurizer during the hazard analysis to determine if the pasteurizer itself could introduce a biological, chemical, or physical hazard. Therefore, the design, operation, and maintenance of the pasteurizer should be assessed during the hazard analysis and during the HACCP system validation to determine if pressure differential and other pasteurizer design features are adequately addressed and monitored. This assessment would be written under the justification column in the hazard analysis form and in the HACCP system validation report, but would not be detailed in the process flow diagram.

    The inspector/state listing auditor/FDA Regional Milk Specialist may continue to diagram a flow of the pasteurizing system as part of the verification of the hazard analysis.

 

Hazard Analysis

  1. Must the Prerequisite Program (PP) be identified as controlling a significant hazard before the PP is considered justified OR are PP's identified as controlling Potential Hazard Analysis considered justified?

    A: The hazard analysis is a step by step process: the initial step asks you to identify all potential hazards, the next step asks if any potential hazards are reasonably likely to occur (are they significant)? This is the step where you justify if an existing PP reduces the likelihood of that potential hazard, if yes - you document the justification (list the PP) and assure that the PP is written, monitored, with corrective action and appropriate records. If a PP is not in place to reduce the likelihood of a hazard, then that hazard is considered "likely to occur" or "significant" and needs to be controlled by a control measure, a CCP. The HACCP team would then document in the hazard analysis the appropriate control measure (CCP) to control the "significant" or "likely to occur" hazard.

  2. If the hazard analysis determines that certain processing equipment under the HACCP program can be operated for more than 24 hours without creating a food safety hazard, is the "once each day" PMO requirement for equipment cleaning a requirement under the HACCP program?

    A: Extended runs were accepted into the PMO when acceptable to states and FDA. The firm wishing to extend runs must submit justification for the length of run desired. Data to be submitted should be based on HACCP principles and may include but should not be limited to:

    1. Statement of proposal including desired cleaning frequency
    2. Product and equipment description
    3. Intended use and consumers
    4. Distribution and storage temperatures of product
    5. Diagram of process of interest
    6. Process parameters (including temperatures and times)
    7. Hazard evaluation/safety assessment
    8. Review of equipment for sanitary design
    9. When indicated by hazard evaluation/safety assessment, a plan for initial qualification shall be developed to address identified critical process parameters

    Any significant equipment or processing changes shall be communicated to the Regulatory Agency, and may result in a re-verification of the extended run proposal, if it is determined that the change could potentially affect the safety of the finished milk or milk product(s).

  3. If the hazard analysis has determined potable water used by the dairy plant (tested microbiologically every six months) does not constitute a hazard to the dairy products processed at the plant, is it acceptable under the HACCP program to use this potable water to "chase" pasteurized dairy products?

    A: The use of unpasteurized potable water was accepted into the PMO when it has undergone an equivalent process found to be acceptable to states and FDA. A firm wishing to use unpasteurized potable water must justify its use in writing and this justification should reside in the hazard analysis.

    Each individual processing plant must review the source and treatment of their own water system both internally and externally for food safety hazards. Preventive measures and prevention of cross-contamination measures used to reduce the likelihood of the food safety hazards must be documented and verified. PP's, which monitor and document the sanitary quality of the water supply, are required under the PP portion of the document. Frequency of testing will be dependent upon where the water is incorporated into the process, e.g. testing would be more frequent for cases where water is added post-pasteurization.

    All monitoring and verification records would be reviewed during the regulatory audit including the FDA audit.

  4. If a company chooses a consultant to do the hazard analysis entirely, does the consultant need to be trained in this program?

    A: Yes.

  5. An NCIMS HACCP plant would like to use potable water to flush the raw milk lines in receiving to the plant's raw milk silos. Even though this is an economic adulteration issue and not a health hazard, a representative of the plant has indicated that a hazard analysis would be completed and their proposal would prevent the accidental addition of water to the raw milk.

    If the plant's hazard analysis can show that their proposal would prevent the addition of water to raw milk, does HACCP give them the flexibility to follow through with this installation without approval from the state regulatory agency or FDA?

    A: The plan's PP should address the prevention of added water. Proper implementation of the PP should be verified during the regulatory and rating audits. Since it is an economic concern, failure of a plant to prevent adulteration falls under "Other Applicable NCIMS Requirements, adulteration" in Appendix K of the PMO. The state regulatory agency has the legal authority to take action against plants that fail to comply with this and other NCIMS requirements.

  6. [Added January 2008] Would it be safe to say the plants regulated under HACCP should consider vitamin addition during the hazard analysis?

    A: Yes, as an ingredient, vitamins need to be included in the Hazard Analysis process.

  7. [Added January 2008] Does the HACCP program need to address vitamin under or over fortification if a state regulatory vitamin sample results shows under or over fortification?

    A: Yes, page 23 of the 2005 PMO states, "Each milk plant regulated under the NCIMS HACCP Program shall adequately document its response to each regulatory sample test result that exceeds any maximum level specified in Section 7 of this Ordinance. The Regulatory Agency will monitor and verify that appropriate action(s) was taken by the milk plant." In the case of annual state vitamin analysis, this could be interpreted to include under fortification as well as over fortification. The hazard on vitamin under or over fortification is commonly addressed in the plant's HACCP prerequisite program on adulteration.

  8. [Added January 2008] Does a manufacturer of "Pasteurized" bulk cream need to control biological hazards with a pasteurization CCP even though the cream will be sold to a customer that will further process the cream (provide kill step)?

    A: Yes.

 

Verification/Validation

  1. Please clarify plant review of consumer complaints, does regulatory have access to actual complaints?

    A: No, the regulator does not have access to consumer complaints. The HACCP program requires the plant to review any consumer complaints they may receive. The regulator should, therefore, verify that the facility has a program to receive and review consumer complaints.

  2. For verification should all or most records be reviewed within 24 hours even when most of the plant's products are shipped within 12 hours?

    A: The frequency of verification is not specified in the Grade "A" PMO. The plant should consider the risks involved with shipping product prior to verification.

  3. Our HACCP plan states "All equipment of new design will be reviewed and/or inspected for compliance with State Regulatory." We send blueprints of the equipment/piping changes to the State for review. In the yearly validation form, it questions new equipment. I stated we added a new HTST and a new culture filler. I am questioning whether or not I need to indicate tanks and pumps in the new equipment validation form? We changed from a positive displacement pump to a diaphragm pump and we added some additional yogurt holding tanks.

    A: The Grade "A" PMO states that the HACCP plan shall be validated at least annually or whenever any changes in the process occur that could affect the hazard analysis or alter the HACCP plan and PP. Such changes may include changes in processing methods or systems. This would include equipment changes.

    Replacing equipment may or may not affect the HACCP plan or PP depending on what is replaced and the type of equipment substituted for it. Replacing a pasteurizer timing pump is a significant change requiring that the holding time be tested and seals be affixed. The change of a CIP pump from manufacturer A to manufacturer B which both have the same specifications may not be. Changing from a positive displacement pump to a diaphragm pump may impact cleanability and flow and most likely would need to be addressed.

  4. While it has been traditional to define HTST or HHST pasteurization by time and temperature, does the CCP for HTST or HHST pasteurization require the critical limit also include differential pressure?

    A: Maintaining minimum pressure differentials between the raw and pasteurized regenerator sections is covered under the "CCP Verification" section, not the "Critical Limits" section of an NCIMS HACCP Plan.

