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Last updated: 17.01.22

How to Write a HACCP Plan

Anyone who works in the food or food manufacturing industry is likely to be familiar with HACCP. This set of health and safety principles ensure that a high standard of health and safety is kept across all businesses that deal with the production, packaging and distribution of food products.

If you’re in a senior position in one of these businesses, or work in the health and safety department, you may be required to develop a HACCP plan in accordance with these guidelines. In this article, we explain how to create a HACCP plan by following the seven key principles of the system.

What is HACCP?

HACCP is a safety system that is used in the catering and food production industry. It is used as a way of identifying and preventing hazards that could be present whilst food is being prepared or packaged, which ensures their safety and protects customers.

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, which are the areas that a HACCP plan focuses on when it comes to identifying stages of the production process where additional safety measures need to be implemented. These control points are present from the stage where raw materials are handled right through to manufacturing, distribution and consumption. 

The HACCP system is recognised internationally and ensures that risk management in food production is carried out to the same standard everywhere, ensuring that customers can feel confident in the safety of their food no matter where they are.

How to Create a HACCP Plan

A HACCP food safety plan must be developed to ensure that a business complies with EU Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 and is following official guidance to keep their customers safe. The seven principles of HACCP are used as a basis to develop this plan, giving a clear system to follow when it comes to implementing safety measures in a food preparation or manufacturing environment.

Below are the seven key steps in developing a HACCP plan that should be used as a guide when you are ensuring that appropriate hazard controls and risk prevention methods are in place.

  • Carry Out Hazard Analysis

As with many risk assessments, the first step of creating a HACCP plan involves carrying out an analysis of all the potential hazards that are present in a working environment and/or the food production process. Businesses only need to focus on the stages of this process that happen in their workplace; if other stages are completed by external companies then these don’t need to be included in the HACCP plan.

Hazard analysis involves the identification of every potential hazard in a workplace that could lead to illness or injury. This illness or injury could be caused by the product being developed and handled or by the processes themselves.

Official HACCP guidance outlines three different types of hazards. These are: 

  • Physical Hazards: Any materials and objects that run the risk of becoming part of the food product being prepared or packaged. Examples of this include screws, pieces of glass, waste or material from pests, pieces of jewellery and bits of packaging, all of which could be present in the workplace environment and end up in the product.
  • Chemical Hazards: Any chemical product that might enter the food and is not part of the ingredients is classed as a chemical hazard. Common examples of these include things like cleaning products, water, additives, pesticides and biocides or food contact materials, which again can all come from the surrounding environment.
  • Microbiological Hazards: Any microbiological substance, such as yeast, bacteria, viruses, mould or fungus. These are more likely to be present in a food preparation or packing environment where raw ingredients are also kept in the same place, or food waste isn’t immediately cleaned up and removed

It’s also important to consider the presence of any allergens that are present in the working environment but not an official ingredient of the food product, as these should also be classed as a hazard and included in the initial hazard analysis.

Completing a hazard analysis should involve systematically working your way around the working environment and making notes of all the systems, equipment and spaces that could pose a potential risk to employees or consumers. This should cover the areas where food products and ingredients are stored, handled, packaged and sorted.

To ensure that your HACCP plan is thorough, it can be useful to get multiple people to complete this risk analysis so that nothing gets missed.

After every potential risk has been spotted and noted down, the next stage of developing a HACCP plan is determining the level of risk that each hazard presents to either the customer or the employees who interact with it. You can calculate the level of risk by deciding the probability of the risk occurring and then estimating the level of damage that this risk would cause. Hazards with a high probability of occurring that will also cause a high level of damage should be prioritised when it comes to deciding what needs to be controlled in the next stages of the HACCP plan.

When writing up this first stage of the HACCP food safety plan, make sure that the whereabouts of each hazard is listed, along with its calculated level of risk and whether there are already any measures in place to control the risk it poses.

  • Identify Critical Control Points

The next stage of designing a HACCP plan is to identify the critical control points that are present in the existing food manufacturing or preparation processes.

Critical control points are a key part of HACCP, hence their inclusion in the name. A critical control point is a stage in a system or process where control measures can be put in place that will remove the likelihood of a hazard occurring or reduce risk to an acceptable level. It is likely that your workplace will already have several identified critical control points, which will make this stage of writing a plan easier.

After assessing all of the existing critical control points, analyse the processes they belong to and determine whether any more points of control can be implemented to reduce or remove the hazards you have previously identified. Decide what preventative measures could be taken, and evaluate how this would affect the risk.

