Understanding and Implementing the 7 Principles of HACCP


Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) is a systematic procedure used to identify, evaluate, and control food safety hazards in the food industry. A successful HACCP Plan rests on seven guiding principles that have been universally accepted by government agencies and food safety organizations from around the world.

Whether it is food processing plants, food retail stores, or food service operations, these 7 principles of HACCP are applied in every segment of the food industry to ensure food safety.

Decoding the Seven Principles of HACCP

From raw material production, procurement, and handling, to manufacturing, distribution, and consumption of the finished product, there’s always a chance of contamination that could adversely affect consumers’ health. However, the successful implementation of HACCP principles prevents these kinds of contamination.

Let us understand these seven principles of HACCP in detail and see how you can implement them in your food business.

1st Principle: Carry Out a Hazard Analysis

The main idea behind hazard analysis is to create a list of those hazards that are more likely to cause injury and illness if not kept under control. It is also essential to understand the difference between safety concerns and quality concerns. The hazard analysis that is carried out for raw ingredients, food processing, product storage, and distribution is limited to safety only.

The process of hazard analysis consists of two stages:

  1. Hazard identification
  2. Hazard evaluation

Hazard Identification

In this stage, the HACCP team reviews the ingredients used in the product and the food processing steps, equipment, and the method of storage and distribution. A list of potential hazards is identified, which also includes health-related events historically associated with the product.

Hazard Evaluation

Once the list of potential hazards is compiled, the team decides which hazards should be addressed in the HACCP plan. Each hazard is evaluated based on severity and the probability of its occurrence.

2nd Principle: Find Out Critical Control Points (CCPs)

A Critical Control Point (CCP) is a step at which control can be applied to prevent or eliminate food safety hazards. These control points can be found in those food processing steps where potential risks can be prevented or brought down to acceptable levels. Chilling, thermal processing, and testing for metal contaminants and chemical residues are the most common examples of CCPs.

It is crucial to develop and document CCPs carefully because different facilities producing the same food items can have additional CCP steps. This is primarily due to the difference in facility layout, equipment, and ingredients.

3rd Principle: Establish Critical Limits

A critical limit within a CCP step is the maximum and/or minimum value of food safety hazards’ biological, chemical, or physical parameters. This limit – which is used to differentiate between safe and unsafe working conditions – should always be under control; otherwise, it can put public health at serious risk.

Each CCP step will have one or more control measures, and these control measures will have one or more critical limits. These limits depend on various factors such as temperature, humidity, pH, salt concentration, aroma, etc. For example, the HACCP team found out that the critical temperature limit for cooking raw beef patties is 155° F for 16 seconds to neutralize pathogens like E. coli and salmonella.

4th Principle: Create Monitoring Checklists

It is vital to observe and measure Critical Control Points (CCP) to avoid deviating from the established critical limits. Monitoring checklists are an integral part of the HACCP plan because they help businesses keep accurate records for future use. In addition, effective monitoring procedures can bring a process back into control if an undesirable deviation occurs.

The best way to ensure food safety is to have a monitoring system that monitors compliance processes continuously. For example, the thermal process of canned foods is continually recorded to ensure the temperature doesn’t fall below a specific limit.

5th Principle: Establish Corrective Actions Protocol

While the HACCP system is designed to prevent food safety hazards by identifying and neutralizing them beforehand, deviations do occur. In those scenarios, efforts should be made to prevent or avoid hazardous food from reaching consumers

An effective correction plan has three stages:

  1. Finding and correcting the root cause of non-compliance
  2. Determining the nature and character of non-compliant products
  3. Recording the corrective steps for future use.

The corrective actions for each CCP step of the process should be laid out in advance in a HACCP plan. The plan should outline what needs to be done when deviations occur and who is responsible for taking these corrective steps. It is imperative to give the responsibility of corrective actions to someone who knows the process, product and HACCP guidelines inside out.

6th Principle: Verify the HACCP System at Facilities

The businesses working in the food industry need to verify that the HACCP system that they have incorporated at their facility is working as per the HACCP guidelines. An effective HACCP plan results in minimal testing of the end-product. This is because various safety measures are already added early in the process.

Expert advice, scientific studies, real-time observations, and measurements are some of the information that is required to validate the effectiveness of a HACCP plan. It is also necessary to get a comprehensive yearly verification done by an independent, third-party authority from time to time.

7th Principle: Keep Records and Documentation 

The last of the 7 principles of HACCP is related to record-keeping that should be maintained for the HACCP system. The records should include a summary of hazard analysis and the overall HACCP plan, the assigned responsibilities, the product’s description, critical limits, corrective actions, and verification procedure.

Bottom Line

These 7 principles of HACCP will help you develop an effective system in keeping the food safety hazards in check. If you want to create insightful reports for your HACCP plan, you can try Pulse Pro, an excellent EHS platform. Sign up for free on PulsePro and check out all its features.