A Food Safety Method



HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. It is a food safety management system which some 150 countries have adopted. Stakeholders analyze and control for physical, chemical, and biological hazards from the production of raw materials, to final consumption.


HACCP attempts to avoid hazards rather than attempting to inspect finished products for the effects of those hazards.

The HACCP system can be used at all stages of a food chain, from food production and preparation processes including packaging, distribution, etc. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) require mandatory HACCP programs for juice and meat as an effective approach to food safety and protecting public health. Meat HACCP systems are regulated by the USDA, while seafood and juice are regulated by the FDA. All other food companies in the United States that are required to register with the FDA under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, as well as firms outside the US that export food to the US, are transitioning to mandatory hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls (HARPC) plans.

HACCP is believed to stem from a production process monitoring used during World War IIbecause traditional "end of the pipe" testing on artillery shell's firing mechanisms could not be performed, and a large percentage of the artillery shells made at the time were either duds or misfiring. HACCP itself was conceived in the 1960s when the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) asked Pillsbury to design and manufacture the first foods for space flights. Since then, HACCP has been recognized internationally as a logical tool for adapting traditional inspection methods to a modern, science-based, food safety system.

Based on risk-assessment, HACCP plans allow both industry and government to allocate their resources efficiently in establishing and auditing safe food production practices. In 1994, the organization of International HACCP Alliance was established initially for the US meat and poultry industries to assist them with implementing HACCP and now its membership has been spread over other professional/industrial areas. This method, which in effect seeks to plan out unsafe practices based on science, differs from traditional "produce and sort" quality control methods that do nothing to prevent hazards from occurring and must identify them at the end of the process. HACCP is focused only on the health safety issues of a product and not the quality of the product, yet HACCP principles are the basis of most food quality and safety assurance systems

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HACCP based procedures provide businesses with a cost effective system for control of food safety, from ingredients right through to production, storage and distribution to sale and service of the final consumer. The preventive approach of HACCP based procedures not only improves food safety management but also complements other quality management systems. The main benefits of HACCP based procedures are:

  • Saves your business money in the long run
  • Avoids you poisoning your customers
  • Food safety standards increase
  • Ensures you are compliant with the law
  • Food quality standards increase
  • Organises your process to produce safe food
  • Organises your staff promoting teamwork and efficiency
  • Due diligence defence in court.


There are four types of hazards that you need to consider:
Microbiological hazards
Microbiological hazards include bacteria, yeasts, moulds and viruses.

Chemical hazards
Chemical hazards include water, food contact materials, cleaning agents, pest control substances, contaminants (environmental, agricultural and process e.g. acrylamide), pesticides, biocides and food additives.

Physical hazards
Physical hazards include glass, packaging, jewellery, pest droppings, screws etc.

This refers to the risk associated with the unintended presence of one or more of the 14 EU listed food allergens due to cross-contamination.

Some HACCP Terminology

  • Control (verb): To take all necessary actions to ensure and maintain compliance with criteria established in the HACCP plan.
  • Control (noun): The state wherein correct procedures are being followed and criteria are being met.
  • Control measure: Any action and activity that can be used to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.
  • Corrective action: Any action to be taken when the results of monitoring at the CCP indicate a loss of control.
  • Critical Control Point (CCP): A step at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.
  • Critical limit: A criterion which separates acceptability from unacceptability.
  • Flow diagram: A systematic representation of the sequence of steps or operations used in the production or manufacture of a particular food item.
  • HACCP plan: A document prepared in accordance with the principles of HACCP to ensure control of hazards which are significant for food safety in the segment of the food chain under consideration.


