What is HACCP?

What is HACCP?

          HACCP is an acronym for the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system. HACCP is a preventative system that is used in the food industry to help ensure food safety. The basis for HACCP is to identify potential hazards associated with food production and preparation, and to develop mechanisms to eliminate or control these hazards. HACCP can be applied to all areas of food production, from the farm to the homes of consumers. HACCP is important to all segments of the food industry.

[           During the past twenty years, most HACCP programs have been dedicated to food processing plants which are in the “middle” of the food production chain. More recently, the food industry has realized the importance of establishing HACCP principles for the end of the food production chain: retail food and foodservice operations. The use of HACCP can complement quality control programs. When measures are taken to assure food safety, this generally results with better food quality. HACCP is not a stand-alone system! Effective cleaning and sanitizing programs and maintaining the health and cleanliness of the food handler are also important for assuring a safe, high-quality food. These programs are typically not part of HACCP programs because they are difficult to monitor, and safe limits have not been clearly established.

History of HACCP

The concept of HACCP was initiated by the Pillsbury Company. The Pillsbury Company, the National Aeronautic and Space Agency (NASA), the Natick Laboratories of the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Air Force Space Laboratory Project Group worked together on a project in food production for the NASA space program. The pathway of HACCP started in 1959 when Pillsbury was asked to produce a food that could be used under zero gravity conditions in space capsules. In 1959, they began the project knowing basically nothing about how foods might react under zero gravity conditions. The most difficult and perhaps most important aspect of the project was to develop a system to assure that food products would not be contaminated with biological, chemical, or physical hazards. Such hazards might result in an aborted or catastrophic mission.

With these problems in mind, the research groups concluded it was necessary to develop a preventive food safety system that would reduce the likelihood of biological, chemical, and physical hazards. In doing so, control could be achieved over all aspects of food production including raw material, processing, environmental conditions, personnel, storage, distribution, and transport. This approach, referred to as HACCP, worked well for the NASA space program, and was quickly adapted by the food industry.                  ]

[Para within bracket is not for exam.]

A Systematic Study

            HACCP involves a systematic study of the ingredients, the food product, the conditions of processing, handling, storage, packaging, distribution, and consumer use. The complete analysis allows for the identification of the “sensitive” areas in the process flow which might contribute to a hazard. From this information, “Critical Control Points” (CCP’s) can be determined. Areas identified as CCP’s are monitored and limits are determined to control potential hazards.

            When properly applied, HACCP can be used to control any area or point in the food system which could contribute to a hazardous situation whether it be contaminants, disease-causing microorganisms, physical objects, chemicals, raw materials, an unsafe process, package labeling, or storage conditions. There are seven principles/stages, which are used to develop and implement a HACCP program.


Seven principles/stages of HACCP.

1) Analyze hazards

2) Determine CCP’s

3) Establish critical limits for CCP’s

4) Monitor CCP’s

5) Take corrective action

6) Do record keeping

7) Verify that the system is working


1)    Hazard Analysis

            In the first step of HACCP, it is important to identify potential hazards that might be associated with growing, harvesting, raw materials and ingredients for processing, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, preparation, and consumption of the food. The types of hazards depend on the type(s) of foods and preparation practice(s) involved. The purpose of hazard analysis is to identify all potential hazards (biological, chemical, and physical) that may be associated with the flow of a given food. Some potential hazards of concern in foodservice and retail foods are identified as below –

Common hazards in foodservice and food retail operations.


Pathogenic bacteria (i.e. Salmonella spp., Staphylococcus aureus)

Viruses (i.e. Hepatitis A)

Parasites (i.e. Trichinella spiralis)

Rodents and insects (can carry bacteria, viruses, parasites)


Naturally occurring (i.e. seafood toxins)

Added chemicals (i.e. cleaning agents, pesticides)


Inherent to food (i.e. bone particles)

Non-inherent to food (i.e. glass, stone, wood)

2)    Determine CCP’s

            This step identifies critical areas or points of the flow of a food product that are required to control the identified hazards. For an area to be considered a CCP, loss of control would mean the likelihood of an unacceptable health hazard. In HACCP programs, sometimes “control points” (CP’s) will also be identified. A CCP (Critical Control Point) is different from a CP. A CCP indicates a high food safety risk (likely to occur) and a CP indicates a low food safety risk (not likely to occur). Food safety relies on identification and control of CCP’s, while; CP’s may be used for quality specifications.

CCP (Critical Control Point) or CP(Control Point)?

If control is lost, is it LIKELY that a health risk will occur?

If the answer is YES, this is considered a CCP.

If the answer is NO, this is considered a CP.


