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Last updated: 16.08.19

HACCP in Retail and Food Service Businesses

One of the top priorities for any food retail or food service business is the health and safety of its customers. Foodborne illnesses, and foreign bodies in food, can be hugely damaging, not least because of the impact they can have on a person’s health, but also the potential business damage too. There are many ways in which companies will go about ensuring the food they serve is safe, and HACCP is one of the most important. An initialism of hazard analysis and critical control points, HACCP is a procedure that aims to reduce the chances of biological, physical and chemical hazards being present in food. Let’s take a look.

What is HACCP?

The term HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, which embodies a practical, scientific way of regulating food safety during production. Its main purpose is to prevent food substances from being unsafe, as well as avoiding any issues during its production which could cause injuries. The HACCP is informed by scientific research coupled with technical information which allows for procedures and measures to be used in order to reduce risk, and should be implemented within all food production settings. While it doesn’t guarantee that food produced under HACCP principles will be 100% safe, it provides a sizeable reassurance to both retailers and consumers that food produced on your site is as safe as possible.

Why is HACCP important?

HACCP is really important because food production and serving processes often have lots of points at which harmful elements could become an issue. Bacteria can cause illnesses, certain foods can cause allergic reactions, and physical contaminants can even pose choking hazards. Without sound measures in place, it would be difficult to ensure that food is safe to eat.

It is seen as so important and critical to food safety that it is mentioned in EU regulations. Article 5 of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 states that food businesses must put in place a procedure or system based on the HACCP principles.

How does HACCP work?

HACCP works by introducing various steps to the food preparation or serving process. It’s very commonly used in production, but if you work in retail or catering, you will still certainly need to know how it works. Different authorities will recommend a different number of steps, but broadly they are as follows:

  • Identify the risks that could be present in your food operations, which can include everything from harmful bacteria to foreign bodies and chemicals
  • Create critical control points, which are steps in your operations where you can control the previously identified hazards, and decide the method of setting limits to determine how to control the hazards
  • Keep documents that detail your HACCP policy, including employee responsibilities, as well as keeping a record of the recordings you take at critical control points
  • Continually monitor your HACCP plan with a view to ensuring that it is performing as it should

Examples of HACCP in retail

Some retailers may sell only prepacked food items, in which case it’s less likely that HACCP will be a major element of health and safety. This is because packaging will very likely remove most of the risks of biological, chemical and physical hazards. In kitchens for example, there may be many CCPs to ensure food is cooked properly, does not contain contaminants, has not been spoiled etc.

However, retailers should certainly still be aware. If we think about food that needs to be chilled for example, we’ve introduced a certain biological risk. If the food is left out of the refrigerator for too long, it will no longer be safe to eat. Here is a good example of where critical control points might be introduced. Fridges need to be checked for operating temperature, and food needs to be checked to ensure that it’s in date.

Find out more

If you work in food retail or food services, and you feel it would be helpful to know more about HACCP principles, then taking training could be helpful. Here at Virtual College, we offer a number of food safety and food hygiene courses, including a dedicated course on HACCP. Click here to be taken to the course page to find out more about what the course covers.


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.

What are 3 types of food contamination?

The three main types of food contamination are physical (foreign objects present in food), chemical (foreign chemical substances are present in food), and biological (living organisms such as pests or microorganisms are present in food), but there is also cross-contamination which is where any one of these contaminants can be transferred from one source to another resulting in additional risk.

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