What is HACCP?


Hazard analysis and critical control points, or HACCP (/ˈhæsʌp/), is a systematic preventive approach to food safety from biological, chemical, and physical hazards in production processes that can cause the finished product to be unsafe and designs measures to reduce these risks to a safe level.

Simply, HACCP is a way of managing food safety hazards.

Food safety management procedures should be based on HACCP principles.

HACCP involves

  • looking closely at what you do in your business
  • what could go wrong and what risks there are to food safety
  • identifying any critical control points the areas a business needs to focus on to ensure those risks are removed or reduced to safe levels
  • deciding what action you need to take if something goes wrong
  • making sure that your procedures are being followed and are working
  • keeping records to show your procedures are working

It is important to have food safety management procedures that are appropriate for your business.



The Benefits of HACCP to Food Businesses

HACCP provides businesses with a cost-effective system for control of food safety from ingredients through production, storage and distribution to sale and service to the final consumer. The preventive approach of HACCP not only improves food safety management but also complements other quality management systems. The main benefits of HACCP are:

Saves your business money in the long run.

Avoids you poisoning your customers.

Food safety standards increase.

Ensures you are compliant with the law

Food quality standards increase

Organises your process to produce safe food

Organises your staff promoting teamwork and efficiency

Due diligence defence in court.

Explaining hazards

A hazard is something that is dangerous. A food hazard is something that could make food unsafe or unfit to eat. It’s important you can identify those stages in your business when hazards could be present so they can be removed or reduced to safe levels.

There are three main types of food safety hazards:

  • microbiological – involving harmful bacteria
  • chemical – involving chemical contamination
  • physical – involving objects getting into food

Principles of HACCP

A food safety management system based on the principles of HACCP will enable hazards to be identified and controlled before they threaten the safety of food and your customers. There are

7 principles of HACCP:

1. Identify the hazards

Look at each step (e.g. purchasing, delivery, storage, preparation, cooking, chilling etc.) in your operation and identify what can go wrong e.g. Salmonella in a cooked chicken product due to cross-contamination with raw meat (biological hazard), contamination of uncovered food with detergent (chemical hazard) or a piece of broken glass fallen into an uncovered food (physical hazard).

2. Determine the critical control points (CCPs)

Identify the points in your operation that ensures control of the hazards e.g. cooking raw meat thoroughly will kill pathogens such as E. coli O157.

3. Establish critical limit(s)

Set limits to enable you to identify when a CCP is out of control e.g. when cooking beef burgers, the centre of the burger must reach a minimum temperature of 75°C (or an equivalent time temperature combination e.g. 70°C for 2 minutes) to ensure pathogens are destroyed.

4. Establish a system to monitor control of the CCP

When CCPs and critical limits have been identified it is important to have a way to monitor and record what is happening at each CCP. Typically monitoring will involve measuring parameters such as temperature and time. However, how you monitor and how often will depend on the size and nature of your business. Monitoring should in all cases be simple, clear and easy to do e.g. probe refrigerated food to ensure that it is being maintained below 5°C.

5. Establish the corrective action to be taken when monitoring indicates that a particular CCP is not under control

When monitoring indicates that a CCP is not under control, corrective action must be taken e.g. the temperature of the food in a refrigerator rises to 10°C due to a technical fault. Discard the food and repair the refrigerator using the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the correct temperature of 5°C is achieved.

6. Establish procedures for verification to confirm the HACCP system is working effectively

Review and correct the system periodically and whenever you make changes to your operation e.g. when replacing an oven verify that the time/temperature settings in the new oven achieves the minimum safe cooking temperature for a particular dish by probing the food.

7. Establish documentation concerning all procedures and records appropriate to these principles and their application

For the successful implementation of HACCP based procedures, appropriate documentation and records must be kept and be readily available. It is unrealistic to operate HACCP based procedures or to demonstrate compliance with the current legislation without providing evidence such as written records. As with the HACCP based procedures themselves, the complexity of the record keeping will very much depend on the nature and complexity of the business. The aim should be to ensure control is maintained without generating excessive paperwork.

U.S Food & Drug Administration

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Food Standards Agency