  5. [Added November 2007] When the lid was put back on the homogenizer after preventive maintenance one of the seals was sheared. The other seal remained intact. Both seals must be removed before changes can be made to the homogenizer. The pasteurizer did not notice the seal was broken, the state inspector noticed it during the HTST quarterly check. Is this a deviation of a critical control point, since a critical limit was not exceeded? It certainly needs to be addressed under verification.

    A: No, a broken seal does not represent a failure to meet a Critical Limit- in this case required holding time. The HTST/HHST HACCP Plan Model places seal integrity under the area of Verification of the HACCP plan.

  6. [Added January 2008] When the lid was put back on the homogenizer after preventive maintenance one of the seals was sheared. The other seal remained intact. Both seals must be removed before changes can be made to the homogenizer. The pasteurizer did not notice the seal was broken, the state inspector noticed it during the HTST quarterly check. Is this a deviation of a critical control point, since a critical limit was not exceeded? It certainly needs to be addressed under verification.

    A: No, a broken seal does not represent a failure to meet a Critical Limit- in this case required holding time. The HTST/HHST HACCP Plan Model places seal integrity under the area of Verification of the HACCP plan.

  7. [Added January 2008] When the lid was put back on the homogenizer after preventive maintenance one of the seals was sheared. The other seal remained intact. Both seals must be removed before changes can be made to the homogenizer. The pasteurizer did not notice the seal was broken, the state inspector noticed it during the HTST quarterly check. Is this a deviation of a critical control point, since a critical limit was not exceeded? It certainly needs to be addressed under verification.

    A: No, a broken seal does not represent a failure to meet a Critical Limit- in this case required holding time. The HTST/HHST HACCP Plan Model places seal integrity under the area of Verification of the HACCP plan.

  8. [Added November 2008] I am making an entirely new product in my HACCP listed facility. How do I handle this on the NCIMS HACCP Validation Checklist?

    A: Addition of a new product in an existing NCIMS HACCP Plant would trigger two validation related activities. Each may be documented using the "NCIMS HACCP Validation Checklist". Use of this specific form is not mandatory but it is strongly suggested and can be an extremely useful tool.

    The new product will require a validation prior to beginning production of the new product (the first checkbox on the "NCIMS HACCP Validation Checklist") for that product including; creation of a flow diagram, and a hazard analysis as well as identification of applicable Critical Control Points and applicable Prerequisite Programs etc.

    Production of a new product in an existing NCIMS HACCP plant would also trigger a reassessment validation (the second checkbox on the "NCIMS HACCP Validation Checklist") of the existing validated HACCP plan(s) at least to the point of determining whether production of this new product could affect the Hazard Analysis for the existing validated HACCP plan(s).

    If the Hazard Analysis for the existing validated HACCP plan(s) could be affected, a more complete reassessment validation for each affected HACCP plan may be needed.

    Both parts of this validation work must be completed and any needed HACCP system adjustments made BEFORE production of the new product begins.

  9. [Added November 2008] The Milk plant, Receiving Station or Transfer Station NCIMS HACCP System Audit Report Form FD 2359m (10/06) Section 7 Item C. 2. requires a reassessment of the HACCP plan be conducted after significant changes in the operation including raw materials and/or source, etc. The milk plant is responsible to be sure this happens.

    During an audit is there some specific required record of milk plant sources that can be audited by the State regulatory or listing or FDA auditor from which the auditor can know that there was a significant change in a source that would require a HACCP plan reassessment?

    A: No.

 

Audits

  1. If a plant has an IMS listing for condensed/dry products and a listing for their receiving area under the traditional system, how many HACCP listings should this facility have?

    A: One listing with product codes as needed to cover all currently listed products.

  2. Who is responsible for conducting the 30 to 45 day follow-up after a listing? The HACCP listing officer or the state plant inspector?

    A: The regulatory inspector.

  3. As you are aware, state agencies are required to "evaluate" milk plant receivers for sampling. Under HACCP, does the plant assume responsibility for this activity?

    A: No, since Appendix N must be followed regardless of the HACCP program.

  4. Must the regulator evaluate every HACCP plan for every product every time? Or is looking thoroughly at one plan (that in general contains most of the same info as all plans) sufficient to give the regulator confidence in the system?

    A: The degree to which each area of the HACCP system is examined is up to the discretion of the auditor. Initially (or whenever there are changes), the HACCP system review may be more extensive to verify that the system is working effectively.

  5. We reference pasteurization time and temperature as a CCP. If a plant has operated for 10 years and has never had a divert valve failure (or recorder and thermometer failure) and the preventative maintenance is part of the PP, can a plant justify not having the HTST as a CCP or is this a sacred cow?

    A: Pasteurization is a sacred cow and fits the classical definition of a CCP. The PMO contains CCP model HACCP Plan Summaries for continuous flow and batch pasteurizers.

  6. If a plant does not have a written prerequisite or hazard analysis, can it be listed?

    A: No, the lack of a written Hazard Analysis is a critical listing element. Appendix K of the PMO requires a written Hazard Analysis as well as a brief written description or checklist for each of the 8 required PP's and any PP's that are relied upon in the Hazard Analysis to reduce the likelihood of a hazard such that it is not reasonably likely to occur.

  7. Have plants been listed in the program without prerequisites being written in the HACCP program?

    A: No

  8. What action is taken on any audit if equipment tests are not performed per frequency required?

    A: Lack of these equipment tests is a Critical Listing Element.

  9. In HACCP, how do you deal with a repeat violation?

    A: Take regulatory action like you would under the traditional system

  10. Which has taken longer, a regular plant inspection or a HACCP plant audit?

    A: Initially a HACCP plant audit will take longer since all parties involved are on a learning curve.

  11. How should prescriptive requirements like the 72 hour time limit on holding milk products contained in the PMO be considered and evaluated by state auditors in plants participating in the NCIMS HACCP program? More specifically, if an auditor in a HACCP plant determines that a plant has not complied with the 72 hour time limit on more than one occasion and for more than one milk product, then how should the auditor proceed? Hopefully, the answer will provide a template or step-by-step process for arriving at a conclusion that is applicable to most; if not all prescriptive requirements in the PMO.

    A: The 72 hour time limit is a requirement of the PMO and thus constitutes "safe harbor" that may be used without further justification in the hazard analysis, and that will be considered to be acceptable during State Licensing, State Listing or FDA Check-audits.

    If the milk plant selects a less stringent standard (in this case a longer time limit) this must be justified in the Hazard Analysis and prerequisite programs and will be subject to review during State Licensing, State Listing or FDA Check audits.

  12. What would be a rough estimate of how long an audit will take? I realize this will depend on the size of the plant. For instance, how long would the audit take at a plant putting up 7-8 different Grade "A" products?

    A: Two days minimum.

  13. If during an audit it were observed that a chocolate milk product was processed at 163° F but the HTST was still in forward flow because the cut-out was set at 161° F, would this deviation in the process require a product recall? What if the temperature went under 166° F for only a few seconds? Would this require a product recall?

    A: Yes, both problems would require a product recall. We would follow the same rules as the traditional system.

  14. What happens if the auditor does not agree with the HACCP plan?

    A: The auditor would have to justify and document their concerns and the plan may have to be modified.

