HACCP plan

7 HACCP principles

Five preliminary HACCP steps include (1) building a HACCP team, describing (2) the product and its distribution, (3) ...

  • Five preliminary HACCP steps include (1) building a HACCP team, describing (2) the product and its distribution, (3) the product's intended use and target consumer, (4) developing a diagram of the process flow, (5) and verification need to be fulfilled in preparation for the 7 HACCP principles.
  • The seven HACCP principles have a preventive nature which is achieved by analyzing food hazards in your manufacturing process and addressing them accordingly.
  • The HACCP Principles include (1) hazard analysis, (2) identifying critical control points, (3) establishing critical limits, (4) establishing monitoring procedures, (5) creating corrective actions, (6) verification of the HACCP food safety plan, and (7) record-keeping.

A business would significantly benefit from a solid food safety plan that follows all of the HACCP principles both from an economic as well as a food safety point of view. Ensuring that the products provided in different types of food businesses are free from any food safety hazard that could harm consumers is a big marketing advertisement itself. 

In order to be effective, a HACCP food safety plan must be tailored to the nature of your business. It also has to cover all important aspects of the whole food chain. HACCP uses a risk-based analysis of potential hazards within your business. The proprietors of HACCP ensured that these goals are met by establishing seven HACCP principles.

These 7 HACCP principles include 1) hazard analysis, 2) critical control points, establishing 3) critical limits, 4) monitoring procedures, 5) corrective actions, 6) verification procedures, and 7) documentation and record-keeping procedures. The food safety agencies that have continuously developed the HACCP principles ensured to cover all nature of potential physical, chemical, or biological hazards.

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to establish a standard HACCP food safety program to keep the integrity of your products and consumer safety. As such, in building a HACCP food safety system, it is important to know what you are dealing with. Get to know more about the basics of HACCP principles with us at FoodDocs.

7 principles of HACCP

Steps in making a HACCP plan

Building food safety plans for a HACCP system takes a lot of consideration, time, and thought processes. Before even knowing what the main HACCP principles are, there are at least five preliminary steps for you to do. These steps aim to prepare you and your business in making comprehensive HACCP food safety plans. 

A HACCP food safety management system can be very product or process-specific and is more concerned with safety rather than quality concerns. This means that expertise in certain fields is required. In this article, we talk about the five different preliminary HACCP plan steps in detail.


  • Assemble your HACCP team

The first step in HACCP plan making is to gather a group of individuals with enough expertise in the different aspects of the process steps or product being analyzed. Members of your HACCP team may come from the receiving point of raw materials, processing department, microbiological and chemical testing laboratories, food production office, and the like. The team is set out to be composed of multidisciplinary individuals involved in the manufacturing process.

Some experts that are most likely to be included in the team may come from the engineering, production, quality assurance, sanitation, and research and development departments. Members do not necessarily have to be from the top positions. In fact, having your workers participate as a member of the HACCP team can benefit the program. The HACCP principles are based on preventing any potential hazard from happening during the different processes of food production. In-line workers see everything that is happening during any process step and can give very valuable inputs.

The team will be tasked to identify potential food safety hazards, analyze them, establish critical limits and standard parameters, create corrective actions for variations, and monitor, and record these events. All participating members must have knowledge of what the potential hazards are.


  • Describe the food and its distribution

After building a HACCP team for a specific product, your food must be comprehensively described in preparation for the seven HACCP principles. Describing your food means listing all of its ingredients with some of the derivatives it may contain and the manufacturing process for your product. Knowledge about the product is crucial at this point. All ingredients must be mentioned and analyzed because some of their by-products can potentially become hazards in the wrong processing method.

Listing the ingredients and characteristics of the product would also help the team analyze the proper distribution conditions for it. Food products such as ready-to-eat meals packed in lunch boxes have the tendency to become spoiled during distribution at elevated surrounding and internal temperatures. Maximum and minimum temperature requirements for the transport of such food products are needed to be declared as a control for safety.


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  • Identify the intended use and target consumer of the product

Under this preliminary step to the seven HACCP principles, the team will be tasked to identify the target consumers and those that must be warned to practice caution in consuming your product. Intended consumers maximize the economic appreciation of your product since they are most likely to buy it.

Contrary to intended consumers, those who might have any hypersensitivity to the product must also be identified. Vulnerable groups may include pregnant individuals, immunocompromised patients, the elderly, and infants. This step helps prevent any food safety issues under the HACCP principles.

  • Develop a flow diagram describing the process

To properly map out all the intended processes related to your product, your HACCP team must create a flow diagram of your production scheme. This diagram does not have to be expertly made to look like an engineering drawing. What is important is that all methods and conditions under each process are mentioned for assessment.

This step will help determine which process brings a potential hazard with it. Under a good flow diagram, a potential risk must have a succeeding step that will help eliminate it or bring it back to acceptable levels. 

