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What are the critical control points for food safety?
To protect customers from foodborne illnesses and produce safe food products, government agencies have adopted the systematic approach of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). Under this food safety program, critical operations are designated to control, eliminate, or reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses from potential hazards. These operations are called critical control points (CCP). The types of CCPs depend on the nature of your operations. They were designed to create a process flow that will only produce wholesome food and are established after hazard identification. Over the years of HACCP use, the food industry has identified legal requirements for identifying what are the critical control points for food safety.
The absence of an established set of CCP can lead to loss of control of food safety and can cost your business. Responsibility for food safety requirements is a non-negotiable factor when it comes to running a food processing facility and establishment. Reports have shown that at least 44% of foodborne illness outbreaks come from any bad food handling process in restaurants. Such occurrences can either cause total closure of a restaurant or loss of customer confidence from the incident. As a food safety supervisor, it is your task to direct your team toward maintaining food safety through the proper application of a HACCP food safety systems plan.
Find out how to speed up the process of identifying and establishing the CCPs of your HACCP plan using our free CCP tool based on a CCP decision tree in this article.
What is a critical control point?
A critical control point for food safety is any operation within the supply chain where preventive controls can be applied to eliminate or minimize the risks of food safety hazards to acceptable levels. Establishing a CCP is the second process step among the 7 HACCP principles. Each CCP is established to control one or two identified potential hazards and is essential to prevent the release of hazardous food. They are used to fulfill food safety standards and abide by food safety laws. These food operations are more focused on the food production side rather than end-product testing. A finished product would only be considered a safe product if the CCPs are properly applied.
There are many different critical control point examples in the food industry. Each food establishment is likely to have its own CCP to control potential hazards that are common in its niche. Despite the wide range of literature regarding CCPs and references on their establishment, a lot of thought processes and considerations go into identifying which one is best suited for your operations.
The accurate identification and establishment of CCPs will determine the effectiveness of your system's food safety approach and a firm commitment to protecting customers. This process will require a flow chart diagram to identify which areas would be most critical in controlling food safety.
Critical control points are carefully identified and analyzed control measures. They are your best defense and prevention strategy from causing food safety issues such as adverse health effects as consequences of exposure to hazards or even a foodborne illness outbreak. Additionally, proper application of CCPs can prevent potentially damaging results in terms of your food company such as food recalls that can lead to significant loss of profits.
Who needs to define critical control points for food safety?
All food establishments including restaurants, cafeterias, ghost kitchens, food trucks, catering services, and institutional food service establishments would benefit from defining CCPs for food safety as preventative measures. Whether establishing a HACCP food safety plan is voluntary or not for your food business, it is one of the best and most comprehensive ways of controlling and preserving food safety in the industry. As such, every food business must learn how to properly identify and establish CCPs correctly.
What are the most common critical control points?
Critical control points are any preventive control measures that can regulate biological, chemical, and physical hazards in your food operations for the production of safe food for consumption. They can be highly technical tasks or very simple ones. Depending on the nature of your operations, your CCPs may significantly vary. In addition, a CCP is based on an established potential food safety hazard and is often product-specific.
Some of the most common examples of CCPs may include the following:
- Cooking. The application of the heat process to raw materials is perhaps one of the most effective ways of controlling any food safety risk, especially biological hazards, that make food unsafe for customers. When proper food temperatures are applied, heat can deactivate a significant number of pathogenic microorganisms and render food safe and more delectable. Cooking is a method of preparation or food production process that needs to be accompanied by appropriate monitoring records to ensure that all parameters such as target internal temperatures are followed.
- Chilling/ Controlled temperature storage. Especially for food companies that involve holding raw or cooked foods at low-temperature conditions of storage, proper and consistent control is important. Harmful bacteria and other microbiological pathogens are inhibited under very cold conditions and microbial growth is significantly controlled.
- Hot holding. Similar to cold storage, holding hot food at an elevated temperature prevents enteric pathogens from contaminating and spoiling any food product. The principle behind this is keeping the food item out of the temperature danger zone which includes ambient temperatures.
- Addition of preservatives. Some food preparation methods such as meat curing or even sanitizing fruit juice containers require additives to control microbial contamination. This operation requires precision in applied additives in addition to ensuring compliance with allowed concentrations.
- Filth detection. Physical hazards can often bring other types of contaminations such as bacteria and viruses, especially during raw material production. Failure to detect physical agents through visual observations from sorting to product formulation can increase the likelihood of causing more damage.
For food establishments and manufacturing companies that use raw materials such as meats, cooking may be an essential CCP to prevent the release of unsafe food. They would need to render the materials safe for consumption which can be significantly achieved through applying a thermal process. In this operation, factors such as the correct internal temperature and cooking time must also be defined to guide food handlers in performing procedures for monitoring the CCP.
A CCP must be tailored to the identified critical food service operations in your business. It must also be applicable, combined with monitoring procedures, and accompanied by critical limits set by food regulatory agencies. As such, a clear depiction of your whole process is required and must be critically analyzed. Find out how FoodDocs can help you effortlessly analyze and establish CCPs for your food business below!
How to identify a hazard CCP?