  15. Who determines the time frame (Industry/state) for the correction of problems found during a State enforcement audit?

    A: The same way corrections are made in the traditional system. The state regulatory agency has the final say as to the time frame. The correction should be discussed with the plant to determine the time frame that is appropriate.

  16. How will the voluntary HACCP program affect the listing if a plant has not chosen to have a HACCP plan?

    A: If the plant chooses to be listed under the HACCP alternative, they must have a HACCP system that conforms to the requirements of the program. If the hazard analysis (as verified by State licensing and listing officials) determines that there is a need for a HACCP plan, the plant may not be listed without one.

  17. Are the states and FDA required to provide pre-notification to the plants of upcoming audits?

    A: As under the traditional system, inspections are usually performed without notification. HACCP audits will normally be performed in the same manner. The audit may be announced at the discretion of the auditor under certain circumstances, e.g. initial audit, follow-up audit, new construction, pasteurizer checks. When unannounced audits are conducted, the audits shall not be completed until appropriate plant personnel have had an opportunity to make all pertinent records available for review by the auditor.

  18. Should we use Appendix N of the PMO to justify why antibiotic testing is required by the NCIMS HACCP program since there is little scientific evidence to use as justification?

    A: Complying with drug residue and trace back requirements of Appendix N. is required under Appendix K and is a critical listing element.

  19. A firm receives pasteurized milk to which it blends dry ingredients such as sugar and starch all with Certificates of Analysis from approved suppliers. Can a case be made for pasteurization being a PP rather than a Critical Control Point?

    A: No, since historical food-borne illness data overwhelmingly shows us that pasteurization is milk safety's "sacred cow".

  20. Is it required that a chart remain on a pasteurizer recorder after completion of CIP and prior to the next start up? If yes, what about if the plant has extended down time between runs?

    A: No, it is not required under the current program or under the HACCP Program.

  21. How do you establish the measure by which you determine the adequacy and effectiveness of procedures? These may be subjective methods but a measure should be quantitative?

    A: The plant's HACCP system must be evaluated against the plant's written HACCP system procedures and the requirements of the NCIMS HACCP Program as described in PMO Appendix K and related documents.

  22. If a deviation occurs which violates a cook critical limit but subsequent testing shows the cook step was effective, can the processor routinely refer to the incident as an acceptable response to similar deviations or is a change in the critical limit required?

    A: An operating limit should not be used as critical limit. The plant should change its HACCP plan to reflect the critical limit.

  23. Under the concept of HACCP, can a firm that has validated a heat process step for an aseptic operation under the low acid can food requirements of the CFRs consider this an acceptable control point for the production of extended shelf life (ESL) product? Does this step have to have a flow diversion device as outlined in the PMO?

    A: The NCIMS HACCP Program includes all of the pasteurization requirements of the PMO.

  24. Does the state regulatory agency or rating officer need to be notified when there is a change in the plant's HACCP plan? Will a copy of our HACCP plan be maintained by someone other than by our plant?

    A: Changes in the plant's HACCP plan or HACCP system will be reviewed by the state at the next audit. The plant must document any changes in its HACCP plan and maintain a current copy at the plant.

  25. Can I as a regulator insist on a change to a PP? Example: A firm using a spring for a water supply decides that monthly bacteria examination will be adequate to monitor the supply and ensure safe water. I as the regulator have knowledge that upstream contamination can occur from a pasture. Can I insist on a change to the PP? If the firm shows documentation and procedures they believe will be effective can I accept their PP?

    A: It is not the responsibility of the regulatory auditor to change the firm's PP. The regulator must evaluate the PP. Then the regulator must document any deficiencies or non-conformities found during an audit and establish timelines for correction. The firm must address any adverse regulatory findings.

  26. Do timelines need to be recorded for all corrective actions including PP's and plant self-audits?

    A: The regulator will work with the plant to establish timelines for corrections resulting from a regulatory audit. The plant will need to record timelines for correction if the particular PP or plant self-audit is part of the plant's HACCP system. Written timelines for correction are required for all deviations, deficiencies and non-conformities that are marked by the regulatory agency during a regulatory audit.

  27. When we as regulators review a HACCP plan, do we review such things as how something were determined to be a hazard and the rationale that went into it including the references consulted?

    A: Yes, the auditor needs to review the references and rationale considered in developing the HACCP plan.

  28. If I as a regulator am going to pre-announce my audit to the plant, should I also share my audit plan ahead of time with the plant?

    A: There is no requirement that you share your audit plan with the plant ahead of time. However, if the regulatory auditor has certain needs to review specific equipment, for example, these needs might be shared with the plant ahead of time.

  29. Are CLEs the only items addressed under the Corrective Actions in the PMO?

    If vitamins, adulteration and allergen issues are handled as a PP and over fortification of adulteration occurs, it does not appear to get the same scrutiny as if it was listed as a CLE. Should the Corrective Actions part of Appendix K include and define PP's that could cause a food safety/public health concern to be handled in the same manner as a CLE under Corrective Actions?

    A: The NCIMS HACCP Program defines corrective actions as, "Procedures followed when a deviation occurs." A deviation is defined as, "A failure to meet a critical limit." For example, if the required time and temperature is not met during HTST pasteurization, the corrective action is to manually divert the flow of the product, isolate the product, evaluate and determine its disposition and document these actions. If a plant includes vitamin addition as a critical control point, any deviation would be dealt with in this part of the HACCP plan.

    The plant may determine that its PP for vitamin addition reduces the potential of a food safety hazard resulting from vitamin over fortification to the point that it is not reasonably likely to occur.

    In either case, the auditor must review the plan's procedures to make sure they are adequate and being followed by the plant.

    A Critical Listing Element (CLE) is defined as, "An item on the NCIMS HACCP System Audit Report identified with a double star (**). The marking of a critical listing element by a state listing or FDA auditor indicates a condition that constitutes a major dysfunction likely to result in a potential compromise to food safety whereby a listing may be denied or withdrawn." Critical Listing Elements have been identified to assist the auditor in determining condition(s) which constitute a major dysfunction in the NCIMS HACCP system or that violate NCIMS requirements regarding drug residue testing and trace back requirements or raw milk sources.

  30. If an item is marked on a HACCP audit for a particular reason and on the next audit, the same item is marked, but for a different reason, does this count as a repeat violation?

    An example would be that Section 9., Item A was marked on our last audit for the ceiling not being in good repair in the processing room, then on our most recent audit, Section 9., Item A was marked because the spray ball assembly in milk receiving was assembled improperly. According to the state, this is a repeat violation.

    A: It is important to remember that HACCP is a program that requires a structured, systematic and preventive approach to food safety. If a deviation, deficiency, or non-conformity occurs in the plan's HACCP system, it is the auditor's responsibility, along with the plant, to determine the root cause for the occurrence.

    In the example given, it appears on the surface that two completely different issues have been identified by the auditor and, in this case, would not be repeat violations. However, after the auditor and the plant thoroughly investigate the reason for the violations, it is possible that the same root cause could be identified for both issues. For example, an incomplete PP.

    The regulatory auditor and the plant should work together to establish a timeline for correction of the items identified in the root cause analysis. This timeline and corrections must be documented in an Audit Report.

    If, after a thorough root cause analysis, the same violation occurs at the next audit because of the same root cause, this would be considered a repeat violation.

