Principles of own-check

Own-check quality assurance, or a permanent procedure based on HACCP principles?

Own-check refers to a system of a food business operator under which the operator itself seeks to ensure that a food product, primary production premises and food premises, including any activities carried out in them, meet the requirements laid down in foodstuff regulations. Own-check aims to enable operators to manage the risks related to their operations.

A permanent system, based on the HACCP principles, is called own-check in the Finnish food business.

Operator responsibilities

Operators are always responsible for their own activities and, related to this, their own-check. The food industry must have sufficient and correct information on the product that they have 

  • produced
  • refined, and
  • distributed

An operator must be familiar with the hazards associated with foodstuff products, and their handling, and specify their management methods. An operator in the food business is obligated to ensure that the foodstuffs, with regard to their 

  • chemical
  • physical and
  • microbiological features, 

are such that they constitute no hazard to human health and do not mislead consumers.

Operators engaged in primary production must also be familiar with the hazards associated with their activities. However, legislation does not require that an operator engaged in primary production need to carry out a hazard analysis or to provide an own-check plan; therefore, a description of their requisite system will suffice as a description of own-check of primary production. 

Supervisory responsibility

The supervisory authority for food premises assesses the sufficiency of the own-check plan of an operator in the food business. In supervising the practical implementation of own-check, the supervisor is tasked with comparing the activities with the requirements laid down in the regulations of the food business. While supervisors may provide advice in issues related to the application of legislation, they do not provide detailed guidance regarding the way operators should organise their activities in order to make them compatible with the requirements of legislation.

Structure of own-check

An own-check system consists of a support system and, if necessary, other means for hazard management. The support system comprises a variety of programmes. The content of support systems varies depending on the nature of the activity, comprising, for example, instructions related to the sanitation of premises, pest control and waste management. If the hazard assessment shows that a particular work stage meets the criteria for a critical control point and that the hazard in question cannot be controlled during later work stages, all seven HACCP principles are applied to the management of this work stage.

Operators may set up a permanent procedure for their own-check, or HACCP principles by 

  • observing good hygiene practices and another support system
  • observing the best practices of their sector, or
  • applying all seven HACCP principles.

Depending on the hazards related to their operations and on the way, they can best ensure hazard control, operators may also use a combination of the alternatives mentioned above. When preparing own-check, the size of the enterprise and the nature of operations must be taken into consideration.

Good practical instructions comprise application guidelines for the HACCP system, or hygiene practices for the sector in question, drawn up by the sector. Finnish Food Authority assesses the instructions, and their observation is recommended.

For the application of HACCP principles, Finnish Food Authority instruction 10002 exists: the HACCP system, its principles and application, as well as Finnish Food Authority instruction 12801 on the application of the HACCP system for feed business operators, including any related documents.

A written plan must exist for own-check. In very small-scale business own-check plan can also be presented verbally. Although, this is an exception. This plan must be adhered to and needs to be updated. Records must be kept of the implementation of own-check. By keeping records on own-check, operators can demonstrate the realisation of their plans. Retention of records must also be ensured.

Page last updated 1/31/2023