  • Conduct a hazard analysis
    Plan to determine the food safety hazards and identify the preventive measures the plan can apply to control these hazards. A food safety hazard is any biological, chemical, or physical property that may cause a food to be unsafe for human consumption.
  • Identify critical control points
    A critical control point (CCP) is a point, step, or procedure in a food manufacturing process at which control can be applied and, as a result, a food safety hazard can be prevented, eliminated, or reduced to an acceptable level.
  • Establish critical limits for each critical control point
    A critical limit is the maximum or minimum value to which a physical, biological, or chemical hazard must be controlled at a critical control point to prevent, eliminate, or reduce that hazard to an acceptable level.
  • Establish critical control point monitoring requirements
    Monitoring activities are necessary to ensure that the process is under control at each critical control point. In the United States, the FSIS requires that each monitoring procedure and its frequency be listed in the HACCP plan.
  • Establish corrective actions
    These are actions to be taken when monitoring indicates a deviation from an established critical limit. The final rule requires a plant's HACCP plan to identify the corrective actions to be taken if a critical limit is not met. Corrective actions are intended to ensure that no product is injurious to health or otherwise adulterated as a result if the deviation enters commerce.
  • Establish procedures for ensuring the HACCP system is working as intended
    Validation ensures that the plants do what they were designed to do; that is, they are successful in ensuring the production of a safe product. Plants will be required to validate their own HACCP plans. FSIS will not approve HACCP plans in advance, but will review them for conformance with the final rule.
    Verification ensures the HACCP plan is adequate, that is, working as intended. Verification procedures may include such activities as review of HACCP plans, CCP records, critical limits and microbial sampling and analysis. FSIS is requiring that the HACCP plan include verification tasks to be performed by plant personnel. Verification tasks would also be performed by FSIS inspectors. Both FSIS and industry will undertake microbial testing as one of several verification activities.
    Verification also includes 'validation' – the process of finding evidence for the accuracy of the HACCP system (e.g. scientific evidence for critical limitations).
  • Establish record keeping procedures
    The HACCP regulation requires that all plants maintain certain documents, including its hazard analysis and written HACCP plan, and records documenting the monitoring of critical control points, critical limits, verification activities, and the handling of processing deviations. Implementation involves monitoring, verifying, and validating of the daily work that is compliant with regulatory requirements in all stages all the time. The differences among those three types of work are given by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who must obtain HACCP?
HACCP is intended for organisation that are concerned with the production, processing or distribution of foodstuffs. Foodstuffs mean all food and drink products, but also raw materials and help ingredients that are used in food. If you work in this sector, HACCP certification is mandatory. The government strictly controls compliance with this certification. For small companies, however, the requirements are met via hygiene codes, because it is not possible for these companies to create their own HACCP plan. All food business operators, plus managers and supervisors in charge of planning and implementing the HACCP system, should be appropriately trained so that they are competent and knowledgeable. Training should also be provided to members of the HACCP team. Obtaining a HACCP certificate shows that you have learnt how to successfully plan, implement and maintain an effective HACCP system that complies with the law.
2. How can I acquire the HACCP hygiene code certificate?
To obtain your HACCP hygiene code certificate, you are tested on your knowledge concerning safety and hygiene in the workplace. This is done via an online HACCP hygiene code exam. For this, you first follow an HACCP hygiene code course via internet. Within just a few hours you learn everything you need to know about working hygienically. This way you are certain that you possess all the necessary knowledge to obtain the HACCP hygiene code certificate.
3. How much will it cost to implement a HACCP system?

Costs vary greatly among facilities. Start-up costs are usually those associated with the planning, development and implementation of the HACCP system and do not recur. Generally, the more products and processes involved in an operation, the more complex the HACCP system will have to be. Consider:

  • Number of allergens in your product
  • Current state of your equipment/cleanable surfaces
  • Required facility upgrades
  • Current inventory of monitoring equipment
  • Current level of employee food safety training
  • The number of risks introduced during your processing
  • The resources available to develop and maintain the system (i.e. HACCP Coordinator) or how much you can afford to spend on a consultant
  • Whether your facility is eligible for funding

Recurring costs are those incurred from maintenance activities such as annual validation, training, record keeping, monitoring and updating. To keep the system effective and maintain certification recurring costs cannot be avoided.

4. How Would HACCP Be Applied From Farm to Table?
For the most successful implementation of HACCP, it should be applied from farm to table -- starting on the farm and ending with the individual preparing the food, whether in a restaurant or home. On the farm, there are actions that can be taken to prevent contamination from occurring, such as monitoring feed, maintaining farm sanitation, and practicing good animal health management practices. In the plant, contamination must be prevented during slaughter and processing. Once meat and poultry products leave the plant, there should be controls in place during transportation, storage and distribution. In retail stores, proper sanitation, refrigeration, storage and handling practices will prevent contamination. Finally, in restaurants, food service and homes, food handlers must store, handle and cook foods properly to ensure food safety.
5. How Can HACCP Be Applied in Distribution and Retail?