  31. The table of regulatory audit timeframes at the end of Appendix K of the PMO requires that a milk plant that meets the requirements for a 6 month minimum regulatory audit frequency revert to a 4 month minimum audit frequency if the plant has a violative water sample, or a current warning letter for 2 of the last 5 finished milk or milk product sample results that are violative.

    If the milk plant water sample result is found to be violative, or if the milk plant receives a "2 of 4" sample result warning letter before the 6 month audit is due, is the next audit due 4 months after the previous audit or 6 months after the previous audit? Stated another way, may the milk plant remain at the 6 month audit frequency until the next audit is due even though the requirements for this frequency are no longer being met.

    A: No. The milk plant no longer qualifies for a 6-month audit frequency and will immediately revert to the 4-month minimum frequency. Audits will become due within the remaining days of the 4th month (or within the remaining days of the month if the violation occurs in the 5th or 6th month). During State listing audits and FDA audits, professional judgment must be used in evaluating this item under item 2 of the NCIMS HACCP SYSTEM REGULATORY AGENCY REVIEW REPORT when less than a full month remains before the 4 month frequency would expire.

  32. If the plant fails to conduct the quarterly equipment tests on time, should this be considered a violation of a Critical Listing Element (CLE) and result in a delisting of the plant?

    A: Inconsistent verification of CCP's is to be regarded as a serious issue. Clearly, professional judgment is to be used as with violations of any CLE. CLE's are intended to flag those items, which are likely to result in the failure of the HACCP system to the extent that the uniform compliance with the provisions of the PMO is not assured and the rights of reciprocity should be denied, resulting in delisting. Several factors may affect the decision of the person performing the survey or the check rating. The most obvious factor is the impact on the assurance of the level of safety required for the public health. If there is any indication that the public health is reasonably likely to be adversely affected, the CLE violation should be considered a reason for delisting. A second consideration is whether this indicates that the HACCP system is not being properly managed. Usually, this will be indicated by a pattern of related violations or previous violations in this category, without reasonable extenuating circumstances. Reasonable extenuating circumstances might be in the area of plant emergencies. The following guidance was provided for a specific case scenario during the 2004 training in Albany.

    Scenario - "How Highs' It Got to Be?"

    Following the retirement of a state regulatory co-worker, you have been assigned new field territory that includes a Grade "A" milk plant listed under NCIMS HACCP. During an audit of this plant and while reviewing the HTST pasteurization system in the plant, you note that the product discharge from the HTST system rises to an opening to the atmosphere (provided by a vacuum breaker) located only 4 inches above the raw homogenizer line, which is the highest raw milk line in the system. The homogenizer is the timing pump for the system, and the system does contain a booster pump. In reviewing the current recording chart, you note that the HTST system had been shut down 3 times during the run while waiting for additional milk for pasteurization. Neither the HTST operator nor the plant manager, are able to understand your concern about the relative height of the two lines. They indicate that the system was last changed about a year ago when a new homogenizer was installed.

    Later, while reviewing the HTST equipment test records, you note that the plant representatives failed to perform the required quarterly PMO tests including the Appendix I., Test 9.3 (Additional HTST Tests for Booster Pumps). The plant management offers no explanation for this deficiency and requests that you highlight your concerns in the audit report.

    1. (A) As a state regulatory auditor, prepare your NCIMS Milk Plant HACCP System Audit Report following this first audit of the firm.

      Suggested regulatory response for completing the NCIMS HACCP System Audit Report: Mark Item 7D. Calibration of CCP Process Monitoring Instruments Performed as Required and at the Frequency Defined in the HACCP Plan. ** CLE

      "The plant has failed to complete the necessary calibration of process control instruments listed as verification activities in the HACCP plan. Specifically, the required quarterly tests were not performed by the industry during the last year."

      Mark Item 10G. Pasteurization equipment design and construction.

      "The plant pasteurization equipment design and construction failed to conform with applicable requirements, specifically the pasteurized product exiting the regenerator failed to rise at least 12 inches higher than the highest raw milk in the system. During the three times that the HTST system was shut down, pasteurized product in the regenerator may have been compromised by the failure to assure at least 1 lb higher pressure in the pasteurized side of the regenerator."

      Take immediate action to assure product safety and provide written documentation concerning corrections and the timeframes for their implementation."

      During your discussion of the above findings and observations, the plant superintendent provides the following response:

      (Plant Response) We will take immediate action regarding these findings as follows:

      1. The pasteurized discharge line will be raised 12 inches above the highest raw line in the system.
      2. Each of the regenerator plates will be tested by an outside firm for defects. If any cracks or pinholes are found, we will initiate a recall of all products processed on this pasteurizer that are coded Feb. 8 or later.
      3. We will attend a meeting with the State Regulatory Agency at 10:00 am tomorrow regarding the pasteurization testing responsibilities.
      4. Plant management and pasteurizer operators will attend special HTST Operator's training.

      (Regulatory Response) Based upon this response, the audit report is concluded with the following timelines for correction:

      1. The pasteurized discharge line must be corrected prior to running additional product through the HTST system. I will inspect the modification for compliance with Item 16p.(D) 1 and 2 once completed. Additionally, I will complete all the applicable HTST tests at this time to assure that the system meets all the criteria of Appendix I prior to further operation on product.
      2. Regenerator plate testing to be completed within 24 hours.
      3. "An operator's workshop should be completed within 10 days. Training in required HTST design requirements is also necessary and should be completed as soon as practical, based upon an appropriate training opportunity that is acceptable to the Department."
    2. (B) As a state Milk Sanitation Rating Officer, prepare your reports in response to this situation.

      Suggested rating response for completing the NCIMS HACCP System Audit Report:

      Mark Item 7D. Calibration of CCP Process Monitoring Instruments Performed as Required and at the Frequency Defined in the HACCP Plan **CLE "The plant has failed to complete the necessary calibration of process control instruments listed as verification activities in the HACCP plan. Specifically, required quarterly HTST tests for booster pumps were not performed by the industry during the last twelve month period."

      Mark Item 10G. Pasteurization equipment design and construction. "The plant pasteurization equipment design and construction failed to conform with applicable requirements, specifically the pasteurized product exiting the regenerator failed to rise and be opened to the atmosphere the minimum 12 inches above the highest raw milk in the system. Pasteurization records indicated that the system had been shut down 3 times during the milk production run included in the audit."

      "As a result of the above findings, the result of this HACCP listing is "Unacceptable." FDA form 2359i will be completed accordingly and FDA and all known receiving states will be notified.

      The regulatory auditor is currently working with plant management to evaluate product safety, to recall product in the market place as needed, and to meet suitable timelines for correction for these findings."

      Suggested language for completing the NCIMS HACCP System Regulatory Agency Review Report Form:

      1. Under the "requirements interpreted in accordance with the Grade "A" PMO as indicated by past audits," comment that "regulatory audits during the past 12 months have failed to identify the improper HTST atmospheric break location on the pasteurized discharge side of the regenerator."
      2. Under the "pasteurization equipment tested at required frequency," comment that "the regulatory agency failed to assure that the trained plant representatives performed the required quarterly tests. Regulatory audits on 2/8/04 and 8/2/04 failed to address these verification failures.
      3. Under "milk plant, receiving station, or transfer station audited by the Regulatory Agency at the minimum required frequency," comment that "critical listing element items that would have existed during the prior regulatory audits, but were not marked, should have resulted in a 4 month audit frequency."
  33. Who may perform the required review (verification) of HTST & HHST pasteurization charts and if this is not being done by the proper individual, where would it be marked on the Audit Report?

