HACCP plan

7 HACCP principles - What are the steps of HACCP?

The HACCP principles help food handlers establish a systematic approach to food safety and for controlling hazards.

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The HACCP principles help food handlers establish a systematic approach to food safety and for controlling hazards.

  • 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 wholesome food 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, including environmental conditions important for your operations. HACCP uses a risk-based analysis of potential hazards within your business. The proprietors of HACCP ensured that these goals were 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, it is important to know what you are dealing with in building a HACCP food safety system. Get to know more about the basics of the HACCP 7 principles with us at FoodDocs.




Steps of HACCP

Building food safety plans for a Hazards Analysis Critical Control Point system takes a lot of consideration, time, and thought processes. Before even knowing the main HACCP principles, there are at least five preliminary steps for you to do. These steps aim to prepare you and your business to make a comprehensive HACCP initial plan.

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


  • Build a HACCP team

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

Some experts that are most likely to be included in the team may come from the engineering, production, quality control, 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. What is important is that they know the important criteria for food safety from their respective departments.

The HACCP principles are based on preventing any potential hazard that can cause severe health effects during the different food production processes. In-line workers in a food processing plant with substantial and effective training see everything happening during any processing method and can give 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 basic conditions for 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 manufacturing process.

Listing the ingredients and characteristics of the product would also help the team analyze its proper distribution conditions. 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 transporting such food products must be declared as a control for safety.


  • 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 of the safe product 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 block-type flow diagram describing the process

To properly map out all the intended processes related to your product, your HACCP team must create a block-type 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 food safety risk must have a succeeding step that will help eliminate it or bring it back to acceptable levels.


  • Verify the flow diagram

Verifying the HACCP plan step aims to ensure that all subsequent steps are considered in the flow diagram. Aspects of verification are done by doing an on-site physical measurement or a logical sequence of observations and noting which processes must be considered in the diagram.

In addition to these preliminary steps, food safety teams must also establish safe and sanitary conditions for working through prerequisite programs. These operations help create the basic conditions needed to produce safe food products, including employee health and training, effective maintenance programs, food hygiene, effective pest control programs, and waste management. Prerequisite programs focus on controlling unsafe operating conditions to prevent foodborne hazards from harming customers. 


7 HACCP principles


What are the 7 HACCP principles?

After addressing the five preliminary HACCP plan steps and establishing your prerequisite programs, you now have a solid foundation to fulfill the HACCP 7 steps. Under these HACCP principles, potential biological, chemical, and physical hazards are identified and analyzed for their potential to cause food safety issues.

Below are the steps to help food handlers determine what would you do if you were implementing HACCP principles:


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 biological risk assessment for illness caused by each hazard would determine if it needs to be considered in the HACCP plan.

A food service business or retail food store 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 release hazardous food to the public. Other general examples of hazards may come from sanitation processes, which can generate chemical hazards from cleaning products.

The next step after hazard identification is to conduct a hazard evaluation. Under this HACCP step, the team must have substantial knowledge of the potential severity of hazards and duration of illness caused, 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.

Food safety hazards can be in the form of biological, physical, or chemical contamination. Educational programs and effective training on hazard analysis must be provided to food handlers on a continuous basis. Knowledge of these hazards and how to control them must be regularly updated.

In addition to analysis of these hazards, the team is also tasked to identify if there are succeeding manufacturing processes that could control the identified unacceptable health risk. A controllable processing step 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. Thermal processing addresses the enteric pathogens that inherently reside in the product and different potential microbiological pathogens. The correct time and cooking temperature combinations must encompass the susceptible ranges of all target pathogens and other biological hazards to make safe food for consumption.


Principle 2. Determine critical control points (CCPs)

Critical control points are controllable 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, conditions of storage, chemical testing, and even some advanced analytical 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 hazardous microorganism Bacillus cereus, which can cause a foodborne illness with severe health effects as a result of ingesting its toxins. This hazard would not be a major concern if rice were a high acid product. As a solution, the critical point in this situation is to keep the product at low temperatures to control the multiplication of pathogens that can cause severe illness.

Other food operations that can be considered as CCP include the cooking process and another thermal process, food holding, packaging, and product storage conditions for safe food products.

This HACCP principle needs careful and expertly guided considerations. Process steps are considered a critical control point if deviations from their established standards 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 sets of examples of 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 and criteria for food safety are established based on scientific literature and are usually presented in numerical values that dictate if you produced a safe product.

Physical contaminations are usually controlled by establishing an allowable amount of the contaminant in the food. For example, rejection of non-compliant products 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, broken glass and metal contamination are 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 the critical limit determination and their corresponding preventive controls. These factors for establishing critical controls and limits include the following:

  • correct temperature,
  • time of processing,
  • solid content,
  • titratable acidity level,
  • moisture level,
  • preservatives,
  • water activity,
  • salt concentration, and others.

If these critical limits are not met, your business may face serious backlash from serving unsafe food and penalties from regulatory agencies due to serious food safety issues and severe health effects.

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 microbial pathogen from spoiling the food.