FSIS plans to work with the Food and Drug Administration and state and local governments to begin to implement HACCP in the distribution and retail sectors. FSIS intends to work with FDA to develop federal standards for safe handling of food during transportation, distribution and storage prior to delivery to retail stores. Also, FSIS will work with FDA to provide food safety guidance to retail stores through the updated Food Code. The Food Code is a model ordinance intended to serve as a guide for state and local authorities. Following proper sanitation and handling guidelines will help ensure that further contamination and cross contamination do not occur.

6. What are the benefits of implementing a HACCP system?
  • Increased food safety
  • Meet customer/retailer requirements
  • Maintained or improved market access
  • It drives continuous improvement
  • Best practices by staff constantly reinforced
  • Ongoing efficient oversight
  • In some cases, HACCP is required by legislation
  • Once implemented, reduced operational costs
  • Reduced waste
  • Reduced recalls
  • Reduced liability, possibly reduced liability premiums
  • Improved product quality and consistency
  • Increased consumer confidence in food safety
7. When was HACCP introduced in the UK and Ireland?

HACCP food safety management systems were recommended for use in the UK and Ireland in the 1990s, but became mandatory from 1st January 2006 when the European Union introduced the Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs.

8. What is GFSI?

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) was launched in 2000 to achieve harmonization of food safety standards to reduce audit duplication throughout the supply chain. GFSI benchmarks food standards against food safety criteria. Current standards benchmarked by GFSI and commonly used by processors in Canada are: BRC (British Retail Consortium), SQF (Safe Quality Food), and FSSC 22000 (Food Safety System Certification). GFSI standards require development and implementation of a HACCP system and have additional requirements beyond the HACCP system.

9. Is HACCP a legal requirement for all food businesses?

Yes. Since 1998 it has been a legal requirement* for all food businesses to have a food safety management system based on the principles of HACCP. Under current legislation, a “food business” is defined as “…any undertaking, whether for profit or not and whether public or private, carrying out any or all of the following: preparation, processing, manufacturing, packaging, storing, transportation, distribution, handling or offering for sale or supply of foodstuffs”.

* Please check regulations in your country.

10. What is a HACCP plan?

Planning is essential to ensure that your HACCP system will work efficiently and effectively. The HACCP plan can be linear (where each product in your food business has its own HACCP plan, tracking the product from start to finish) or modular (where each stage of the food production process has its own HACCP plan, e.g. delivery, storage and preparation).

11. What are prerequisite programs?

Procedures and practices that provide the basic environmental and operational conditions necessary for the production of safe foods. They are the foundation of a HACCP system. Some examples are sanitation, recall, pest control, premises, transportation and storage, equipment, personnel training, supplier approval, and allergens.

Prerequisite programmes are the range of fundamental control measures needed in order to produce safe food. Prerequisites are the basics of food hygiene and must be in place before a full HACCP system can be implemented. There is no set number of HACCP prerequisites – the amount will depend on your individual food business. Examples include measures to prevent cross-contamination, hygiene procedures and pest control measures.

12. What is a critical limit in HACCP?

A critical limit is the maximum or minimum value needed for the control measure at a Critical Control Point in order to prevent, eliminate or reduce a food safety hazard to an acceptable level. Critical Limits separate safe production from unsafe production and establishing them is principle 3 of HACCP.

13. What is a HACCP control point?

A HACCP critical control point is a stage in the HACCP process where it has been identified that control measures are needed in order to eliminate or reduce a hazard. A ‘critical limit’ is then established and, if reached, preventative action is guaranteed to be implemented.

14. What are examples of HACCP control measures?

A control measure is an action that helps to eliminate or prevent a food safety hazard, or reduce it to an acceptable level. Examples include thorough cooking, metal detection, sieving and filtration, use of approved supplied, planned equipment maintenance the segregation of raw, ready-to-eat and allergenic foods.