    A: In Section III, Training and Standardization of Appendix K it states "Only industry individuals who have met the requirements of Part 1 of this Section shall be responsible for the following functions:

    1. Performing required HACCP Plan records reviews." and "The industry individual(s) performing the functions listed in Part 2 of this Section shall have successfully completed appropriate training in the application of HACCP principles to milk and milk product processing at least equivalent to that received under the Dairy HACCP Core Curriculum. Alternatively, (emphasis added) job experience may qualify an individual to perform these functions if the experience has provided knowledge at least equivalent to that provided through the standardized curriculum."

      Therefore, these charts may be reviewed (verified) by individuals that have successfully completed the required training OR whose job experience qualifies them to perform these functions. In other words "the proof is in the performance." If this is not being done by the proper individual, it would be indicated in Section 11 C. of the Audit Report.

  34. How does the HACCP guidelines provide for deviations or failure in the HACCP system?

    A: State enforcement action and follow-up includes:

    1. The state agency shall prepare and issue audit reports based on findings of deficiencies and non-conformities,
    2. The state agency shall review the audit report with the plant and establish time lines for correction of all identified deficiencies and non-conformities,
    3. The state agency shall follow-up to ensure corrections are made as a result of the issuance of the audit report,
    4. The state agency shall take immediate action when an imminent health hazard is observed to prevent further movement of milk and milk products until such hazards have been eliminated,
    5. When the plant has failed to recognize or correct a deficiency(s) or nonconformity(s), the state shall initiate regulatory action such as permit/license suspension, revocation, hearings, court actions, and/or other equivalent measures.
  35. How would a firm lose its IMS listing?

    A: The criteria and procedures for denial or withdrawal of a listing are stated in the NCIMS "Methods of Making Sanitation Ratings" and "Procedures" documents.

  36. If there have been changes to the HACCP plan, shouldn't regulatory have been notified at the time the changes were made for their approval?

    A: No, regulatory does not need to be notified since regulatory agencies do not pre-approve HACCP plans.

  37. Earlier it was stated that the records must be kept for 1 year or the shelf life but according to the audit its 1 year.

    A: In Appendix K of the PMO it explains that "All records required by this part shall be retained at the milk plant, receiving station or transfer station facility for, in the case of perishable or refrigerated products, at least one (1) year after the date that such products were prepared, and for, in the case of frozen, preserved, or shelf- stable products, two (2) years or the shelf life of the product, whichever is greater, after the date that the products were prepared unless longer retention time is required by other regulations.

  38. Can a dairy plant that produces many products opt to have a HACCP program for only one product (e.g. sour cream, yogurt etc.)?

    A: No, the plant must have all Grade "A" products on the HACCP alternative or they must all be on the traditional system.

  39. Both of our HACCP plants produce single service containers as part of their plant processing operations. In both cases the bottles are not produced for sale but only for use by the plant. Under the traditional system, we have been rating and listing their single service facilities at the same frequency as the milk plant. Would you please clarify the procedures that should be followed by the plant HACCP team, the regulatory auditor, and the listing auditor with regard to these SSC facilities under the HACCP system?

    A: The NCIMS HACCP program applies to the single service portion of the plant when the single service operation is included in the dairy plant listing. If the single service operation is listed and rated separately, it does not need to be included in the HACCP program. Refer to the PMO, Appendix J, Section E. Criteria for Listing Certified Single-Service Manufacturers in the IMS List.

  40. Can you clarify what is meant by "Other NCIMS Requirements" with regard to packaged products vs. raw bulk products?

    A: All ingredients required to be Grade "A", including raw milk, must come from an Interstate Milk Shippers (IMS) listed source.

  41. Since there has been wide agreement that the HACCP voluntary alternative is focused on food safety and tamper detect ability has very little to do with food safety, is it necessary for plants operating under the NCIMS HACCP alternative to address tamper detectability?

    A: Tamper detectability is a required provision of the PMO and should be handled as an "Other NCIMS Requirement". It will be evaluated under Section 10, Item I of The Milk Plant, Receiving Station, or Transfer Station HACCP System Audit Report.

  42. [Added November 2007] The plant auditor writes a report at the end of the audit and timelines are established to address some issues that were noticed during the walk through. The auditor comes back to the plant on the due date to see if these items have been taken care of. The auditor does a complete walk through and writes another report asking for timelines on issues that have come up since the original audit. These new observed items are minor issues. Is this an appropriate approach?

    A: Assuming that these were truly minor issues, the auditor should be focused upon the items for which he or she established the timelines for correction. The auditor may verbally comment on the observations, and indicate that he/she may be focusing in on these issues again during the next regulatory audit.

    Note: The NCIMS HACCP program has established routine audit frequencies, with flexibility to allow state regulators to establish their own audit frequencies. These audit frequencies should be based on actual conditions observed at the plant.

  43. [Added January 2008] The plant auditor writes a report at the end of the audit and timelines are established to address some issues that were noticed during the walk through. The auditor comes back to the plant on the due date to see if these items have been taken care of. The auditor does a complete walk through and writes another report asking for timelines on issues that have come up since the original audit. These new observed items are minor issues. Is this an appropriate approach?

    A: Assuming that these were truly minor issues, the auditor should be focused upon the items for which he or she established the timelines for correction. The auditor may verbally comment on the observations, and indicate that he/she may be focusing in on these issues again during the next regulatory audit.

    Note: The NCIMS HACCP program has established routine audit frequencies, with flexibility to allow state regulators to establish their own audit frequencies. These audit frequencies should be based on actual conditions observed at the plant.

  44. [Added January 2008] The plant auditor writes a report at the end of the audit and timelines are established to address some issues that were noticed during the walk through. The auditor comes back to the plant on the due date to see if these items have been taken care of. The auditor does a complete walk through and writes another report asking for timelines on issues that have come up since the original audit. These new observed items are minor issues. Is this an appropriate approach?

    A: Assuming that these were truly minor issues, the auditor should be focused upon the items for which he or she established the timelines for correction. The auditor may verbally comment on the observations, and indicate that he/she may be focusing in on these issues again during the next regulatory audit.

    Note: The NCIMS HACCP program has established routine audit frequencies, with flexibility to allow state regulators to establish their own audit frequencies. These audit frequencies should be based on actual conditions observed at the plant.

  45. [Added October 2010] What is a repeat audit violation? 

    A: A repeat violation is a finding that is documented on the Milk Plant, Receiving Station or Transfer Station NCIMS HACCP System Audit Report Form FDA 2359m at a full regulatory audit when that same finding was also marked on the previous full regulatory audit.
     
    This condition constitutes a finding that should be documented on the current audit under item 12 B. “Previous audit findings remain corrected at the time of this audit.” on the 2359m. This will require that the regulatory agency audit frequency remain at or be reset to a maximum of 4 months.*
     
    *Item 12 B “previous audit findings remain corrected...”may also be marked (and the minimum regulatory audit frequency set at, or retained at 4 months) if a current finding is documented that has the same specific root cause as a finding on the previous audit (even if the observations that support that finding differ). The specific root cause shall be identified during the required discussions between the plant and the regulatory auditor (See Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, Appendix K, Section V: HACCP AUDITS AND FOLLOW-UP ACTIONS Items #6 & #8).
     