  • Verify the flow diagram

This HACCP plan step aims to ensure that all processing steps are considered in the flow diagram. Verification is done by doing an on-site inspection and noting which processes must be considered in the diagram.


7 HACCP principles

What are the 7 HACCP principles?

After addressing the five preliminary HACCP plan steps and establishing a solid HACCP team, the 7 steps of HACCP can be fulfilled. Under these HACCP principles, potential biological, chemical, and physical hazards are identified and analyzed for their potential to cause food safety issues. 

Principle 1. Conduct Hazard Analysis

The first of the seven HACCP principles is a two-step process. The processes involved in this HACCP step are (1) hazard identification and (2) hazard analysis. Under this HACCP principle, the team will list down the food safety hazards that are most likely to occur in relation to the product at hand. 

Accurate identification of hazards is a very important part of HACCP food safety plans. Unidentified and unanalyzed food products could lead to potential food safety issues in the future. The likelihood and severity of each hazard would determine if it needs to be considered in the HACCP plan. A food service business dealing with both nut-free and nut-containing products, which are considered high-risk foods must put an emphasis on sanitation steps to prevent cross-contamination during production and releasing hazardous food to the public. On the contrary, they do not have to be concerned with the temperature control fluctuations during storage.

The next step is to conduct a hazard evaluation. Under this HACCP step, the team must have substantial knowledge of the potential severity of hazards, the likelihood for consumers to be exposed to these food safety issues, and the potential frequency of occurrence of each hazard to consider them a threat. Accurate evaluation would need a lot of technical knowledge about the product, its behavior, raw materials, and potential contaminants.

In addition to analysis of these hazards, the team is also tasked to identify if there are succeeding steps that could control the identified food safety risk. Control measures can be used to eliminate or at least contain the hazard to an acceptable level. A classic example would be the milk industry. Milk is rarely served raw and needs pasteurization. This step addresses the enteric pathogens that inherently reside in the product and different potential microbiological pathogens. The correct time-temperature combinations must encompass the susceptible ranges of all target biological hazards to make safe food for consumption.

Principle 2. Determine critical control points (CCPs)

Critical control points are processing steps that are applied to the product to keep it safe and free from any health hazards. Examples of these points include physical hazard detection, thermal process, refrigeration, chemical testing, and even some advanced testings such as RT-PCR detection of pathogenic microorganisms. 

Your business would consider these steps crucial since they control the identified hazards and must always be monitored if they are constantly met. Critical control points for products and processes greatly vary from one another. A practical example of a critical control point is the proper keeping of food temperature for cooked rice. Studies have shown that rice can be easily contaminated by the microbial pathogen Bacillus cereus which can cause a severe foodborne illness as a result of ingesting their toxins. If rice were a high acid product, this hazard will not be a major concern. As a solution, the critical point in this situation is to keep the product at low temperatures to control the growth of the microorganism.

This HACCP principle needs careful and expertly guided considerations. Process steps are considered a critical control point if the deviation from their established standards will cause serious food safety issues. In the food industry, the practice of using a decision tree can potentially speed up the identification of CCPs. A decision tree is a flow diagram consisting of two questions that eventually lead to the decision of whether the process is a CCP or not.

Principle 3. Establish critical limits

In order to know whether a process served its purpose in maintaining food safety, regulatory standards must be set. In the food industry and in the context of HACCP principles, these standards are termed critical limits. These limits are established based on scientific literature and are usually presented in numerical values.

Physical contaminations are usually controlled by establishing an allowable amount of the contaminant in the food. As an example, rejection or acceptance of a shipment of sugar can be decided depending on the weight of sieved physical contaminants on a sample batch. In some cases, metal contamination is assessed based on the presence and sizes of shards in the product. Maximum and minimum limits are set together with preventive measures for critical control points. 

The FDA has listed factors that could be used in establishing critical limits and their corresponding preventive controls. These factors include correct temperature, time of processing, solid content, acidity level, moisture level, preservatives, water activity, proper sizes, and others. If these critical limits are not met, your business may face serious backlash from consumers and regulatory agencies as a result of serious food safety issues. 

Preventive controls come in different forms in a food manufacturing setup. For a business dealing with intermediate moisture foods such as fruit preserves whose moisture level is around 15-50% to prevent any potential microbiological pathogen from spoiling the food, 

Principle 4. Establish monitoring procedures

Deviations from established critical limits require a stringent monitoring technique. Your business will only know if your product has undergone the correct degree of processing if adequate CCP monitoring procedures are in place. The monitoring procedure serves as a tracking record for your operations as well as a written document of deviations that occur.

These monitoring documents can then be used to assess if improvements or revisions at any point of food operation are needed or if further preventive controls must be applied. Monitoring procedures must be clear, accurate, and effective. Decisions and corrective actions will be based on what information is written on your monitoring sheets. 