Other examples of critical limits are involved in cooking food. Cooking different kinds of raw meat will require food handlers to adhere to recommended internal cooking temperatures. Cooking poultry meat requires the internal temperature to reach 74°C (165.2°F) as a critical limit, whereas cooking beef only requires 71°C (160°F).


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Principle 4. Establish monitoring procedures

Critical limit deviation requires 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 procedures for monitoring serve as a tracking record for your food service operations as well as a written document of critical limit deviations that occur.

These monitoring records can then be used to assess if improvements or maintenance at any point of food operation are needed or if further preventive controls must be applied. CCP 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 develop comprehensive and precise monitoring forms that can capture the important information needed for your food service operations and serve as control measures. Critical limits and appropriate preventive controls must be noted for reference in the concerned monitoring forms. Proper training on how to test for specific control factors must be prioritized in your business.

Monitoring procedures are often done through physical and chemical tests with backup microbiological testing for pathogens on a batch basis. Monitoring activities usually involve plant observations of visual appearances, internal temperature logs monitoring, sensory analyses, weighing, and rigidity tests.

On the other hand, chemical methods 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. The complexity of monitoring will depend on the parameter and control measures being observed.


Principle 5. Establish corrective actions

Despite being preventive, your HACCP food safety program is not designed to be a zero-fail system. That is, the trend towards 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 deviations and risks of foodborne illness 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 before out-of-control situations happen. The decisions may either be, but are not limited to, reprocessing, extended processing, or disposal. Other corrective actions that involve a piece of equipment may involve routine maintenance or deep cleaning.

Corrective actions are important in HACCP food safety plans to prevent producing non-compliant products. 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  proper 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 comprehensive 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.

Any activity of verification aims to ensure 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 validation activities 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. The HACCP system requires a reassessment of potential health hazards that this new method of preparation may have.

This procedure has three stages: Initial validation, ongoing verification, and reassessment. Initial validation concerns the first few days after implementing 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 plan's integrity. Reassessment entails reviewing the whole plan and validation records if they still follow 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 plan summary table of food safety hazard evaluation, monitoring program, deviations, corrective actions, comprehensive verification reports, and standard operating procedures. Other documents such as employee training records and management plans must be organized.

The seventh principle requires the HACCP plan to have a concrete set of record-keeping and documentation 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 food items are released to the market, there are small instances that consumers will be able to detect them. Your team can then use your accurate records to verify if the product being complained about is part of the batch with deviations.


7 principles of HACCP


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 even a single hazard 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.



Digital solution to building a HACCP plan

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.

To help you optimize your operations through a HACCP plan that can prevent the loss of control over food safety, use our digital solution at FoodDocs. With our customizable digital HACCP plan template builder, you can get a comprehensive template with the most important sections of a HACCP plan.

With the help of our digital solution, you can get a template as an essential foundation of your plan that can easily be customized to fit your operations and finished products well. We can help you cover all seven principles of HACCP in just an average of 1 hour without any excessive paperwork.

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The process of generating your HACCP plan template is assisted by artificial intelligence and machine-learning program. You can rest easy that the information we use is backed by food safety facts, laws, and regulations. All you need to do is to answer a few basic questions that will describe your operations to our system and our digital solution will automatically generate the template for you!




Need more information about the seven principles of HACCP? Here are a few frequently asked questions about this topic.


Why are the 7 principles of HACCP important?

The seven HACCP principles were designed to properly identify food safety hazards and establish control factors and measures for the hazards. With these principles, food company employees could systematically address any issue and protect their customers from foodborne illness. 


What is the first step in the 7 principles of a HACCP plan?

The first step in the 7 principles of a HACCP plan is a hazard analysis. This step involves classifying hazards and determining the likelihood of their occurrence and the severity of their potential effects.


What is the most important principle in HACCP?

While all principles are important, it is essential to conduct hazard analysis properly. All succeeding steps in a HACCP system will significantly depend on the proper identification and analysis of hazards. 


What are the 7 steps of HACCP UK?

The seven principles of HACCP are as follows:

Principle 1: Identify and analyze hazards

Principle 2: Identify critical control points (CCPs)

Principle 3: Establish critical limits

Principle 4: Establish monitoring procedures for ccps

Principle 5: Establish corrective action procedures

Principle 6: Determine verification steps

Principle 7: Establish record-keeping and documentation


Under which, HACCP principle should managers establish minimum or maximum standards?

Food safety managers must establish minimum and maximum values for critical control parameters in the third principle of HACCP. 


How many HACCP principles are there?

The HACCP plan uses seven principles to establish a preventive program to control food safety hazards.


Describe the focus of HACCP and list the 7 principles

HACCP focuses on identifying food safety hazards and establishing control measures to protect customers from foodborne illnesses. This focus is achieved through establishing the 7 principles of HACCP, which include:

Principle 1: Identify and analyze hazards

Principle 2: Identify critical control points (CCPs)

Principle 3: Establish critical limits

Principle 4: Establish monitoring procedures for ccps

Principle 5: Establish corrective action procedures

Principle 6: Determine verification steps

Principle 7: Establish record-keeping and documentation


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