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The 7 principles of HACCP and how to successfully implement them

February 5, 2020
CMX
by CMX
CMX
by CMX

The 7 principles of HACCP and how to successfully implement them

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, better known as HACCP, is a set of preventative guidelines, procedures, and principles that businesses within the Food, Beverage, and Hospitality industries follow to ensure food safety during the food production process. HACCP is applicable at all stages of the food chain - from food manufacturing to preparation processes including packaging, distribution, selling to customers, or serving to guests. 

While HACCP is not the only method in ensuring safe food production - its mission is simple: to provide a systematic approach to food safety in the prevention and elimination of any physical, biological, chemical, or radiological food safety hazard — any of which could cause harm to customers, and irreparable damage to a brand and the loss of customer trust. 

The 7 principles of HACCP were established in the 1990s, and although the Food & Beverage, and Hospitality industries have dramatically changed over the last two decades, these principles remain just as relevant as ever. Below, we’ll review them in detail and explain why each one is essential, so that you can prepare and implement your own HACCP plan and Food Safety System.   

 

The Keys to Successfully Implementing a HACCP Plan

Before we dive into the underlying 7 principles of HACCP, it’s important to note a few necessary elements in order to apply them successfully. This is especially imperative since the fundamentals of HACCP apply broadly across the entire food chain, including:

  • Growing 
  • Harvesting
  • Processing
  • Manufacturing
  • Distributing
  • Merchandising
  • Preparing food for consumption

As CIRI Science notes

“HACCP is designed for use in all segments of the food industry from growing, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, distributing, and merchandising to preparing food for consumption. Prerequisite programs such as current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) are an essential foundation for the development and implementation of successful HACCP plans. Food safety systems based on the HACCP principles have been successfully applied in food processing plants, retail food stores, and food service operations.”

Identify critical control points by having trained staff run regular checklists on high risk areas

 

Due to its extensive reach, the success of your HACCP plan hinges upon the active involvement of management and commitment from all employees. If it’s to be maintained from start to finish, there must be a concerted company-wide effort with an intensive focus on food safety and quality. For that to occur, it has to start from the top. Once management (at all levels) is firmly committed to the importance of the HACCP principles, company employees will become more aware of the seriousness of food safety and quality.  

One of the ways senior management can instill such virtues in their employees, is to provide them with training of essential topics such as: 

  • Employee roles in the HACCP program
  • Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs)
  • Recognizing and identifying high risk TCS (temperature control for safety) foods
  • Pest prevention 
  • Allergen programs
  • Individual cleanliness (and the importance of protective clothing)
  • Best practices for handling materials and ingredients
  • Proper storage methods and correct labeling
  • Product tracing and recovery 
  • Proper transportation methods
  • Correct chemical application
  • Verification procedures (suppliers, equipment, etc.)

Recommendations for Creating Your HACCP Plan

To implement your HACCP plan successfully, you need to take a few preliminary steps:

 

A. Assemble your HACCP team – It’s important to inform your entire staff about your intention to implement HACCP in your establishment. For the plan to be successful, you need the commitment from all employees, not just the ones in your HACCP team. 

The first step in the process involves gathering a multidisciplinary group of team members who have special knowledge and expertise relating to the food being manufactured, prepared, and/or being served. This will include employees from various fields and departments, and can vary depending on the type of operation or where you sit within the food chain. These can include:  

  • Research and Development
  • Production
  • Sanitation
  • Quality Assurance
  • Food Safety
  • Manufacturing
  • Operations

 

Assembling your HACCP team requires representation across all business lines

One of the team members will be a designated supervisor or coordinator, making sure the entire team understands their roles and responsibilities. Naturally, you may need to enlist the services of outside experts who have specific knowledge on a process or facet of the operations. Regardless, all the core members have to work in unison towards the same goal.   

 

B. Identify the products, foods, and processes that are to be covered by the HACCP plan – It’s vital to have a clear understanding and description of each food product including related ingredients, packaging materials, equipment used, and preparation processes in order to identify any potential food safety hazards. It’s important to cover all aspects related to the food production process. These can include (but are not limited to):
  • Raw materials and ingredients (how ingredients are prepared to ensure optimal food safety);

  • Formulations or recipes (identify TCS foods);

  • Processing methods and finished product standards (identify temperature, pH, or water activity which can support microbial growth);

  • Materials and equipment to be used in preparation (ensuring equipment is clean and in working order);

  • All methods and control measures for food safety.

