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ComplianceSeptember 30, 2021

Bowtie: A revolutionary tool for the food and drink industry?


Many large industries in the world, including energy, chemical, medical and cybersecurity, are currently using a method, called Bowtie, to manage risk.

Despite this widespread use, it has yet to be adopted by most food and drink businesses, yet many could use it to tackle challenges that have been a focus in recent years.

Allergen management and food safety culture are at the top of the agenda for many food business operators (FBOs). Yet the ordinary charts and tables of HACCP plans are seen by some as currently lacking the adaptability and holistic view that is key for good communication.

This is where Bowtie comes in. As seen in Figures below, this simple tool can help FBOs visualize hazards and risks while providing a much more comprehensive review of their food safety systems. In a nutshell, this can allow food manufacturers to boost food safety culture (by highlighting why barriers are in place) and aid allergen management (by identifying new barriers).

It’s important to highlight that this simple tool does not replace HACCP, but instead can enhance FBO’s food safety management and HACCP plans by providing an extra level of robustness and visual clarity. The tool makes it easier for FBOs to identify factors that could compromise barriers, helping them put in place additional barriers to prevent a hazard, such as allergens, from occurring and escalating.
Put simply, FBOs can use Bowtie to improve their current food safety system by proactively identifying risks and easily adapting their system to incidences and occurrences.

How to visualize your HACCP plan using the Bowtie framework

The following figures break down how a HACCP plan can be visualized as a Bowtie

In Figure 1 above you can see the template of a HACCP plan and below it is the Bowtie diagram that the HACCP plan can be visualized as.

Process steps, hazards and possible causes

Figure 2 shows three main parts of the Bowtie diagram, specifically highlighting each part with arrows labelled 1a, 1b and 1c.

1a. We can define the steps in the process where the issues arise and reduce the repartition of doing an effective hazard management analysis multiple times.

An example of a process step could be: See Figure 2, Step 1 Receipt of Raw Materials. In the Bowtie method this is called the ‘scope’ or the ‘hazard’.

1b. How we lose control is defined as the hazard in excess of acceptable levels.

E.g.: Presence of the hazard in the raw materials; Introduction of metal in excess of acceptable levels, Increase of vegetative pathogens in excess of acceptable levels. In the Bowtie, this is called the ‘top event’.

1c. It is crucial to understand the possible causes or sources of the hazard.

In the Bowtie this is called a ‘threat’. For instance: the sources are from people, equipment used to make the product, materials including raw material ingredients and packaging, processing if appropriate, and other products / processes on site, utilities / services such as air and water.

Control measures

As shown in Figure 3, preventative barriers are another crucial part of the Bowtie diagram. The control measures that prevent, reduce, or eliminate hazards to an acceptable level may be preventative to stop the loss of control.

E.g.: Effective approved supplier programme, Effective Allergen Management Programme; Effective management of metals from equipment.

Mitigation or recovery measures reduce the impact of the consequence or stop the consequence from occurring.

E.g.: Thermal process such as cooking or effective metal detection and rejection system, effective traceability.

CCPs and PRPs

As we go through the HACCP Principles, we are able to identify the categorization of the barriers as Critical Control Points (CCP), Pre Requisite Programmes (PRP) or Enhanced Prerequisites (EPRP), which are also known as Operational prerequisites (OPRP) or preventative controls (PC). These can be marked on the Bowtie diagram. See figure 4 below.

Monitoring, corrective actions, verification and review

The last couple of components that form the diagram include monitoring, corrective actions and verification and review. These inputs can be annotated against the control measure or barrier.

All the barriers must be monitored to demonstrate that they are functioning as intended. An example of monitoring is hourly temperature check or placing test pieces in the X-ray at a defined time interval.

Corrective actions can apply to all categories of controls, though some have a greater impact on food safety, so the product must be prevented from reaching the market to be effective. The corrective action must regain control of the process, deal with the affected product to prevent potentially unsafe product reaching the market and reduce likely reoccurrence. Corrective actions may also be applied to individual barriers.

All barriers or control measures must be auditable and effective to ensure safe food is being produced. An example of verification and review is audits, sampling protocols.

Figure 5 shows where monitoring, corrective actions and verification & review can be visualized in the bowtie diagram.

Overall, seeing how the use of Bowtie has expanded so rapidly throughout similar industries, it’s likely that the increased emphasis on safety culture and allergens in the food and drink sector will see a similar expansion in this industry too. It’s possible that enhancing HACCP plans with Bowtie becomes the norm in the near future. At Campden BRI, we’re at the forefront of implementing this tool in the food industry and are keen to encourage more food businesses to find out how it can help with their risk management needs.
© Campden BRI. 2021 – The copyright of the content of this guest blog belongs to Campden BRI who has authorized CGE Risk Management Solutions B.V. to provide this content on its website.
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