Food Safety Practices Guidance for Sprout Manufacturers

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Sprouts continue to be a popular choice for Canadians as a low calorie, nutritious food. However, many recent outbreaks of food-related illness have been traced back to sprouts contaminated with harmful bacteria, including Salmonella spp. and E. coli spp. For example, a German outbreak of E. coli 0104 lasting from May to July 2011 sickened over 4,000 people and resulted in 53 deaths (Robert Koch-Institute 2011). Although the traditional procedures for sprouting seeds for human consumption cannot guarantee the absence of these bacterial pathogens, the risk can be significantly reduced through strict adherence to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), especially where the principles of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) are applied to the process.

The Code of Practice for the Hygienic Production of Sprouted Seeds, developed with the sprout industry's input in 2001, and amended in February 2007, continues to be the current Canadian regulatory guideline used to assess sprout manufacturers' compliance with Canada's Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. In an effort to further reduce the risk posed by the consumption of raw sprouts and to assist manufacturers wanting to adopt the HACCP approach, CFIA has developed the Food Safety Practices Guidance for Sprout Manufacturers guide. The guide incorporates Chapters 4 to 10 of the Code of Practice for the Hygienic Production of Sprouted Seeds, as well as Chapters 1 to 8 of the General Principles of Food Hygiene, Composition and Labelling (GPFHCL), in addition to other reference material, as a suggested prerequisite program. This document provides guidance on potential hazards and controls related to a HACCP approach and is also designed to address other factors that affect product integrity, including composition, compliance with standards and labelling requirements. It was developed by CFIA with input from a number of interested parties, including the Canadian sprout industry, Health Canada and provincial government representatives, and is being offered to manufacturers as a food safety resource.

HACCP is a systematic approach that assesses each step in a food manufacturing process for potential hazards and identifies controls to prevent their occurrence. HACCP is recognized by regulators, industry and academia as a reliable food safety approach available to the food industry. Prior to the application of HACCP, an establishment should be operating in accordance with GMPs and food safety legislation and have the guidance of a person trained in HACCP. The GMPs (prerequisite programs) serve as the building blocks upon which a HACCP plan is built.

A HACCP system is developed following a careful review and analysis of the unique processing facility in which it is to be implemented. Chapter 1 of this guidance document primarily provides guidance related to hazard analysis and control of the manufacturing process, while chapters 2 to 8 provide guidance related to a generic prerequisite program. The intent of this guidance document is that manufacturers wishing to develop their own HACCP program can modify or adapt this generic guide to suit their particular facility and operation.

It is hoped that this document will complement existing references and the initiatives of other agencies, to make it easier for sprout manufacturers to adopt a HACCP approach and ultimately produce the safest possible product.

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