This HACCP principle requires your team to come up with comprehensive and precise monitoring forms that will be able to capture the important information needed for your foodservice operations and serve as control measures. Critical limits and appropriate preventive controls must be noted in the concerned monitoring forms for reference. Proper training on how to test for specific parameters must be prioritized in your business.

Monitoring procedures are often done through physical and chemical tests with backup monitoring techniques using microbiological testing. Physical measurement usually involves inspection of visual appearances, temperature logs monitoring, sensory analyses, weighing, and rigidity tests. On the other hand, chemical tests can be in the form of titration or pH testing. Monitoring results must be fast and accurate because these results will be the basis for decision-making.

Principle 5. Establish corrective actions

Despite having a preventive nature, your HACCP food safety program is not designed to be a zero-fail system. That is, the loss of control and occurrence of deviations cannot be totally eliminated, rather it is only minimized. This fact is especially true for high-risk processes. Although, frequent occurrence of deviations and risks would mean that modifications to your operations may be needed. 

If in case maximum or minimum limits are not met in your processing, appropriate corrective actions must be done. These actions are considered solutions to non-compliance. The decisions may either be, but are not limited to, reprocessing, extended processing, or disposal. 

Corrective actions are important in HACCP food safety plans. Their aim is to minimize profit loss due to deviations and protect both the consumers and your food establishment from food safety issues. Deviations from critical limits may lead to the complete disposal of unsafe food products. This decision means a loss of profit from the used raw materials, time, and manpower. 

In addition to implementing corrective actions, documenting the actions taken and their results are equally important. This part of the HACCP principles will help trace any potential hazards or complaints which might occur in the future.

Principle 6. Establish verification procedures for the effectiveness of your HACCP system

As mandated by the FDA, all concerned businesses are required o verify the effectiveness of their HACCP plan. This HACCP principle includes the verification activities of the hazard evaluation itself, identification procedures, monitoring, and authorized corrective actions. Over time, operations will change as much as raw materials will. This means that the appropriateness of your HACCP food safety plans may also vary.

The verification principle also ensures that the current HACCP system is being followed by the whole team. You can use this principle as a way to evaluate whether modifications are needed in your operations or if they are still effective. This HACCP principle also allows your HACCP team to reevaluate any food safety hazards that might have been developed and were not included in the current HACCP system. 

These verifications usually come with regulatory agency audits which will extensively reassess the validity of the businesses' HACCP system. Verifications are especially important when new methods are introduced to the operations. A reassessment of potential health hazards that this new method of preparation may have is required by the HACCP system.

This procedure has three stages: Initial validation, ongoing verification, and reassessment. Initial validation is concerned with the first few days after the implementation of the HACCP plan. This type of verification procedure usually includes 3 months of food processing. After establishing that the food safety plan is working, periodic assessments and continuous monitoring are scheduled to maintain the integrity of the plan. Reassessment entails reviewing the whole plan if they are still following the HACCP principles after a few years of operation.

Principle 7. Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures

A part of the seven HACCP principles requires documentation of all important activities such as the HACCP plan itself, the summary of food safety hazard analysis, monitoring program, deviations, corrective actions, verifications, and standard operating procedures. 

Your HACCP plan will also serve as a tool for traceability purposes should a food safety issue present itself and create an unsafe product. This compilation is also needed for regular audits to help your team assess if the current HACCP program is still effective. 

Because your operation is not expected to be perfect, deviations from the established standards will occur. Following the HACCP principles, corrective action procedures which have been applied must be monitored. Once these products are released to the market, there are small instances that consumers will be able to detect them. Your team can then use your records to verify if the product being complained about is part of the batch with deviations. 


What is the most important part of HACCP implementation?

In making a traditional HACCP plan and implementing it, perhaps the most important part of the process is proper hazard identification. This process step requires several hours of analysis as well as expert advice regarding the food production process. 

Failure to identify these hazards can lead to potential problems such as loss of batch products, product recall, or worse, consumer complaints. All of these problems can lead to a bad reputation for your business in the food industry. In identifying and analyzing hazards, in-depth information and science-based analysis are important. Based on the basic principles of HACCP, your products require very little end-product testing. The HACCP food safety management system is based on a preventive approach and focuses on all testing and verification during food production operations and almost none for finished products.

In making such a complicated and comprehensive document, several revisions and endless meetings are in your future. Not to mention the big chunk of time you will spend on rewriting your HACCP plan to fit any food operation as well as the local and international regulatory standards. 

To address these safety concerns, we have developed the first-ever digital HACCP plan builder. In just 1 hour, you can build a comprehensive HACCP food safety plan that is compliant with your country's legislation. No more long hours of meetings and looping revisions. We can help you comply with all of the HACCP principles and make a plan fit for your food business by just answering a series of questions.


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