    However, if the same problem reoccurs after the plant has identified and corrected what it considers to be the root cause, the regulator may mark 12 B. For example, if a PP requiring that equipment be cleaned and sanitized was violated because of milk soil in raw milk silos 3, 4, and 5, and the plant determines that the root cause is improper training of raw receiving personnel and perform that training, but at the next regulatory audit, this same PP is violated because of milk soil in raw milk silos 1, 2, and 3, the regulator may properly mark item 12 B.  
  46. [Added October 2010] What constitutes follow up audit for verifying correction of regulatory audit findings?
     
    A: Any activity used to verify that the conditions that resulted in the finding at a regulatory audit have been corrected within the established timeline can be considered to be a follow-up audit. These activities may vary based on what is needed to satisfy the regulatory agency that the corrections were made within the timeline that they established. In many cases, these activities will include a plant visit and partial audit to verify the corrections. However, in some cases, this may be accomplished without a plant visit (for example if the finding involved a HACCP record deficiency, it may be as simple as the plant correcting the record deficiency and providing the corrected record to the regulatory agency). 
     
    In all cases, these follow-up activities, along with any findings or corrections, shall be documented by the regulatory agency.
     
    Note: A full regulatory audit is not normally required (or desirable) to follow-up on findings unless those findings are so general that they affect the entire HACCP system.
  47. [Added October 2010] I am representing a milk plant that is planning to be listed under HACCP, am I officially listed after the initial 60 days of records (initial audit)?
     
    A. No. When the plant has implemented their HACCP system and gathered the required 60 days of records, they are eligible to request an NCIMS HACCP Listing audit be made by a State Rating Officer that is currently certified to make such listing audits. If this audit shows no findings that are critical listing elements, the milk plant will then be listed in the IMS list of acceptable sources as an acceptable HACCP listed plant.
     
    (Reference: 2007 METHODS OF MAKING SANITATION RATINGS OF MILK SHIPPERS  2.c., 1.) Prior to conducting the initial HACCP listing audit, there shall be a Regulatory audit conducted of the milk plant, receiving station, or transfer station and the milk plant, receiving station, or transfer station shall have a minimum of sixty (60) days of HACCP System records prior to a HACCP listing audit.)
  48. [Added October 2010] How many days does the State Regulatory or Listing auditor have to provide plant with a written copy of the HACCP Audit report (Milk Plant, Receiving Station or Transfer Station NCIMS HACCP System Audit Report Form FDA 2359m?
     
    A. A specific number of days is not mentioned, however, the written report, if not provided at the close out interview, should be provided as soon as practical after that time.
     
    This written report must be provided soon enough to best support the milk plant efforts to correct the identified items within the established timelines for correction. It is unacceptable for a written regulatory agency audit report to be delayed to the point that the milk plant can not meet the established timelines for correction specified in the written report.
     
    The milk plant should feel free to contact the state HACCP auditor or regulatory agency if they need the report before it is provided.
     
    Note: Based on current NCIMS procedures, at FDA check audits, the written Milk Plant, Receiving Station or Transfer Station NCIMS HACCP System Audit Report Form FDA 2359m will be provided to the State rather than to the milk plant. 
  49. [Added October 2010] If I build a new yogurt plant can I be listed on day one under NCIMS HACCP or must I operate 60 days listed under the traditional system to build 60days of records?
     
    A. If a new plant wishes to be listed at start up, they must be listed under the traditional system for the 60 days that it takes to collect the required HACCP records and continue under that listing until an acceptable NCIMS HACCP listing is completed. The satisfactory HACCP listing becomes the most recent official listing and will automatically replace the traditional rating.
  50. [Added October 2010] Section 10 Item A., to the HACCP Audit report (Milk Plant, Receiving Station or Transfer Station NCIMS HACCP System Audit Report Form FDA 2359m, is a critical listing element that specifies that “Incoming milk supply from NCIMS listed source(s) with sanitation scores of 90 or better or acceptable HACCP Listing”. Is it more appropriate to say: Raw Milk Supply: Incoming milk / milk products supply from NCIMS listed source…
     
    A. No. Under the “Procedures...” document, the term “supply” and “listed supply” are inclusive terms that refer to all IMS listed sources whether that source supplies raw milk, pasteurized milk, condensed or dried milk or milk products, and/or cultured products. Therefore the words “milk supply” can be properly applied to all dairy ingredients that are used in an NCIMS HACCP listed milk product.
  51. [Added October 2010] What is an audit "finding"?
     
    A. A finding is a deviation, deficiency, or non-conformity in a plants' HACCP system that is documented on the Milk Plant, Receiving Station or Transfer Station NCIMS HACCP System Audit Report Form FDA 2359m by marking the appropriate item on the 2359m audit report form and describing the finding (with the observations that support it) on the NCIMS HACCP SYSTEM AUDIT REPORT DISCUSSION SHEET portion of the 2359m.    
     
    A finding is based on a series of observations made during an in-plant evaluation of a plant's facilities, equipment, operations and procedures and/or a review of HACCP program documentation and records.  It is based on conclusions drawn on the meaning of the observations made, the way they fit together, or how they are related. Findings require correction.
     
    An example of appropriate language that can be used to document a finding (from the Auditor training held in January 2009 in Kansas City) appears below. Note: the finding is the first sentence and the observations that support that finding constitute the remainder of the paragraph. 
     
    Finding #2: “The plant failed to implement prerequisite programs that are in substantial compliance with the HACCP regulation. Specifically, the plant failed to comply with the prerequisite requirements regarding the condition and cleanliness of product contact surfaces, as evidenced by the fact that there were numerous dented product lines and product contact surfaces of a powder horn that were in disrepair.” This would be identified on the Milk Plant, Receiving Station or Transfer Station NCIMS HACCP System Audit Report (Form FDA 2359m-10/06) as a violation of Section 9, A2, “Condition & cleanliness of equipment milk contact facilities”. This is addressed as a requirement under the NCIMS HACCP Program in the PMO, Appendix K, Section II, 1b.

 

Testing

  1. The Grade "A" PMO Section 7 Item 16p.(E)(2.) states that industry personnel conducting the Pasteurization and Aseptic Processing Equipment Testing must be adequately trained and must be able to demonstrate acceptable ability to the regulatory agency. To assure adequate qualifications and uniformity in conducting these tests, one State would like to require industry to attend an FDA or equivalent pasteurizer course. Under the NCIMS HACCP program may a State insist on accepting only this FDA or equivalent training?

    A: No, industry must physically demonstrate to the state regulatory agency that they understand and can perform the required equipment tests according to the requirements of the PMO. The State regulatory agency shall accept a regulatory field practical, a written exam, formal classroom training, OR on the job training or any combination of these.

    If industry personnel do not demonstrate the appropriate capability to perform the tests adequately to the satisfaction of the regulator, they are not acceptable for conducting such tests.

    Continued training such as, but not limited to, on the job training with supervision or an acceptable pasteurizer training course should be completed before they reapply for pasteurizer equipment testing approval.

  2. When pasteurizer seals are broken by industry due to the 3-month pasteurizer tests or more importantly due to some other reason, e.g. maintenance, does the state regulator need to reapply the seal?

