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Last updated: 20.07.17

HACCP Guide - What Are Critical Control Points?

What is HACCP?

Since 2006 the EU have made it a legal requirement for food businesses to implement a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) food safety management system. It is vital that food caterers and manufacturers adhere to food safety laws and take all the necessary steps for a hygienic kitchen.

By following the HACCP principles, food businesses can protect their customers from the dangers of eating unsafe food and catching food related illnesses.

Why is HACCP important?

A HACCP system is recognised as the best way to control food safety and hygiene by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and other important organisations. If you work in a food environment, then you should be aware that during an inspection a food enforcement officer will expect to see that there is a successful HACCP management system in place.

A HACCP plan ensures that hazards are identified and controlled through critical control points to minimise the risks to food safety. This includes looking at all elements of a food business practice including procurement, food handling, manufacturing and distribution.

What is a Critical Control Point? (CCP)

A Critical Control Point is a step in Food Handling where controls can be applied to prevent or reduce any food safety hazard. Food businesses should identify controls which can be carried out to prevent the hazards identified.

Examples include:

  • Cooking
  • Chilling
  • Nitrate or Cure additions
  • Metal Detection

What are food hazards?

Potential food hazards need to be identified quickly and removed or reduced to stop food becoming unsafe or dangerous to eat. There are three main categories of hazards which could affect food safety:

  • Biological- Harmful bacteria which can contaminate food.
  • Chemical- This can include toxins, pesticides or preservatives.
  • Physical- Materials such as glass or metal which can cause serious harm if ingested.

A HACCP plan will help you to identify and remove these hazards within your business.

The seven core principles of HACCP

HACCP is based on the following seven key principles:

    1. Conduct a hazard analysis – Inspect your environment meticulously to identify where any food safety hazards are, and the amount of risk that each of these hazards carry. A food hazard can be any chemical, biological or physical element that effects food safety.

    2. Identify critical control points– A critical control point (CCP) is a step in a food handling process where controls can be applied to prevent or reduce any food safety hazard. Food businesses should identify controls which can be carried out to prevent the hazards identified.

    3. Establish critical limits – Decide on specific safety limits to adhere to, these may be based on scientific research. For example, you might need to determine a minimum and maximum temperature level as a control for food stored in a refrigerator.

    4. Establish monitoring procedures – Monitoring procedures need to then be implemented to ensure that critical control points are controlling the identified hazards. For example, if your control is based on temperature levels then you may action temperature checks and use monitoring forms to record times that these observations have been carried out.

    5. Establish corrective actions – Corrective actions should be taken when a critical limit is likely to be, or has been exceeded. For example, if the fridge temperature becomes too high then you might relocate food to a fridge at the correct temperature, call an engineer or contact a manager.

    6. Verify procedures – Each critical control point needs to be verified and checked regularly to ensure that the best procedures are in place to reduce and prevent hazards.

    7. Document procedures – Every HACCP based system must be well documented using charts, instructions, monitoring records etc. This is to ensure that the system is working correctly and everyone is taking responsibility for food safety. An inspector will also ask to see hazard analysis system records.

Preventive Measures

Here are some preventive measures that you might look at practicing as part of your HACCP plan:

  • Train all employees to identify potential food safety hazards
  • Implement food preparation colour codes
  • Label and store food correctly with dates
  • Request as much product information as possible from food suppliers
  • Perform visual inspections on any food products
  • Clean all surfaces after preparing and handling foods
  • Control food storage temperatures to safe recommended levels
  • Separate raw meat, raw fish and cooked meats to prevent cross contamination

If you work in a food environment and are looking to learn more about HACCP and food hygiene then check out one of our courses on the subject.

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