Almond Industry Prerequisite Programs for Aflatoxin Control
Prerequisite programs (PP’s) are the supportive framework for the HACCP (hazard
analysis and critical control point) plan. They are specific control plans or procedures
developed to deliver a food safe product from harvest to shipment. Prerequisite programs
give creditability to and provide important internal control to the HACCP plan. Having
PP’s simplify the HACCP plan. If any portion of the prerequisite program for aflatoxin
control is absent or is not followed, then additional CCP’s (critical control points) may
have to be identified, monitored and maintained under the HACCP plan.
1.0 Grower/Handler Responsibility
Growers and handlers are required to take all reasonable measures and precautions to
comply with good agricultural practices (GAP’s) and good manufacturing practices
(GMP’s) respectively. The intention of the industry’s food safety program is to provide
a healthful, safe food that will meet the intended needs of our customers and represent a
good value. Our harvesting, delivery, storage, processing and quality systems are
designed to provide a food safe and sanitary product for our customers.
2.0 Good Manufacturing Practices and Good Agriculture Practices
GMP’s are mandated by the Federal Code of Regulations, Title 21 (CFR 21) part 110.
These are general guidelines for handlers to follow. GAP’s have been promulgated by the
Almond Board of California (ABC) to support the intention of the industry to promote
food safety at the farm level.
3.0 Electronic Sorting Technology and Quality
The almond industry has invested in high technology equipment to identify damaged
almonds, and to remove almond “rejects” as well as any foreign material. Foreign material
(F/M) is considered to be anything that is not an almond nutmeat. Removal of these “rejects”
is crucial to the control of aflatoxin. Reject kernels are highly correlated with aflatoxin
contamination. The industry recognizes this fact and focuses on electronic and manual
sorting to remove reject kernels.
Finished product testing confirms that removing rejects reduces aflatoxin contamination.
4.0 Training Programs
The Almond Board has conducted training programs on many subjects such as
pasteurization, aflatoxin and HACCP for the almond industry through the annual
symposiums and conferences. These educational programs will continue as new food
safety challenges arise.
5.0 Grower Deliveries and Inedible Disposition
Handlers are responsible for receipt and testing of the crop for quality purposes. This
could be for initial testing for aflatoxin to facilitate isolation of the input for further
Each handler is required to meet the inedible disposition for the incoming quality control
requirements under the administrative rules and regulations of the California almond
marketing order. The order regulates the handling of almonds grown in California and is
locally administered by the Almond Board of California. These regulations help minimize
the risk of aflatoxin in almonds by removing inedible kernels from human consumption.
Inedible almonds are poor quality kernels potentially contaminated with aflatoxin. This
action is intended to improve the overall quality of almonds placed into consumer channels.
6.0 Almond Fumigation
Each handler or grower is responsible for fumigation of the almond crop to eliminate insect
infestations. Insect damage is highly correlated with aflatoxin, so it is imperative to eliminate
insects from harvested crops to prevent the spread of aflatoxin. Licensed fumigators carry out
7.0 USDA Grades and Standards
These are outgoing quality standards which give consistency to the market by providing
uniform grading standards for almond defects. Currently, there is no standard for aflatoxin
under this program. Research points to insect feeding as a positive correlation of aflatoxin
production by Aspergillus molds. Experience has shown that by removing rejects, aflatoxin
contamination can be reduced.
8.0 Voluntary Aflatoxin Sampling Program (VASP)
This is a voluntary program for the industry to control aflatoxin in shipments destined for
export markets, particularly the European Union (EU) where aflatoxin tolerances are
stringent. It sets the protocol for sampling and analysis with an equivalent sensitivity to the
protocol currently being used in the EU. The VASP requires a sample size of 15 kilograms
analyzed as 3 X 5 kilogram sub-samples. The required sample size for the EU is 3 X 10
kilograms. Because the samples sizes are smaller than the EU protocol, we gain equivalency
by decreasing the accept/reject level to 2 ppb total rather than the 4 ppb total used in the EU.
All three tests must individually meet this requirement.
9.0 USDA Certified Laboratories
The USDA developed guidelines and procedures to implement a “USDA Approved
Laboratory” program for aflatoxin analysis which is available for handlers and third party
labs to participate in. Approved labs are testing for aflatoxin following the VASP procedures
and issuing VASP certificates to accompany shipments.
10.0 Finished Product Storage
Since sorting and testing are the final CCP’s, the industry must be vigilant in storage of the
finished product. It is important to keep the product in controlled conditions to prevent
further increase in aflatoxin levels. This is also another area we need to research to fully
understand the impact of storage conditions on aflatoxin development.
The Almond Board funds many research projects from various committees made up of
industry members. This research provides critical information to our industry. Research
focused on aflatoxin is ongoing and will provide us with a better understanding of how to
12.0 Huller Sheller
The Almond Board of California (ABC) and the Almond Hullers and Processors Association
(AHPA) entered into agreement via a Food Safety Program Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU). This document acknowledges agreement between the AHPA and the ABC regarding
the joint development and implementation of a comprehensive, industry wide food safety
program for the almond industry.
The objective is to create and implement minimum safety standards for food safe agricultural
and manufacturing practices. Both organizations identify food safety as a priority for the
INDUSTRY HACCP FLOW CHART
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