    A: The Grade "A" PMO Section 7 Item 16p.(E)(2.) provides the following guidance:

    "Sealing guidance for pasteurization equipment by industry is as follows:

    1. "(1) All equipment that is required to be sealed within this Ordinance shall also be sealed under the HACCP System. The sealing shall be done by a trained, qualified individual who is acceptable to the milk plant and the Regulatory Agency; and
    2. (2) The Regulatory Agency may verify any equipment sealing and evaluate (accept or reject) the skills and knowledge of the individual performing the sealing."

    For those instances where a seal is broken for another reason (e.g. maintenance), the industry can reseal, however, they must continue to notify regulatory of the broken seal and document why the seal was broken and date resealed.

  3. The Grade "A" Pasteurized Milk Ordinance Section 6 states "Each milk plant regulated under the NCIMS HACCP Program shall adequately document its response to each regulatory sample test result that exceeds any maximum level specified in Section 7 of the PMO." While it is clear that a firm must document appropriate actions taken in their investigation, must the firm also document any findings that may have led to the violation?

    A: No, however, the findings may very well be part of the corrective actions.

  4. If a HACCP plant has a violative sample, should the state collect another sample between 3 and 21 days, even if it is the first violative sample?

    A: No, the regulatory agency sampling and sample enforcement program will be the same as the traditional system.

  5. In order for the State regulatory agency to be able to determine if an industry person is qualified to conduct an HTST equipment test, what type of training is required for the industry personnel? Is it similar to the requirements for industry HTST sealers?

    A: Item 16p.(E)2 of the Grade "A" PMO states: "The Regulatory Agency shall accept a field practical exercise, a written exam, formal classroom training, on the job training or any combination of these except that, if industry personnel do not physically demonstrate the appropriate capability to perform the tests to the satisfaction of the Regulatory Agency, they are not acceptable for conducting such tests."

  6. How will regulatory equipment checks and seals be addressed in HACCP?

    A: Pasteurization and aseptic processing equipment tests shall be done at a frequency not less than the PMO standards. Industry shall have responsibility for the performance of all required tests. The semi-annual (six month) tests should be performed at a time that is mutually convenient to all parties. Industry personnel conducting the Pasteurization and Aseptic Processing Equipment testing must be adequately trained and must be able to demonstrate acceptable ability to the regulatory agency. For more details, please refer to the PMO Item 16p.(E) 2.

  7. Can a state regulatory agency deny evaluation of any adequately trained plant employee to conduct routine quarterly pasteurized equipment checks required in the PMO, Appendix K and detailed in Appendix H in order to maintain their current system of having state employees conduct all quarterly pasteurized equipment checks?

    A: The current wording of the PMO in regards to industry performing their own pasteurizer checks would indicate that there needs to be cooperation between the facility and the state regulatory agency to determine the adequacy of the firm's knowledge and training. The same cooperation which was exhibited in the acceptance of the HACCP alternative program should be performed between the industry and the regulatory agency to accomplish the task of testing pasteurization equipment. This wording is meant to give the flexibility to the regulators and industry in performing these tasks.

 

Records

  1. Under the NCIMS HACCP Program what records are required to be kept at the plant and what records are required to be kept by the state regulatory agency?

    A: Under the HACCP Program the plant must maintain records of its PP, HACCP plan, flow diagram, pasteurization equipment tests, drug residue screening tests, regulatory sample test results, as well as any other records pertaining to the plant's HACCP system including a table of contents and centralized list of the HACCP program records by title, documenting the ongoing application of the HACCP system.(See PMO Appendix K, II. Subsection - "Records" for more details). The state regulatory agency must keep records of its regulatory audits, listing audits, regulatory sample results, and pasteurization equipment tests. The regulatory agency must have access at the plant to the HACCP plan, flow diagram, product description and all records pertinent to the plant's HACCP system.

 

Training and Standardization

  1. Define "HACCP - trained". Now that I have attended NCIMS HACCP audit training, can I train people within the plant to review records?

    A: The person responsible for the oversight of verification of CCP's must have attended the NCIMS HACCP orientation and must have basic HACCP training as well. However, the individual who actually signs the records may qualify by on-the-job training or other training.

  2. Who is required to take the NCIMS HACCP auditing training? Is the industry person conducting the hazard analysis and developing the HACCP plan required to take this auditing training?

    A: The PMO Appendix K, III. and the "Procedures Governing the Cooperative State-Public Health Service/Food and Drug Administration Program of the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments," Section VIII, C. 2. d. 4.) and Section VIII., E. 4.b. taken together say that state regulatory, listing and FDA auditors must take the NCIMS HACCP auditing training. Industry is not required to take this training but may find it helpful as it participates in the NCIMS HACCP program.

  3. Is training of milk plant associates required under Appendix K?

    A: Yes. Appendix K, HACCP PROGRAM, III. Training and Standardization states the following:

    III. EMPLOYEE EDUCATION AND TRAINING

    The success of a HACCP system depends on educating and training management and employees in the importance for their role in producing safe milk and milk products. This should also include information in the control of milk borne hazards related to all stages of dairy production and processing. Specific training activities should include working instructions and procedures that outline the tasks of employees monitoring specific CCPs and PPs.

    and

    1. Core Curriculum: The Dairy HACCP Core Curriculum consists of:
      1. Basic HACCP training; plus
      2. An orientation to the requirements of the NCIMS HACCP Program.

      Basic HACCP training consists of instruction in the application of the NACMCF Principles of HACCP to Food Safety. This training includes practical exercises in conducting a hazard analysis and evaluating potential hazards; in writing a HACCP Plan; and in the validation of the plan. It should be taught by experienced instructors.

      The orientation component ideally is coupled with the basic HACCP training, but can be taught separately. The content of the orientation will be conducted under the guidance of the NCIMS. It is intended to familiarize industry and regulatory personnel with specific dairy HACCP concerns and the regulatory requirements under the NCIMS HACCP Program. It is to be taught by instructors experienced in the application of HACCP under the NCIMS HACCP Program.

      The industry individuals performing the functions listed in Part 2 of this section shall have successfully completed appropriate training in the application of HACCP principles to milk and milk product processing at least equivalent to that received under the Dairy HACCP Core Curriculum. Alternatively, job experience may qualify an individual to perform these functions if the experience has provided knowledge at least equivalent to that provided through the standardized curriculum.

    2. Industry Personnel: Only industry individuals who have met the requirements of Part 1 of this Section shall be responsible for the following functions:
      1. Developing the hazard analysis, including delineating control measures, as required;
      2. Developing a HACCP Plan that is appropriate for the specific milk plant, receiving station or transfer station, in order to meet these requirements;
      3. Validating and modifying the HACCP Plan in accordance with the corrective action procedures and the validation activities as specified; and
      4. Performing required HACCP Plan records reviews.

      Therefore, Plant Associates performing the functions listed in 2 above are required to have training as stated in 1. Core Curriculum or equivalent job experience.

      Plant Associates not performing the functions listed in 2. above need to have sufficient training to perform their jobs within the plant as is the case under the traditional system. For example, during the course of a HACCP audit, the auditor will check the cleaning of milk storage tanks and other product contact surfaces within the plant, a required PP. If the milk storage tanks are found to be unclean and monitoring records indicate a malfunctioning CIP system and the plant did not correct the problem, the cause might be lack of employee training in this particular job area and could be debited under on the HACCP Audit Form Section 11 D, "Employees trained in PP programs". However, employees performing the job of tank cleaning are not required to be trained in the HACCP Core Curriculum specified in 1. above.