 

C. Elaborate on the food product’s intended use and consumers – It’s important to identify the target market of the food product/s you’re providing. Some foods may be meant for the general public, while others are for high-risk segments of the population (e.g. infants, hospital patients, or the elderly). Ready-to-eat foods (foods that won’t undergo an additional cooking step by the consumer) are also considered high-risk. You need to identify who will be using the food product and how you expect it to be prepared and consumed. An example of such a food product description will look like this: 

 

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION AND INTENDED USE

Product name

Descriptive product name (as it will be displayed on packaging/menu).

Cheddar Cheese

Important product characteristics of

end product (e.g. aw, pH, etc.)

Do any of these characteristics support or inhibit the growth of microorganisms?

Moisture content: 38% - 40%

pH: 5.2-5.4

Salt content: 1.5 - 2.5%

Light yellow in color

Firm, smooth, uniform texture

How the product is to be used

Will the product be eaten raw (ready-to-eat) or is there another cooking step?

Cheese is ready to eat once sliced, grated or used in cooked meals.

Packaging

Is the product packaged in cartons, polypropylene bags, or cans?

Vacuum-packed in plastic vacuum packaging bags.

Shelf-life

Should the product be consumed immediately?

Unopened: 1-2 months in fridge; 6-8 months in freezer

Where it will be sold

Is the product to be sold at retail level, restaurants, or high-risk institutions (to infants, hospital patients, or the elderly)?

Restaurant delicatessen

Labeling instruction

If there are any allergens, it needs to be mentioned here

A sticker is placed on the vacuum packed product with ingredients in descending order.

Allergens include cow’s milk. Keep refrigerated below 5°C

Special distribution control

Do the food products need to be transported at refrigeration/freezing temperatures?

Distributed using refrigerated transport at (≤5°C) to wholesale and retail outlets

 

D. List ingredients and raw materials – You need to include all the ingredients and raw materials that go into each food product (or meal) you produce. It's important to list every single ingredient. Considering that spices have been implicated in numerous recalls and outbreaks over the past few years, you do not want to leave out a seemingly insignificant ingredient.

It’s also vital to know the origin of each ingredient you use. As part of your prerequisite program, each vendor needs to provide you with a certificate of analysis (CoA) of every ingredient they supply you with. Ensuring that your suppliers have effective food safety programs and GMPs in place, will ultimately strengthen your own HACCP plan.

 

E. Create a procedural flow diagram – The flow diagram includes all the steps necessary to produce a final product, from the reception of raw materials, preparation of the food, and even packaging. If the specific process is within the control of your establishment, it should be included. The flow diagram should also be detailed enough as to identify all potential food safety hazards, but simple enough to follow and understand. In other words, do not add unnecessary information that might clutter the important steps. With a flow diagram in place, it’s easier to identify areas where contamination can potentially occur and where control can be applied.   

 

F. Perform on-site validation of the flow diagram – While drawing up your flow diagram, you might think you’ve covered every process, but it’s essential to double-check that the whole production process is indeed included in the flow diagram. It’s therefore crucial for the HACCP system to be verified either by the core team, a 3rd party inspector, or even an auditor to ensure the accuracy of the flow diagram. This helps identify any modifications or amendments that may be necessary, which helps optimize and streamline the process.  

Once this rigorous process and assessment is complete, you’re finally ready to apply the 7 principles of HACCP.

 


 

The 7 Principles of HACCP 

Now let's delve into the 7 HACCP Principles and how they can be successfully implemented.

 

HACCP Principle 1 - Conduct a Hazard Analysis

The first principle of HACCP involves conducting a hazard analysis: preparing a list of steps in the process where significant food safety hazards occur and describing the preventive measures you plan to put in place. Thus, the goal of this principle is two-fold:

  1. Identify potential food safety hazards that might harm consumers;
  2. Define preventative measures you can employ to reasonably control these hazards  

The first step in creating a HACCP plan involves performing a hazard analysis and then identifying the suitable control responses. The FDA defines a hazard as a “Biological, chemical or physical agent that is reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of its control.” It’s crucial to distinguish between safety and quality; since, in this process, hazard is linked to safety concerns and not quality concerns. This principle focuses on hazards that are reasonably likely to occur in any of the following:

  • Ingredients
  • Raw materials
  • Steps in the food production process
  • Product storage
  • Product distribution
  • Final food preparation

 

A comprehensive hazard analysis is imperative for any effective HACCP plan, especially since a hazard in one retail location or facility may not be significant in another. Failure to identify potential hazards could render the entire HACCP system useless, regardless of how rigorously it is adhered to, seeing as there will be gaps or dark spots it fails to cover.  

