Last updated: 20.08.19

Guidelines: Principles and Application of HACCP

Developed back in the 60s with input from none other than NASA, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, more regularly known as HACCP, have become a hugely important part of food hygiene and safety. This approach is designed to reduce the hazards posed by biological, chemical and physical elements that may otherwise make food unsafe.

It’s used by food businesses all around the world to ensure that the food they’re serving, whether to customers or indeed astronauts, is safe to eat. The approach is deemed so critical to food safety, that in 2006 an EU regulation – Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 - came into force, which stated 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 the main principles and how this approach is applied.

Where can HACCP be applied?

HACCP can be applied anywhere at all that food is being produced or served. The broad approach can apply to anything from a small food cart, to a large industrial kitchen, and even retail units that might deal with food that isn’t prepackaged. Chances are, if you work with food, it’s likely that HACCP can be applied in some way to help make sure that the food is safe for people to eat.

It’s also worth noting that HACCP has actually now been applied to more than just food production processes; the cosmetics and pharmaceuticals industries also use this, or a very similar, approach.

Principles of HACCP and how to apply them

Depending on the organisation or publisher, there can be differing numbers of HACCP principles or steps. In some cases, this will be up to 12, but most authorities would suggest six or seven as the clearest and easiest to follow process. Let’s take a look at each one and how they might be applied.

Hazard analysis

Like most health and safety processes, a risk assessment is the very first step. Decide what hazards might be present in your operations. Could there be any biological hazards from uncooked or spoiled food? Might cleaning products come into contact with food? Could anything drop into the food?

Identify critical control points

Now you understand the risks that may be present, it’s time to decide where these risks can be controlled. This can be at preparation points, cooking points, at the time you check stock, or any other step you see fit.

Establish critical limits

Controlling the risks at control points is about determining whether or not a safe point has been reached, or whether a safe limit has not been exceeded. Have expiry dates on packaging been passed? Has food reached the right temperature when being cooked? Are the freezers operating at the right temperature?

Monitor critical control points

How are you going to monitor your control point to make sure that the critical limits are measured properly? Make sure that monitoring is accurate and consistent.

Take action

It’s really important that you have a plan for when your HACCP process identifies a problem. Can you resolve the issue by ensuring the hazard now meets your limits, or do you need to start again? Does anything need to be disposed of?


The ultimate measure of a HACCP process is whether or not it has worked properly, which means maintaining a regular process of verification. Check that HACCP is stopping biological, chemical and physical hazards from causing a problem.

Record Keeping

Finally, record keeping is very important. There are two main aspects to this. First is documentation that helps ensure that your HACCP policy is clear, and second is to keep notes that detail the results and records of checks at critical control points.

Find out more

As HACCP can sometimes be an in-depth and even complex procedure, it’s always worth considering training to ensure that you’re correctly understanding the principles. At Virtual College, we’re proud to be experts in delivering food hygiene and food safety training, and we even have a HACCP training course, which you can find here.


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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