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The 7 principles of HACCP and how to successfully implement them

February 5, 2020
by 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 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 threat — 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 1990’s, 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 the necessary elements for their successful application. 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 this universality, HACCP hinges upon establishing a cultural mindset and commitment to Active Managerial Control and Operational Excellence. If it’s to be maintained from A to Z, there must be a concerted company-wide effort and focus on prioritizing food safety and quality. For that to occur, it has to start at the top with upper management with a firm commitment to the importance of the HACCP principles. That attitude is infectious, and in turn gets passed down-the-line to company employees, instilling them with a sense of importance in providing safe and quality food.  

One of the ways upper management can instill such virtues involves providing employees with training and programs that focus on a variety of essential topics such as: 

  • Employee roles in the HACCP program
  • Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs)
  • Cleaning standards and schedules
  • Pest prevention 
  • Individual cleanliness
  • Best practices for handling materials and ingredients
  • Proper storage methods
  • Management of manufacturing, storage, and cooking equipment (as applicable)
  • Material labeling guidelines
  • Product tracing and recovery 
  • Proper transportation methods
  • Supervising chemicals to prevent contamination
  • Verification of qualified suppliers

Recommendations for Creating Your HACCP Plan

Should you wish to successfully implement your HACCP plan, here are some recommended preliminary steps to take:

A. Assemble your HACCP team – The first step in the process involves gathering a group of team members who have special knowledge and expertise relating to the food being manufactured, prepared, and/or being served. It 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 such as: 

  • R&D
    • Production
    • Sanitation
    • Quality Assurance
    • Food Safety
    • Manufacturing
    • Operations


Assembling your HACCP team requires representation across all business lines

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 the final food product including related materials, equipment, and processes used in its preparation. Be sure to cover the food/products:

  • Ingredients
  • Formulations or recipes
  • Processing methods and finished product standards
  • Materials and equipment to be used in preparation
  • All methods and control measures for food safety

C. Elaborate on the food product’s intended use and consumers – Some food may be meant for the general public—as an ingredient or in whole—while others may be intended for specific segments of the population, such as baby food for infants. You need to identify who will be using the food product and how you expect it to be consumed. 


D. Describe the method of distribution and storage – For instance, the method of distribution and storage should include information on whether the food needs to be distributed at room temp, chilled, or frozen.


E. Create a procedural flow diagram – This outline explains the various procedures and steps that are under your control. As a note, it doesn’t have to be a detailed schematic, it simply gives a brief overview of the vital stages necessary to uphold the HACCP plan process, and briefly details checkpoints that must be observed and handled.   


F. Perform on-site validation of the flow diagram – It’s crucial for the HACCP system to be verified either by the core team or by a 3rd party inspector or auditor in order to ensure the accuracy of the flow diagram. This helps identify any modifications or amendments that may be required, which helps optimize and streamline the process. 


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


The 7 Principles of HACCP and How to Successfully Implement Them

HACCP Principle 1 - Conduct a Hazard Analysis

The goal of this principle is twofold:

  1. Ascertain the risk to consumers from the identified likely to occur hazards.
  2. Define countermeasures or preventative measures you can employ to reasonably control the hazards.  

The first step in creating a HACCP plan involves performing a hazard analysis and then identifying the suitable control responses. Per the FDA, a hazard is 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. In addition, this process focuses on hazards that are reasonably likely to occur.

When reviewing likely to occur hazards, this will include a host of matters:

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


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 impotent, regardless of how rigorously it is adhered to, seeing as there will be gaps or dark spots it fails to cover. 

Further, the second step of this 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 Small Business Chronicle, a Critical Control Point (CCP) is: “a step in the process of manufacturing or preparing food in which the right procedure can minimize or remove a potential health hazard such as a food-borne illness. By correctly identifying critical control points, food manufacturers and restaurant owners can reduce the risk of harm to the public.”

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


HACCP Principle 2 – CCP Decision Tree


Examples of CCPs listed by the FDA include:

  • A specified heat process, at a given time and temperature designed to destroy a specific microbiological pathogen
  • Refrigeration of a precooked food to prevent hazardous microorganisms from multiplying
  • Adjustment of a food to a pH necessary to prevent toxin formation


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 healthy environment and prevent, eliminate, or reduce 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
  • Physical dimensions
  • Salt concentration
  • Sensory information (visual appearance, smell)
  • Temperature
  • Time
  • Viscosity
  • Water activity


HACCP Principle 4 - Establish CCP Monitoring Procedures

In order to maintain Critical Control Points, you need to regularly observe them and ensure that critical limits aren’t being exceeded. Ideally, monitoring is continuous and done electronically, rather than periodic or intermittent and manually (see our blog post on this for more information), so that you have increased accuracy, control, and visibility over the process. 

Monitoring serves three essential purposes:

  1. Helps track the specific operation. This allows you to determine if you are trending towards loss of control. If so, you can apply the proper remedying actions to course correct before you reach the critical limit.
  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”. Additionally clarity is needed for:

  • Who will do the monitoring
  • What is being monitored
  • When will it be done (frequency)


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. Ascertain the cause of noncompliance and then correct it by demonstrating the CCP is once again under control (reexamine the process if needed).
  2. Establish the disposition of the product that is noncompliant.
  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. This should 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

Verification can involve any activities, besides monitoring, that conclude the efficacy of the HACCP plan and ensure 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.
  • Expert adviceInitially validating HACCP plan for its technical and scientific merits – This can be done in several ways, including:
    • Scientific studies
    • In-plant or In-location observations
    • In-plant or In-location measurements
    • In-plant or In-location evaluations


Per the UK Food Standards Agency examples of verifying HACCP procedures for food manufactures may include:

  • “Taking measurements, for example temperatures, at various points along the process to ensure that the system is behaving as expected. 
  • Targeted microbiological and/or chemical sampling of intermediate and final products to ensure that the food is meeting expected standards.
  • Auditing documents throughout the system to ensure that the correct information is captured, recorded and acted upon in accordance with the HACCP plan.
  • External audits on suppliers to verify that raw materials meet expected criteria.
  • Staff assessments to ensure that procedures are fully understood and that staff are competent to perform any tasks allocated to them.
  • Trend analysis of monitoring data to determine whether process controls are adequate and tolerances realistic.
  • Analysis of customer complaints and third-party audits to identify any potential gaps in the HACCP plan.
  • Analysis of waste and rework figures to ensure that they correspond with records of corrective actions.”

For restaurants, hotels, ghost kitchens, and other food service establishments it’s critical to establish 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 “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 records for all aspects of the HACCP system, particularly for auditing purposes. This will include:

1.  A hazard analysis summary

2.  The HACCP plan including:

  • Core team
  • Assigned roles and responsibilities 
  • Description of product, intended use, and consumer
  • Flow diagram
  • CCPs
  • Likely to occur hazards
  • Critical limits
  • Monitoring
  • Corrective actions
  • Verification procedures
  • Verification schedule
  • Documentation procedures


3. Secondary or support documentation

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


Digitizing HACCP with CMX

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

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:

  • Increase productivity
  • Ensure compliance 
  • Expand visibility and control
  • Provide better and more accurate data
  • Alert you of potential hazards or critical limit breaches
  • Automate record keeping
  • Increase security 


Download our guide on Checklist Management



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



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


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