Furthermore, the second step requires that you determine the severity/likelihood of the potential hazards. The more severe and/or the more likely the hazard, the more the HACCP plan should focus on addressing it.  

 

HACCP Principle 2 - Determine Critical Control Points (CCPs)

According to the FDA, a Critical Control Point (CCP) is: “a point, step, or procedure in a food process at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce such hazard to an acceptable level”

In order to identify each CCP, you want to use a CCP decision tree, such as the following:

 

HACCP Principle 2 – CCP Decision Tree

 

There are different types of CCPs within a process, but they all have the same purpose: eliminate the risk, or reduce it to an acceptable level. According to the FDA, examples of CCPs can include:

  • A thermal process (with time and temperature limits) designed to destroy a specific microbiological pathogen;
  • Storage specifications (e.g., maintaining refrigeration temperature below a certain limit) to avoid the growth and multiplication of hazardous microorganisms;
  • pH adjustments of foods to prevent toxin formation.

 

Going through the process, many find it difficult to determine whether a step is a critical control point or not. If a food safety hazard is likely to occur once control is lost at that step, then it is likely a CCP.

 

HACCP Principle 3 - Establish Critical Limits

After CCPs have been identified, your team needs to establish critical limits (maximum or minimum values) that are necessary to maintain a safe environment and prevent, eliminate, or reduce food safety hazards to an acceptable level. These are used to discriminate between an unsafe and safe operating condition—at any given CCP—and shouldn’t be confused with operational limits that are established for reasons beyond food safety.  

 

HACCP Principle 3 - Establish Critical Limits

 

Critical limits must be based on scientific factors, guidelines, regulatory standards, experts, or experimental results.  

They include factors such as: 

  • Humidity
  • pH
  • Salt concentration
  • Sensory information like visual appearance and smell (note that specialized training is necessary in order for this factor to be used successfully)
  • Temperature/Time
  • Viscosity
  • Water activity

 

HACCP Principle 4 - Establish Monitoring Procedures

In order to maintain Critical Control Points, you need to regularly monitor them, making sure that the critical limits are indeed adhered to. Ideally, the monitoring procedures are continuous and done electronically. Doing this will ensure increased accuracy, control, and visibility over the process as opposed to doing it intermittently and manually (see our blog post on this for more information).

Establishing monitoring procedures serves three essential purposes:

  1. Helps you to keep track of the specific operation. It provides you with an early warning if your process trends towards loss of control. If so, you can apply the proper remedying actions to course correct before you reach the critical limit. If this trend persists, it’s perhaps necessary to rethink the layout of the production process;
  2. Assists in determining when a deviation occurs;
  3. Provides documentation that can be used later for verification purposes.

HACCP Principle 4 - Establish CCP Monitoring Procedures

 

Monitoring a CCP is an important responsibility. Employees should be properly trained on the “why” and the “how”. Once employees understand the impact of food safety hazards (e.g. outbreaks, product recalls, business closure, job losses, etc.), they are more likely to get on board with the HACCP plan. Make sure that all employees (including senior management) are clear on:

  • WHO will do the monitoring;
  • WHAT is being monitored;
  • WHY it’s being monitored;
  • WHEN will it be done (i.e., frequency);
  • HOW it should be recorded;
  • WHERE these records should be kept.

 

To make sure that the critical limits are accurately monitored, equipment and instruments need to be calibrated and validated on a regular basis.

 

HACCP Principle 5 - Establish Corrective Actions

When deviations do inevitably occur, it’s vital that corrective actions be taken immediately. This involves the following steps:

  1. Determine the root cause of non-compliance and then correct it by demonstrating the CCP is once again under control (re-examine the process if needed);
  2. Establish the disposition of the product that is non-compliant;
  3. Document the corrective actions that are to be taken in response. 

It’s crucial that you outline unique corrective actions for each CCP in advance, and list those in your HACCP plan. Instructions can include:

  • What is to be done after a deviation happens;
  • Who will be responsible for applying corrective actions;
  • How and where the corrective actions will be documented;

HACCP Principle 6 - Establish Verification Procedures

Once you have your HACCP plan in place, you need to make sure it works correctly. Verification can involve any activity, besides monitoring, that tests the efficacy of the HACCP plan and ensures that it's working as intended. This verification involves two primary aspects:

  • Evaluating the HACCP system – Involves confirming that the retail location or facility’s food safety procedures are properly functioning in conjunction with the HACCP plan. This shouldn’t rely on end-product testing; rather, it should depend upon frequent reviews of the HACCP plan itself, particularly of the CCP monitoring and corrective actions.
  • Initially validating HACCP plan for its technical and scientific merits – In other words, you can demonstrate that the implementation of your HACCP plan will actually reduce or eliminate the identified food safety hazards. This can be done in several ways, including:
    • Reviewing scientific literature (e.g., previous studies that showed time/temperature combinations ensure the elimination of certain microorganisms);
    • Microbiological testing done on final products, produced under your HACCP plan (to show its efficiency);
    • Experimental research;
    • Information from regulatory bodies.

