HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. It’s an internationally renowned management system with a preventive approach to food safety. Its main goal is to avoid situations that may compromise the safety of food before products are sold to consumers, rather than trying to inspect the finished products.

In this article, we will explain:

  • which companies must have a HACCP plan 
  • how a simplified HACCP plan works
  • the 7 principles of HACCP, according to the Codex Alimentarius
  • how to make a HACCP food plan 
  • useful resources to develop a HACCP plan

Is HACCP mandatory in the UK?

HACCP food plans became mandatory for all food businesses in 2004 for every country in the EU. Even though the UK has left the EU, UK laws on food safety and hygiene still use HACCP, since it is an internationally recognised system. If your business is inspected, your local officers will look at your HACCP-based food management system.

However, if you run a smaller business – with fifty or fewer employees – you can access MyHACCP to guide you through the process. Even smaller businesses can use other approaches developed by the FSA, such as the Safer Food, Better Business pack (Safe Catering for Northern Ireland). 

There is some flexibility in implementing HACCP plans in businesses whose processes do not involve the preparation, manufacturing or processing of food, such as food stands with pre-packed food or grocery shops. 

Please check the Food Standards Agency website for more guidance on how to manage safety procedures in food businesses. 

🌐 ISO 22000 – Food Safety Management System

At an international level, there’s the ISO 22000 standard, which is also based on HACCP principles. Getting ISO 22000 certified shows your clients your business complies with good food safety practices and legal requirements. 

The 7 principles of HACCP

HACCP is based on 7 principles, as per the Codex Alimentarius (“Food Code”) Commission established by FAO. These principles should guide the system’s implementation in every stage of food production, processing and distribution

1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis (HA)

For this first step, you should identify and evaluate any hazards that may be present at every stage of the production process. These hazards may be: 

  • biological (viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc)
  • chemical (such as pesticide residue, toxins, heavy metals, etc) 
  • physical (like plastic, glass or other unwanted materials that could harm consumers).

2. Identify the Critical Control Points (CCP)

The second step is to identify the CCPs. These are the points in the process where you have scope to apply controls that will allow you to avoid, reduce or eliminate the hazards. You will also need to identify the appropriate preventive measures that should be taken for each of your CCPs, such as ensuring a specific environmental condition. 

3. Establish critical limits

It’s important to define the critical limits for each control measure linked to a CPP. These are the criteria that must be observed and implemented to appropriately discern what is acceptable or not when dealing with the identified hazards. 

4. Monitor every CCP

Each CPP should be constantly monitored to ensure that critical limits are being followed properly. Therefore, you must define and apply effective monitoring procedures for each CCP and specify the conditions under which these measurements are to be made. 

5. Establish corrective measures

It is possible that throughout the process, certain CCP’s will not progress smoothly, in line with the critical limits you established. When this happens, it is necessary to know the course of action to prevent  unsafe food products from reaching consumers. Plus, you need to identify the reasons why the critical limits are not being met to avoid recurrences.

6. Establish verification procedures

You will need to verify that your HACCP plan is valid and working as intended. These verification procedures should be done regularly and include reviews of the plans and CCP records, calibration of instruments, biological sampling, product testing and more.

7. Create a record-keeping system

Finally, it is important to keep records and documents to demonstrate the effectiveness of the measures involved in the previous steps. These records should document the monitoring of CCPs, critical limits, corrective measures and verifications, as well as information about the hazard analysis and the team involved in the HACCP.

How to make a HACCP food plan

Unfortunately, there is not a HACCP template that works for every company. Your HACCP should address your business’s unique risks and their critical control points. That’s why developing a HACCP plan from scratch might seem an unfathomable task. But, as usual, the key is surrounding yourself with the right people.

Make sure you meet the prerequisites

Before you start, make sure you meet the prerequisites for handling and producing food, such as the use of approved suppliers, safe drinking water, pest management, stock rotation, staff training, equipment and premises, labelling and traceability, personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitising, and preventive maintenance. 

Build a team

The first step to develop a HACCP plan is to bring together a multidisciplinary team. This will include engineers, production managers, hygiene and safety experts, microbiologists and a quality assurance specialist. You may also need to seek outside experts on potential biological, chemical and physical hazards.

Describe the product or service

After assembling your team and selecting your contractors, describe your product or service. What kind of food do you intend to serve, what ingredients will you use and how will it be processed? You need to plan how to distribute your product as well, because of the temperature that the food should be kept in (frozen, refrigerated or at room temperature).

Define future consumers

When creating a HACCP plan, you need to consider both your product and who your consumers are. Children, the elderly and people with food allergies require special attention that should be outlined in the plan.

Build the flowchart and design the process

The HACCP flowchart should provide a clear and simple explanation of all the steps involved in the process. In a restaurant, for example, there should be a flowchart for each recipe. It should include not only details of the internal process but also supplier info and good practices for distributors

Confirm the flow diagram on location

The team responsible for HACCP should check the flow diagram on-site in order to test its accuracy. When incomplete, it’s imperative to plan the necessary changes and to adapt and improve the HACCP plan. 

Conduct a hazard analysis

When you create the HACCP plan, you should start with the first principle – conduct an analysis of biological, chemical and physical hazards for each flow. The first stage of the hazard analysis is to identify the different hazards; the second is to evaluate them. Only then can you decide on the necessary control and preventive measures.

Whenever possible, register:

  • the likelihood of each hazard and its consequences; 
  • the growth and survival rates of microorganisms; 
  • the toxins, chemical substances or physical agents that may come in contact with food in every step of the process.

Choosing critical control points

Once the risks have been identified and the control measures are set, move on to the second principle: defining critical control points (CCPs). It’s also necessary to establish critical limits (Principle 3) and to monitor each of the CCPs (principle 4).  

  • Measuring temperatures, humidity levels, pH levels and free chlorine are amongst the quickest methods to assess critical points. If you cannot take measurements, use other indicators, such as time (due dates) or sensory parameters, like visual appearances (e.g.colour changes), texture, and flavour. 
  • If it is impossible to implement a preventive measure in a given step of the flowchart, you must create one either in the previous or following steps. 

Action plan: fix mistakes on your plan

However, a HACCP plan should go even further. The team needs to know how to act when CCPs are not within control limits. There should be a protocol for corrective measures, such as preventing the batch from reaching the final customer, and a plan to identify possible reasons for the error.

In principle, the HACCP plan is complete. Now it’s time to put it all into practice and check your maintenance procedures. Quality control and product testing are essential, as well as routine equipment maintenance. 

Finally, keep all this information organised and readily available so that it can be useful in a future review of the HACCP plan and inspections. 

Food safety control in european restaurants

Each restaurant deals with different hazards, but the European Commission prepared guidelines for food safety control that might help you identify critical points and choose control measures. Even though the UK is no longer in the EU, you can still check the English version of the book through Ireland’s The National Food Center.

HACCP plan for water supply systems

Despite their strong links with the food industry, we can also apply HACCP principles to detect hazards in water supply systems and even in HVAC. First, you need to identify hazards (pathogens, Legionella, etc), and then follow the steps to establish critical limits, control and corrective measures.

Other useful resources to develop a HACCP programme:

Apart from the “Safer Food, Better Business” resources (which include packs for caterers, retailers, Indian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, childminders and residential care homes), there are other resources you might find useful: