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Critical Control Point Examples: Biological, Chemical & Physical Hazards

Critical control point examples for biological hazards include thorough cooking, cold storage, hot holding, product ...

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  • Critical control point examples for biological hazards include thorough cooking, cold storage, hot holding, product formulation, and rapid cooling.
  • Critical control point examples for chemical hazards include the degree of cooking, the addition of additives, and types of packaging.
  • Critical control point examples for physical hazards include inspection, proper storage, and transport.


One of the trickiest parts of making a HACCP food safety program is that no two businesses are similar and the same scenario applies with critical control point examples. As a matter of fact, critical control points can vary from one food product to another even if they are from the same business. Despite this, knowing the basic principles of most CCPs in a food safety plan gives you a solid foundation on how to easily identify which ones are applicable for your business. 

Critical control points are any methods in the food processing line that can eliminate, prevent, or reduce any perceived potential hazard to an acceptable level. The importance of correctly identifying CCPs cannot be understated for the sake of food safety. These processes are significant parts of your whole food chain supply that ensures serving only safe food products to your customers.  Regulatory agencies in the food industry have established basic and general CCPs from which you can choose and apply to your food business. Although, picking out which one is best for you can be a bit confusing.

In our line of work, we have seen a lot of critical control points from various food establishments. Our machine learning software on FoodDocs has allowed us to store information on which critical control point examples work best for a certain food business. This way, we get to suggest the best one for your food venture! In this article, we give you some of the most common food processing critical control points based on different categories so you can familiarize yourself with them.

common critical control points


What are the most common critical control points?

Most critical control point examples of a basic HACCP food safety plan are made for the containment, prevention, or elimination of microbiological hazards. The presence of microbiological pathogens is considered as a main contributing factor to food safety issues such as any foodborne illness. Despite this, that does not mean that there are no critical control points related to chemical and physical hazards. Below are some CCP examples for each type of hazard.

Biological hazard testing

Cooking (Thermal processing) - perhaps the most common method of removing biological hazards is through applying various cooking methods to your food product at a specific food temperature. Most thermal cooking processes are designed to target a microbiological pathogen that is known to contaminate or inherently reside in a product. Time and temperature combinations are established based on the sensitivity of the microorganism while, of course, keeping the quality of the product wholesome.

The presence of thermal cooking methods does not necessarily mean that they are critical control points. An example of this is in baking. Thermal processing is applied to the dough to bake it into bread and not primarily because of food safety issues. Critical control points are steps that are used to eliminate hazards that can cause danger to public health. 

A good example of thermal processing that can be considered as a critical control point would be cooking meat to a required internal temperature. Whether it is chicken, beef, or pork you are dealing with, the correct internal temperature for cooking these proteins has been established and applies almost to all countries. Especially for chicken, the thermal cooking CCP is established as cooking the poultry meat to at least 165°F and is based on the 5-log reduction kill step of the pathogen Salmonella. In addition, considering a thermal process step as a CCP would also depend on the nature of your food business. When you are dealing with beef at a dine-in restaurant, thermal processing can be disregarded as a CCP if the customer wants it to be cooked as rare and the food will be eaten right away. This is not the case when producing ready-to-eat beef products. The required internal temperature must be achieved to extend the shelf-life of your food product. Storing a slice of beef cooked rare will spoil faster than when cooked well-done even if they are both refrigerated.

Low-temperature storage - to control the growth of many microbiological pathogens, low-temperature or cold storage is one of the best critical control point examples. According to the FDA, to control biological hazards from occurring, your chiller must be kept at 40°F and your freezer at 0°F (4°C and -18°C, respectively). Regulatory standard operating procedures for the transportation of food in cold storage are available in different countries. An example would be the ATP Agreement by almost 20 countries and is entitled as "Agreement on the International Carriage of Perishable Foodstuffs and on the Special Equipment to be Used for Such Carriage." Under this agreement, frozen and chilled foods such as meats and dairy products are subject to comprehensive regulatory temperature controls. 

During cold storage, microbiological activities are not the only processes prevented but also enzymatic degradation. Under very low temperatures, enzyme activities such as browning, oxidation, and protein breakdown are stopped. Failure to keep perishable foods at consistently low temperatures invites food safety risks. If your business is in line with supplying raw meats in the food industry, you will surely be required to have temperature control for your transport and storage. Similarly, vegetable and fruit produce require cool temperatures to keep them fresh during transport

We offer a convenient way of making your own temperature monitoring form and an easy-to-edit temperature chart template at FoodDocs for your various products that you can download for free. 


food safety plan builder


High-temperature storage (hot holding) - for any hot food that requires high temperature holding such as for soups in cafeterias or several food products in a buffet set-up, a general rule of 2 hour/4 hour is applied. This rule states the maximum time that potentially high-risk foods can stay within the danger zone. The temperature danger zone is anywhere between 40°F and 140°F (5°C and 60°C, respectively). This range is where most pathogens optimally grow. As such, foods meant to be served for a longer time in ambient temperatures must be held at higher temperatures. 

Under the previously mentioned rule, foods such as meat or those containing meat, dairy, and related products, starchy foods such as rice and pasta, cooked vegetables and some fruits, and egg products can only be held at the indicated time within the danger zone. That is, mentioned examples can only be safely consumed or used for a maximum of 4 hours and optimally up to 2 hours only. Beyond this indicted time, foods must not be consumed and thrown immediately.

Cooling the main point of cooling cooked food fast is for its temperature not to stay too long in the temperature danger zone. For businesses that require advanced food preparation such as for some operations in food catering services, products must be cooled to a temperature of 70°F within 2 hours. At this point, the food can be refrigerated and must not stay longer in ambient conditions if the food is meant to be served later on. Rapid cooling without the risk of cross-contamination prevents pathogens from recovering from the thermal processing that was applied.

Product formulation - we know how your product development team has spent so many hours to come up with the product you have now or how great your family's recipe is that you started a business around it. Regardless of how you built your product, some of its ingredients play a critical role in maintaining food safety. Safe product formulation contains a lot of critical control examples especially when it comes to preservatives, both natural and artificial. One of the common critical control points related to formulation is the addition of an acidulant which can be vinegar, citric acid which comes from lemon or other acidic fruits, and lactic acid.

Acidulants stop the growth of most microbial pathogens known to cause certain foodborne illnesses such as the Staphylococcus aureus in prepared foods and Clostridium botulinum in canned foods. These pathogens cannot survive in food conditions that have very high acidity. Removal or failure to achieve the correct acidity can encourage these pathogens to grow and cause diseases. If your business is related to pickling, similar principles apply to you. Before the acidification process, some vegetables are soaked in brine solutions to reduce water activity and remove preexisting pathogenic microorganisms. This is a critical step for the success of fermentation. 

Chemical hazard testing

Cooking studies have shown that thermal processing reduces some chemical contaminants in foods. A study in 2002 aimed to illustrate how to control chemical hazards in foods as a form of establishing critical control points. The results of the study showed that adequately cooking beef patties reduces the number of polychlorinated dibenzodioxin levels which are common contaminants that can be considered toxic when ingested at high levels. In contrast to this control, thermal processing methods must also be regulated because excessive processing can produce contaminants including aromatic hydrocarbons and N-nitroso compounds such as acrylamide in meats. Such contaminants are known carcinogens to humans and cannot be removed after cooking. Detection if levels have exceeded the allowable limit by regulatory agencies can only be done through chemical testing.

Addition of additives - testing and assurance of additive potency for processed foods is equally important as with cooking. Additives are applied to foods to ensure that they can last until the claimed shelf-life. When the quality of these additives is questionable, they may put the safety of processed foods at risk, and therefore the health of consumers.

An example of this is in the manufacture of juices in PET bottles. Most juices are acidic in nature and therefore will prevent the growth of bacteria, but not molds. The preventive measure usually done to address this potential hazard is prewashing the PET bottles with sodium benzoate solution. This additive is only effective when the product is acidic. Although, caution should be practiced because this additive is regulated in some countries as it can cause allergic reactions to vulnerable consumers. At FoodDocs, we take these provisions and differences in regulations into account when suggesting critical control point examples to you.

Packaging in line with the assurance of good supplies, food packaging materials must also be inspected. In terms of chemical hazards, some packaging materials may be unsuitable for your products. An example would be for canning acidic foods. The very low pH of such processed foods can cause corrosion when the wrong type of cans are used. Assurance of clean facilities is also considered one of the critical control point examples. Packaging materials can become contaminated with chemicals from the food processing equipment and from environmental contamination.

Physical Hazard testing

Inspection - during raw material receiving, it is your food safety supervisor and quality assurance team's task to ensure that the ingredients you receive are free from significant contaminations. In some big companies such as those mass-producing food products, the important critical control point example of inspection is oftentimes presented as an automatic indicator such as a metal detector. Not everyone can purchase such equipment and this method would only apply to metal pieces. Other physical contaminations can be observed as mirror shards, hair, and insect and rodent parts. In cases of smaller-scale food production processes, preinspection of raw materials before use can be considered as a critical control point. Once cooked or processed, there is no other way for you to detect if there are any present physical contaminants. Together with preinspection, proper hygiene and wearing of the prescribed kitchen or production protective uniforms can be considered critical control point examples. 

In reality, physical contaminants bring more than just the potential to injure consumers. Most physical contaminations are also precursors of biological hazards. A great example would be the presence of rodent hairs or insect parts. These filths are considered unsanitary and can carry a number of pathogenic microorganisms. This then becomes a food safety hazard.

Storage and transport -this example of CCP is often missed. During the storage of raw materials and transport of products, they are somehow susceptible to damages such as punctures, cross-contamination, rodent bites, and others. Most issues arise as a result of poor sanitary practices as well as improper storage. Once a finished product is compromised, there is not much you can do since there are no other succeeding steps aside from distribution. A HACCP food safety management is more concerned with the in-line food handling process and therefore does not usually have any end-product testing. This CCP applies to almost all food processing facility businesses. 