3)    Establish Critical Limits for CCP’s

            This step establishes upper and/or lower limits for each CCP. CCP’s are set for foods that can naturally carry and/or support the growth of a food borne hazard. These types of foods are called potentially hazardous foods. Limits for CCP’s to control biological hazards in foodservice and food retail operations are usually time and temperature related since they can be easily monitored. Time and temperature are also the most important factors permitting growth of bacteria. Occasionally, a measurement in pH (acidity of a food) may also be used as a critical limit. Although important, limits for chemical and physical hazards are used less often in HACCP plans for foodservice and food retail. Chemical and physical hazard levels are usually more easily monitored and controlled prior to receipt at a foodservice and/or food retail establishment. For chemical hazards, it will be important to ensure that chemicals (cleaning agents) are separated from foods. A visual inspection can be used for physical hazards.

            Time and temperature limits can be set for various areas of retail food production. They include receiving, cold storage, thawing, cooking, cooling, reheating, hot-holding, and cold holding of foods. Some suggested critical limits are included below –


Temperature/time critical limits for retail food preparation.

Receiving: Internal temperature should be <41°F for all potentially hazardous foods.

Cold Storage: Internal temperature should be maintained at <41°F for all potentially hazardous foods.

Thawing: Refrigerator thawing at <41°F is suggested. Microwave thawed foods must be cooked immediately after thawing. Cool water thawing must be done at <70°F for <2 hours from a continuously running potable water supply. Thawing at room temperature is not acceptable.

Preparation of Food: Preparation of potentially hazardous foods should be done so that food is held not between 41-140°F whenever possible. If food must be prepared between 41°-140°F, it can only be exposed in this temperature range for 4 hours total time, however, <2 hours total time is preferred.


Food type:- Internal temperature:-* Holding time

Beef roast (rare):-     130°F :-      121 minutes

Beef roast (rare):-   140°F :-    12 minutes

Eggs, meat, fish:-  140°F:-      15 seconds

Pork,game animals,ground beef:-155°F:-15 sec.

Poultry, stuffed meats:- 165°F:- 15 seconds

         [*for Microwave cooking Add 25°F]

Cooling: Potentially hazardous foods must be cooled from 140°F to 70°F within 2 hours and from 70°F to 41°F within 4 hours (6 hours total time).

Reheating: All foods must be reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F within 2 hours. Foods may only be reheated once.

Hot Holding: After proper cooking, internal temperature should be maintained at >140°F prior to being served for all potentially hazardous foods.

Cold Holding: Internal temperature should be maintained at <41°F prior to being served for all for all potentially hazardous foods.

4)    Monitoring CCP’s

            Monitoring CCP’s includes the recording of data (temperature, time) for limits which have been set for each CCP in the HACCP plan. Data collection is important to assure that CCP limits are being met. The procedures and frequency for monitoring CCP’s will differ depending on the type of food(s) and the preparation practices used.

5)    Corrective Action

            If monitoring shows that a limit for a CCP has been exceeded, corrective action procedures must be in place to assure the safety of the food. Corrective action procedures may range from discarding the product to simply cooking the product to a higher temperature. Corrective action procedures will differ depending on the type of foods and the preparation practices used.

6)    Record Keeping

            Keeping records of the HACCP plan and for monitored CCP’s is extremely important. It is a good idea to have records available for 1 year on location, and for 3 years total. Good record keeping helps to assure proper use of the HACCP program and the safety of foods that are served. During an inspection, a health inspector may ask to see records for the HACCP program.

7)    Verification

            Before, during, and after development of a HACCP food safety prevention program, it is important to verify that the program is appropriate. HACCP programs can be verified by a representative from the state or local health department.

Once the program is in place, an employee in charge of food safety and quality should be assigned responsibility for the HACCP program. This individual needs to verify that employees are performing tasks in the HACCP program. This person should also be responsible for training and educating employees on principles of food safety, food quality, and HACCP. Continuing education is the key for preventing risks of food borne illness.

            Monitoring, good record keeping, and corrective action are the heart of a HACCP program. These procedures work best when one person is in charge of verifying that CCP’s are being monitored, good records are being kept, and corrective action is taken when needed.


Steps in Designing a HACCP plan

1) Set up a HACCP team (food manager, cook, local health inspector etc.).

2) Develop a flow diagram of the process (for each food that is served).

3) Perform a hazard analysis.

4) Determine CCP’s.

5) Establish critical limits for CCP’s.

6) Establish a procedure for monitoring CCP’s.

7) Establish plans for corrective action.

8) Establish a method for record keeping.

9) Train employees to understand. HACCP plans (How and Why!)

10) Implement the HACCP plan.

11) Verify that the HACCP plan is effective.

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