According to the UK Food Standards Agency, there are several ways to verify your HACCP procedures. These can include:

  • Taking temperature measurements at different steps of the process, ensuring that it is at the level you expect it to be; 
  • Testing product samples during and after production, to ensure microbiological and chemical safety.
  • Ensuring that suppliers of raw material adhere to food safety principles by means of external audits.

For restaurants, hotels, ghost kitchens, and other retail food service establishments it’s critical to establish a checklist and operational routines for each day part and shift throughout the week to ensure your HACCP system and procedures are being followed. Continually verifying your HACCP system establishes and maintains “Active Managerial Control” and a culture of “Operational and Quality Excellence” that reinforces expected behaviors.

 

Download our guide on Checklist Management

Examples for verifying HACCP procedures may include:

  • Completeness of the HACCP plan;
  • Accuracy of the flow diagram(s);
  • Whether the location is operating according to the HACCP plan;
  • Review and completeness of activities;
  • Evidence and accuracy of monitoring data, logs, corrective action documentation, and overall record keeping;
  • Any evidence of review or modifications to the plan;
  • Training and knowledge of employees for procedures and monitoring of CCPs.

HACCP Principle 7 - Establish Record Keeping and Documentation Procedures

It’s of vital importance to maintain proper records for all aspects of the HACCP system, particularly for auditing purposes. It allows you to keep track of raw materials, process operations, and finished products in your establishment. You will also be able to identify potential problem areas where deviations might occur. You should keep a record of the following:

1.  A written hazard analysis summary;

2.  The HACCP plan including:

  • Core team
  • Assigned roles and responsibilities 
  • Description of product, intended use, and consumer
  • Flow diagram
  • CCPs (how CCPs were selected, as well as the critical limits)
  • Hazards likely to occur during the process
  • Monitoring and verification procedures
  • Corrective actions
  • Documentation procedures

3. Secondary or support documentation

4. Documentation that occurs during plan’s implementation and continued execution

 

Digitizing HACCP with CMX

Successfully applying the 7 principles of HACCP is a significant process for any business operating within the Food, Beverage, and Hospitality industries. And, as we’ve written about previously (How to improve HACCP Food Safety Systems in your Restaurants), an industry-wide trend is occurring where brands are ditching pen and paper-based HACCP plans in favor of going digital.  

 

At CMX, the CMX1 platform helps you take your operational routines, quality, and HACCP-related procedures out of the Stone Age and bring them into the 21st century. Our digital operational execution platform utilizes modern technology and tools to:

  • Create and maintain policies and procedures
  • Increase productivity through automation
  • Ensure compliance
  • Expand visibility and control
  • Provide better and more accurate data
  • Alert you of potential hazards or critical limit breaches
  • Address corrective actions
  • Automate record keeping
  • Increase security 

 

Download our guide on Checklist Management

 

Resources

Are you interested in embracing the future of digital HACCP? If so, reach out to us today and one of our experts can show you how.  

Did you know that CMX1 isn't just for HACCP? Interested in learning more about why you should be ditching your paper checklists and automating all your operational routines? Visit our blog on the topic here or better yet download our eBook on the topic here

 

Sources: 

Ciri Science. HACCP Summary. https://www.ciriscience.org/a_42-HACCP-Summary

FDA. Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food: Draft Guidance for Industry. https://www.fda.gov/media/99558/download

Small Business Chronicle. How to Identify Critical Control Points. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/identify-critical-control-points-65347.html

FDA. HACCP Principles & Application Guidelines. https://www.fda.gov/food/hazard-analysis-critical-control-point-haccp/haccp-principles-application-guidelines

UK Food Standards Agency. My HACCP. https://myhaccp.food.gov.uk/help/guidance/principle-6-verification

FDA. Sauer Brands, Inc. Voluntarily Recalls Certain The Spice Hunter Products Because of Potential Salmonella Contamination.https://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls-market-withdrawals-safety-alerts/sauer-brands-inc-voluntarily-recalls-certain-spice-hunter-products-because-potential-salmonella

Swainson's Handbook of Technical and Quality Management for the Food Manufacturing Sector. Product control and hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) considerations. Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition 2019, Pages 123-163

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