CCP decision tree

CCP decision tree and how can it help you

Even if you are a long-time player in the food industry, it can sometimes be hard to identify which processing method can be considered a critical control point. Most especially, critical control points can vary from one product to the other. There are several ways to make this task easier for you. At FoodDocs, we can help you automatically suggest potential CCPs for your business. Our smart software bases its suggestions on different actual food handling business data and experiences. It can provide you with solid critical control point examples fit for your business based on relatively similar services in the food industry.

If you decide to do CCP identification the traditional way, the FDA has suggested the use of a CCP decision tree. This tool helps you decide which among your processing steps is considered a CCP after identifying the potential hazards in your food production process by presenting a flow chart with questions that are answerable by a Yes or a No. 

As an example, consider marinating and roasting raw chicken breast as two methods in your food handling process to be evaluated if they can be considered as CCPs for the prevention of biological hazards.

  • Are preventive measures in place?

The first step to identifying if a processing point is a CCP is to ask "are there preventive and control measures in this step or if there are any subsequent steps that can prevent the hazard from breaching the acceptable level?" Taking marination into consideration, this step is mostly done to improve the flavor of the chicken. Although, it can also minimize the level of inherent microorganisms in the raw chicken breast because of its salinity or acidity, depending on the type of marinade. Marination comes before roasting and the answer to the presented question of whether there is a subsequent step to eliminate the hazard is Yes. On the other hand, roasting is a final step to achieving the required internal temperature of a chicken and is usually the last food production process before serving. This means that there are no subsequent steps to address the biological hazard. At this point, both methods satisfy the first question with the answer Yes.

  • Does this step eliminate the likely occurrence or reduce the level of risk of the identified hazard?

In this level of the CCP decision tree, you are asked to determine if the step at hand is vital to bring the hazard down to acceptable levels or completely eliminate it. Roasting your chicken prior to serving satisfies this question and therefore it can be considered as a critical control point. On the other hand, marination can only minimize the microbial load of your raw chicken breast on the surface level and not internally. Marination cannot bring the level of microorganisms within the chicken to acceptable levels. As such, the step needs further evaluation.

  • Could the presented hazard reach unacceptable levels?

The third level of a CCP decision tree evaluates the likelihood of the identified hazard from occurring in excessive amountsSalmonella and other enteric pathogens are most associated with foodborne illnesses originating from eating inadequately cooked chicken. When left unprocessed, their levels can increase to dangerous levels and create unsafe food. As such, a preventive measure is required to maintain control of food safety, and the answer to the question is Yes.

  • Is there a next step that can control the level of hazards?

The last question aims to identify if there is a more potent manufacturing step in terms of controlling the food safety hazard. As mentioned previously, roasting can control the level of microorganisms after marination through thermal cooking. Since the answer to this question is Yes, marination is not considered as a CCP. If in case the answer to this question is No, the step must be further evaluated and the whole processing line must be assessed whether it is fit for the production of safe and wholesome food products.


What happens if you don't meet CCP standards? 

Controlling a critical control point is as important as identifying them. After identifying which production phases are critical control points, your HACCP team is required to set critical limits. These limits are the minimum and maximum values at which you can consider that the hazard is within acceptable levels. The next question is "What happens if you don't meet these standards and loss of control occurs?"

As a food handling business owner, you have to always remember that non-compliance to your set CCP standards means that a food safety hazard is present and your product is considered a hazardous food. When a critical control point is not met, a food handler must first reevaluate the condition and apply corrective actions to address the loss of control. This step aims to identify at which point of the CCP did the error occur and bring back the hazard level within the standard. 

Together with applying corrective measures, your team must be prepared with monitoring procedures and verification forms to determine whether the hazard is controlled or not. Monitoring and verification procedures will serve as documentation and proof for any possible problems with the affected products. Accurate records are also presented to auditing bodies and government agencies as proof that your HACCP food safety plan is effective and efficient working. 


Digital food safety management and determining CCPs

Identification of CCPs in your production line can be so much easier with the help of our HACCP food safety plan builder. At FoodDocs, we have developed a built-in software that can help you create your own HACCP plan in just 1 hour. Our HACCP food safety plan builder can automatically suggest critical control points fit for your entire process. These suggestions are based on a smart machine-learning program. We use this software to automatically complete the most difficult parts of your HACCP plan. These parts include your flow diagram, mapping any potential hazard and critical control points, composing hazard analysis, and setting record-keeping and documentation procedures to critical limits - all essential for the assurance of food safety.

This development can cut you the time you need to spend on using a decision tree for the establishment of procedures to be considered as critical control points. Using our HACCP builder means you get to save up to 120 hours of work which you can then spend on other tasks for your food business. You do not even have to worry whether these critical control point suggestions are the right ones for your food processing plant and if they are compliant with the regulations and laws of your location. We tailor all aspects of your HACCP plan to your food handling business by asking you to answer a series of questions related to your food operation. 

Using our services tops discussing with a food safety consultant and building a solid HACCP team. You also get to spend 500x less money than what you will be spending if you decide to build your HACCP food safety programs the traditional way. 

Sign-up with us now and get a free 14-day trial. You have more than enough time to make your own HACCP plan in no time!



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