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Last updated: 14.08.19

Application of HACCP in Food Businesses

What is HACCP and why is it important?

Hazard analysis and critical control points is a framework developed to help mitigate the risks of biological, chemical and physical hazards from affecting food which is intended for human consumption. It stops things like foodborne illnesses or allergies from being a major problem.

Developed in the 1960s when NASA asked a large American grain company, Pillsbury, to help the spacefaring organisation create space food, it’s a procedure now in use by many food businesses across the world. From kitchens to food production lines and even small food carts, it’s an effective method of helping ensure food is safe to eat, and has even found its way into the laws of certain countries, including the UK, under EC Regulation 852/2004. Article 5 of this regulation states that ‘Food business operators shall put in place, implement and maintain a permanent procedure based on the Codex HACCP principles’.

In this article, we’re going to look at how HACCP is applied in food businesses, by considering the seven elements to the process.

1. Identify hazards

Before you can put safety measures in place, you need to identify the potential hazards that might be present. Food businesses could potentially face many. Biological hazards can arise simply through food going mouldy or rotten, or not being cooked. Chemical hazards can arise if concentrated cleaning products get into food, and physical hazards can be present such as bits of plastic from packaging. All of these hazards need to be identified.

2. Identify Critical Control Points

Now you know which hazards there are, you need to determine at what points in the food preparation process they can be controlled. This might sound complex, but that isn’t necessarily the case. If we consider for example the biological hazard of bacteria on the surface of an uncooked steak, the Critical Control Point would simply be the point at which the steak is cooked, before being served to a customer. Control points could also be where food is stored, or the point food is unwrapped or transferred from one container to another.

3. Set Critical Control Point limits

Once you’ve identified where the hazards can be controlled, you need to decide how they are controlled, which means implementing certain limits or standards. Food that is being cooked for example, will need to reach an appropriate temperature all the way through in order to be safe to eat. This temperature is a CCP limit. Alternatively, you may be able to control the hazard of food spoiling, going rotten or mouldy, by setting a limit for the amount of time it can be stored, or stored outside a certain temperature. This systematic approach will help control hazards.

4. Monitoring

The fourth step is quite simply a case of making sure you’re adequately monitoring the CCPs, and doing it in the right way. Implement the policy, and then make sure each point is being monitored correctly, particularly if checks are needed that involve reading temperature or conducting some sort of test.

5. Taking action

As part of the monitoring process, you need to decide what course of action to take if a CCP records a failed limit. For example, if you take some salad out of the fridge and begin to prepare it, but discover that it has excessive soil present, the course of action at this CCP would be to wash the salad and ensure it meets the right standard. However, if an item of food has been at room temperature for too long and poses a biological risk, it must be disposed of.

6. Verification

Just like any type of risk assessment, a HACCP plan needs to be regularly updated to ensure that it’s doing the job properly. Verify that your CCPs are working by checking up to see if there have been any problems not caught by the plan. It’s always a good idea to talk to the employees carrying out the check to see if they have feedback.

7 Record keeping

Finally, make sure you keep records of your HACCP plan, instructions, and any changes you make. In order to demonstrate good HACCP process, you should record limits at CCPs too.

Top HACCP FAQs

What does HACCP stand for?

HACCP stands for ‘Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points’.

How many HACCP prerequisites are there?

There are 12 good hygiene practices (GHPs) and practical attributes which make up the prerequisites before applying a HACCP plan, which include: a fit-for-purpose premises or structure with all necessary facilities; fully functioning equipment; technical maintenance and calibration; adequate cleaning and sanitation; physical separation of activities to prevent biological cross-contamination; procedures to control and prevent other forms of contamination within production; supplier controls; safety of water and ice; proper waste management; pest control; appropriate levels of personal hygiene and health of all personnel; comprehensive training and supervision measures.

Is HACCP a food safety management system?

Yes - the principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point) are procedures designed to create an adequate food safety management system.

Click here to visit our full FAQ Hub

Further information

If you need a more comprehensive overview of HACCP, then consider the Virtual College course on the subject, which can be found here.


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