  4. May a State Rating Officer be certified for the first time using a plant that has never been HACCP listed? If yes, then how and in what areas?

    A:Yes, provided that the milk plant is working toward being HACCP licensed and listed and has a viable NCIMS HACCP system in place and a minimum of 60 days of the required HACCP records available for review.

  5. What training is required and what is the procedure for FDA to approve a new State Rating Officer to make milk sanitation ratings of HACCP plants?

    A: Procedures... Section VIII. Procedures Governing the Certification of Milk Plant, receiving station and transfer station NCIMS HACCP Systems for IMS Listed shippers., E. Qualifications and Certifications states in part:

    1. Certification Procedure for SRO's Who Will Conduct HACCP Listing Audits
      1. Candidate Background
        1. 1.)Training and Experience
          1. A.) The Candidate shall provide a statement describing their background and experience that qualifies them to perform this work.
          2. B.) Candidates are encouraged to gain practical milk plant experience in the application of HACCP and in conducting milk plant NCIMS HACCP audits by working with SRO's that are certified to perform NCIMS HACCP Listings audits whenever practical.
          3. C.) The Candidate shall complete a basic HACCP training course that is acceptable to the NCIMS and FDA; NCIMS HACCP Orientation; as well as training in general auditing requirements for the auditing of milk plants, receiving stations and transfer stations under the NCIMS HACCP Program.
          4. D.) Candidate shall be a certified SRO for milk plants.
      2. Original Certification Process
        1. 1.) Knowledge of HACCP and NCIMS HACCP Auditing Standards and Requirements

          A standardized FDA Regional Milk Specialist (RMS), qualified to conduct HACCP Audits, will accompany the Candidate during the course of one (1) mock-listing audit conducted separate from an official HACCP listing audit. The candidate may be certified to conduct HACCP listings after successfully completing one (1) mock-listing audit, with the certification valid for three (3) years. In the case of an original HACCP certification, the date of expiration of the other SRO certification shall be automatically extended to correspond with the original HACCP certification expiration date.

        2. 2.) Knowledge of HACCP and NCIMS HACCP Auditing Standards and Requirements

          The RMS shall accompany the Candidate during the mock-listing audit and shall evaluate the Candidate's HACCP knowledge and NCIMS HACCP auditing skills. Particular attention shall be given to the Candidate's observations, evaluation, and decision making skills related to planning and conducting the mock-listing audit, identifying and recording the findings, communicating with industry representatives, and arriving at a listing audit determination. The RMS will categorize the Candidate's HACCP knowledge and NCIMS HACCP auditing skills into one (1) of the following three (3) categories:

          1. A.) The Candidate's work is acceptable; or
          2. B.) The Candidate's work is acceptable with written recommendations identifying areas that need improvement; or
          3. C.) The Candidate is not certified.

            NOTE: The cause shall be documented and provided to the candidate and the State Rating Agency.

      3. Continuous Certification

        After the initial successful Conditional HACCP Certification, subsequent certification of a SRO to make NCIMS HACCP Listing Audits will be valid for three (3) years unless revoked for cause.

        1. 1.) Milk Plant Technical Knowledge

          The Candidate shall continue to meet the requirements for certification of a SRO for milk plants.

          During the three (3) year certification period, the SRO, certified to conduct NCIMS HACCP listings, will complete the minimum training requirements established to maintain proficiency regarding the NCIMS HACCP Program.

          Small group training with practical exercises and other appropriate training that may include written examinations will be used to evaluate the SRO's technical knowledge for continuing certification.

        2. 2.) Knowledge of HACCP and NCIMS HACCP Auditing Standards and Requirements

          During the three (3) year certification period, a RMS, will accompany the SRO during the course of at least one (1) recertification listing audit. The recertification listing audit can be done independent as a mock-listing audit or as part of an official HACCP listing audit, at the discretion of the RMS and SRO. This decision will be made prior to the beginning of the recertification listing audit. In the absence of an agreement, the recertification listing audit shall be conducted during a mock listing audit. The standardizing official (RMS) shall accompany as a "silent observer" during this recertification listing audit. The RMS shall evaluate the SRO's HACCP knowledge and NCIMS HACCP auditing skills. Particular attention shall be given to the SRO's observations, evaluation, and decision making skills related to planning and conducting the listing or mock-listing audit, identifying and recording the findings, communicating with industry representatives, and arriving at an audit listing or mock-listing audit determination. The RMS will categorize the SRO's HACCP knowledge and NCIMS HACCP auditing skills into one (1) of the following three (3) categories:

          1. A.) The SRO is recertified to conduct NCIMS HACCP Listing Audits; or
          2. B.) The SRO is recertified with written recommendations identifying areas that need improvement; or
          3. C.) The SRO is not recertified.

          NOTE: The cause shall be documented and provided to the SRO and the State Rating Agency.

      4. Paperwork Review

        The milk plant, receiving station or transfer station ncims haccp audit report, with attachments, the NCIMS HACCP system regulatory agency review report, and the permission for the publication of an interstate milk shipper's listing shall be submitted with Form FDA 2359i for each NCIMS HACCP Listing Audit to the FDA Regional Office for quality assurance review.

        These reviews will be used to enhance uniformity and strengthen each individual's skills and will be used to assist in identifying needs for future training.

  6. [Added November 2008] Task Force noted that Form FDA 2359m (10/06), Milk Plant, Receiving Station or Transfer Station NCIMS HACCP Audit Report, Section 11 a - d used the word "trained" when in fact the NCIMS HACCP program does not require training for industry. Follow up needed with the NCIMS HIC regarding use of the word "trained" individual to either change wording to "trained or experienced" or clearly identify that experience qualifies as "training" for 11 a - d.

    A: Appendix K does require training of Industry personnel. The training requirements vary based on the sub-section of 11 that is being evaluated.

    For Section 11 a, training in monitoring activities (for monitoring prerequisite program activities and for original monitoring of CCP records), this training may be provided locally at the milk plant by milk plant personnel.

    For section 11 b and c, Industry personnel may be trained in the requirements of the core curriculum either formally (by attending a training course) or informally (based on job experience) in order to satisfy the training requirements of Appendix K for the following activities:

    • -- Developing the hazard analysis, including delineating control measures, as required (11 b);
    • -- Developing a HACCP Plan that is appropriate for the specific milk plant, receiving station or transfer station, in order to meet these requirements (11 b);
    • --Validating and modifying the HACCP Plan in accordance with the corrective action procedures and the validation activities as specified (11 b); and
    • -- Performing required HACCP Plan records reviews (11 c).

    During regulatory, listing and FDA check audits, the acceptability of an industry person’s job experience may be evaluated based on a review of these records specified as Appendix K that apply to the audit report sub-sections 11 b and c.

    For section 11 d, employees who perform PP activities may be trained in their specific duties at milk plant by milk plant personnel. A determination of the adequacy of their training may be based on an evaluation of their work.

    For all of Section 11, appropriate training records must be maintained.

    No proposal needs to be submitted to the 2009 NCIMS Conference.