Your food safety team may spend hours or even days figuring out the best design that includes CCPs and critical limits for your operations. The identification of CCPs can be based on established data, existing literature from scientific studies, or information from food safety regulatory standards. Several operations can be considered as a CCP and you would only need to analyze which one fits your operations best. One regularly used tool to determine a CCP is the HACCP decision tree. This tool includes a set of questions that are designed to analyze whether an operation is a CCP for food safety or not. The questions included in a decision tree are answerable with a yes or a no.
There are several versions of decision trees and each one with a more discerning question than the other.
Most sets of questions are designed with the following flow:
Are preventive measures in place?
A human health hazard can be controlled even with just the use of standard operating procedures and common prerequisite programs. This program includes basic principles of practices that promote proper food safety management procedures and a conducive food environment and clean facilities for producing food. They are also concerned with applying basic conditions of sanitary design principles in a food establishment as well as maintaining good company employee health.
Will the step eliminate or reduce the occurrence or effect of the food safety hazard?
The main goal of a CCP is to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses, if not eliminate them, to an acceptable level. If an operation was designated to do this, then you can proceed to the next question.
Is there a chance for the identified potential food hazards to reach unacceptable levels?
The next question focuses more on the likelihood of the hazard increasing to dangerous levels. This criterion determines whether there is a need to control the hazard.
Will there be a succeeding step that can control the hazard?
A CCP is considered a final processing method for controlling a food safety hazard such as the multiplication of pathogens. If any subsequent step has similar functions then the operation being analyzed is not a CCP.
Other examples of decision trees may be more detailed and include the identification of other food safety controls such as an operational prerequisite program. The problem for your team is how to draft or choose a decision tree that would speed up the process for you.
Are you still looking for a faster way to build an entire HACCP food safety plan? Find out how in the next section.
Need more help understanding CCPs? Here are a few frequently asked questions about this topic:
What are the 5 critical control points?
Five of the most common CCPs in the food industry include
What is an example of a critical control point?
One best example of a CCP would be cooking to the correct internal temperature. Most foods, especially for food service establishments, will not undergo any further processing after foods and will go directly to customers. As such, cooking will be the last step for food handlers to address the hazards.
How to identify CCPs with FoodDocs free tool?
At FoodDocs, we have built a free Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point decision tree tool that can help your team easily identify CCPs. Our free tool consists of a set of detailed and accurate questions that help describe operations. Each question is answerable by a yes or a no and will give you an instant result after finishing the questions.
Using our free tool, identifying CCPs can be done in three essential steps:
- Choose the hazard of concern from the dropdown menu (e.g., cross-contact of allergens, growth of harmful bacteria due to wrong storage temperature, and cross-contamination by employees);
- Answer three simple questions about the nature of the threat;
- Insert your email, download the Decision Tree and add it to your HACCP plan!
There is no more need to spend too much time building your own decision tree or figuring out which preventive measure fits your operations.
This free tool that we are offering was built to speed up your process of HACCP food safety plan making.
Get your CCPs and the whole HACCP done in 1 hour
Establishing CCPs alone is time-consuming and this is just one step in the HACCP plan-making process. A normal HACCP plan-making process can take you up to several months of preparation, revision, plus more hours for the implementation. Even with the help of a food safety consultant, the process of fulfilling mandatory requirements from a regulatory agency can take a while. Each CCP would even have to go through a series of validation activities before it can become established.
To help you build a whole HACCP plan, you can use our built-in HACCP plan builder software! Our system can automatically identify the most significant CCPs for your operations based on similarly natured businesses from our knowledge bank. You can get a fully analyzed and justified set of CCPs complete with critical limits with just a few clicks. No more need for your team to spend hours analyzing an operation using a decision tree or a hazard and risk matrix.
Our digital solution offers a 500x faster process than the traditional method. You can get a comprehensive HACCP plan with all of the needed parts in just an average of 1 hour! Too good to be true? Our system is now being enjoyed by more than 20,000 customers worldwide and we've helped countless food businesses achieve food safety compliance in record time.
Our process only involves a series of basic questions about your food business. Using artificial intelligence, our system automatically generates a comprehensive digital HACCP plan for you. Finish everything in just 1 hour.
Using our built-in Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plan builder, your food safety team can automatically get the following components:
- Simple flow diagram
- Complete and detailed analysis of hazards
- Established critical control points
- Appropriate critical limits and corrective actions
- Digital CCP monitoring forms and procedures
- Comprehensive verification procedures
- Accurate record-keeping processes
Our system was built to help food businesses achieve food safety compliance in the fastest and most effective way possible. With our built-in HACCP plan builder, you can focus more on the implementation of your food safety program and improving your food services. What's more, you can create a HACCP plan for a significantly lesser price. We've done the math for you and our system costs 15x less than hiring a food safety consultant to help you build your HACCP plan.
To accommodate improvements and revisions, you can customize your automatically generated HACCP plan even further. We understand how some food businesses may have some unique operations and may be new to the food chain. As such, you can simply edit your HACCP food safety management plan with just a few clicks.
Get your digital HACCP plan now using our free, 14-day trial and start implementing it right away.