In your HACCP plan, make a note of all the new critical control points you are going to introduce and what action will need to be taken to do this.

  • Establish Critical Limits

Every critical control point listed in a HACCP plan needs a critical limit. This limit is the highest level of risk that has been determined as acceptable before a hazard becomes a real danger and needs to be removed to protect employees or customers who may come into contact with it. Critical limits are used to continually assess how much risk a hazard poses.

Critical control points need to have a maximum limit determined, but also need a minim limit. The values between these limits are the level of risk that the hazard should remain at, and if it falls outside of these then immediate action needs to be taken.

Examples of critical limits include the temperature range that an ingredient or product must be stored at, the number of times a piece of machinery can be used in a set period of time, or the number of products that can be safely stored in a container.

Your HACCP plan should already have a clear list of the present critical control points. Next to each of these, record the critical limits you have decided for each one.

  • Determine Monitoring Procedures

Once hazards, critical control points and critical limits have been decided and recorded, the next step in developing a HACCP plan is to establish procedures that can be used to monitor the success of these control measures. This will involve gathering data from machinery and equipment involved in the processes to check whether any limits have been exceeded and whether hazardous occurrences have been reduced. 

Being able to monitor hazard control procedures also means that you have a record of the performance of your control measures that can be used to verify your efforts in the future.

In an ideal world, critical control points would have constant monitoring, and some machinery does allow for this, However, in most cases critical limits have to be checked and recorded manually, and you will have to decide how frequently this has to happen and who it will be completed by.

In this stage of writing a HACCP plan, you must outline how each of the identified critical control points is going to be monitored, and where this data is going to be kept. If any manual data collection has to take place, you must make a note of who will do this and how they will be trained to ensure that measurements are accurate.

  • Implement Corrective Actions

Once you start monitoring the effectiveness of your critical control points, you will be able to see whether these are doing their job consistently or whether there are instances where values fall outside of the designated critical limits. In these cases, the next stage of completing a HACCP plan is to identify where critical control measures aren’t serving their purpose and decide how you are going to change this.

These corrective actions need to identify what went wrong, how this posed a risk to those exposed to the hazard, and what has been done to rectify the issue.

Corrective actions mean that the likelihood of a risk occurring again in the future is minimised and that consumers or employees are kept safe. Having procedures outlined for what to do if a critical limit is exceeded means that corrective action can be taken faster and the impact of the error is dealt with as soon as possible.

  • Outline Documentation Procedures

The penultimate step in writing a HACCP plan is to outline how you are going to record all of the data you gather through monitoring your hazard prevention system. This outlines all of the procedures that the previous sections of the HACCP plan have determined and details how each of these will be measured and recorded to ensure successful implementation.

This step also involves making a note of any official records that you need to keep in line with certain food preparation and storage regulations. This will only apply to certain businesses, but it’s important to check whether you are required to keep records for any health and safety inspections.

  • Verify Processes

To finish creating a HACCP plan, the final step involves writing down the processes that will be implemented to ensure that the plan continues to be followed and all risk mitigation procedures are completed. For many businesses, this involves organising regular verification assessments which will determine whether the HACCP measures are working successfully or whether they need to be updated.

FAQs

What does HACCP stand for?

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. These two things refer to the key aspects of carrying out a HACCP risk assessment; analysing the hazards that are present in a food preparation or manufacturing environment and identifying the points where these hazards can be removed or controlled.

Who is responsible for implementing the HACCP plan?

According to official HACCP guidance, it is the responsibility of the food business to ensure that HACCP principles are enforced and an official plan is drawn up to control the hazards present in the working environment. The business owner can do this themselves, give responsibility to another employee or outsource the work to an external company.

How many principles of HACCP are there?

There are seven basic principles involved in HACCP that should be considered when developing a plan. These are conducting a hazard analysis, identifying critical control points, establishing critical limits, monitoring critical control points, establishing corrective action, verifying the HACCP plan and keeping records to prove that the plan is being followed and works.

Summary

The seven principles of HACCP make designing a plan relatively easy, as they give a clear structure to the steps you need to follow to ensure that everything is covered. A HACCP plan should be revisited over time and updated when necessary, as this guarantees that the highest levels of risk management are met and everyone stays safe.

If you’d like to find out more about the processes and legislation involved in HACCP, we offer a ‘Level 2 HACCP Training’ online course which is CPD certified and suitable for anyone who works in a role that involves handling or packing food.

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