The 7 principles of HACCP?

The Critical Role of HACCP's 7 Principles in Food Safety

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) serves as the globally recognized backbone of robust food safety management. At its core are HACCP’s 7 principles – sequential steps that enable a structured, preventive approach to controlling food safety hazards.

While HACCP has been mandatory in meat, poultry, seafood processing and juice manufacturing since the late 1990s, its principles are relevant for any business involved in food handling, processing, transport, or preparation. Even when not legally required, implementing the 7 principles of HACCP demonstrates a proactive commitment to food safety.

Let’s examine why each principle plays such a critical part in effective food safety management.

Principle 1: Hazard Analysis

Conducting a thorough hazard analysis is the vital first step that sets the foundation for the entire HACCP plan. This involves:

  • Identifying potential biological, chemical, and physical hazards that could contaminate products at each step in the manufacturing process.
  • Evaluating the likelihood of hazards occurring and their associated severity.
  • Determining preventive measures to control each identified hazard.

Without a comprehensive hazard analysis, critical hazards could be overlooked and not addressed in the HACCP plan. For example, failure to recognize the hazard of metal fragments from degraded equipment could lead to dangerous foreign material contamination.

Thoroughly trained HACCP teams with diverse expertise are key to identifying all probable hazards during this initial phase.

Principle 2: Critical Control Points (CCPs)

Once hazards are recognized, the next step is strategically identifying critical control points (CCPs) – the steps in a process where hazards must be controlled to assure food safety.

Determining CCPs is based on:

  • Whether control can be applied at this step to eliminate the hazard or reduce it to an acceptable limit.
  • Whether lack of control will fail to prevent, eliminate, or reduce the hazard.

Correct CCP identification focuses control measures where they are absolutely vital to managing food safety hazards. This avoids wasting resources controlling hazards at steps where it is not essential.

For example, for a frozen meal production line, CCPs could include the cooking step to eliminate biological hazards and the metal detection check to control physical hazards.

Principle 3: Critical Limits

Critical limits are the defined parameters that indicate whether a CCP is under control. They are measurable, observable criteria that separate safe from unsafe conditions.

Each CCP will have one or more critical limits set for factors like:

  • Temperature
  • Time
  • Moisture level
  • pH
  • Water activity

Critical limits must be scientifically validated to ensure they effectively control hazards. Continuing the frozen meal example, cooking time and temperature limits would be validated to ensure they sufficiently eliminate pathogens.

Setting incorrect critical limits means hazards may not be adequately controlled. Overly stringent limits can also waste resources. Therefore, validation using scientific data, regulatory standards, and expertise is key to establish effective critical limits at each CCP.

Principle 4: Monitoring Procedures

Once critical limits are set, monitoring procedures must be established to assess whether CCPs are staying within those limits during production. Monitoring enables rapid detection of deviations so that corrective actions can be taken before unsafe products result.

Considerations when developing CCP monitoring procedures include:

  • What will be monitored e.g. time, temperature, moisture level?
  • Monitoring frequency to quickly detect loss of control.
  • Designating trained personnel to perform monitoring.
  • Monitoring equipment, methods and records to be used.

Monitoring forms the core real-time check that CCPs are functioning within established limits.

Principle 5: Corrective Actions

When monitoring shows that a CCP has deviated from its critical limit, pre-planned corrective actions must be taken to restore control. HACCP requires documenting corrective actions to include:

  • Identifying and isolating affected products.
  • Bringing the CCP back within critical limits e.g. adjusting cooking time or temperature.
  • Disposing of contaminated products and ingredients to avoid contamination.
  • Increasing monitoring frequency after the deviation.
  • Recording the incident and actions taken.

Well defined corrective actions protect food safety when critical limits are breached. They prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers.

Principle 6: Verification

Verification provides the evidence that the HACCP system is working as intended to control hazards effectively. Verification methods include:

  • HACCP plan audits – Periodic in-depth reviews of hazard analysis, CCPs, critical limits, procedures etc. to identify necessary updates.
  • Third-party audits – External audits by consultants, customers, certification bodies to identify gaps.
  • Calibration – Ensuring measuring and monitoring equipment precision.
  • Product testing – Analyzing microbiological, chemical and physical hazards in end products.
  • Record review – Checking completeness, accuracy and frequency of records.

Without verification, even a well-designed HACCP system can fail over time. Verification ensures continuous improvement to the HACCP plan.

Principle 7: Record Keeping

Comprehensive record keeping provides documented proof that HACCP procedures were performed as required. HACCP records include:

  • Hazard analysis.
  • CCP determinations and justifications.
  • Critical limit validation.
  • Equipment calibration and maintenance.
  • Monitoring data and deviations.
  • Corrective action records.
  • Verification reports and audits.
  • HACCP plan revision history.

Careful record keeping enables internal and external audits of the HACCP system and demonstrates due diligence in managing food safety. Records provide traceability and evidence for regulatory compliance.

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts

While each principle of HACCP has an important individual purpose, it is the integration of these sequential principles that enables robust food safety control.

The hazard analysis provides foundational knowledge while CCPs, critical limits, and monitoring procedures build layers of preventive control to manage those hazards. Corrective actions, verification, and record keeping further reinforce a culture of food safety.

Together, applying those 7 principles enables a science-based, systematic, and proactive means of controlling food safety hazards across the entire supply chain.

Implementing HACCP’s principles demonstrates your organization’s commitment to food safety – a commitment that ultimately protects your customers, employees, brand, and business. That’s why HACCP remains the gold standard in food safety over 50 years since its inception.

Here are some ways HACCP digitization software can support implementing the 7 principles of HACCP:

  • Conducts interactive hazard analysis by managing hazard libraries, severity/likelihood ratings, and preventive measure recommendations.
  • Stores CCP determinations and justification for internal and auditor review.
  • Provides guidance on validating critical limits based on scientific data and regulatory guidance.
  • Enables digital monitoring of CCPs with connected devices and sensors. Automated alerts for limit deviations.
  • Digital logging of corrective actions, root cause analysis, and product dispositions.
  • Scheduling and tracking of verification testing and audits. Gap analysis reports.
  • Centralized database for all HACCP records. Automated timeframe reminders for calibration, swabbing, verification etc.
  • Ability to upload supporting documents. Digital approvals workflow.
  • Automated HACCP plan review and version control.

By digitizing the workflows, procedures, and documentation required across the 7 principles, HACCP software provides food companies with a centralized platform to fully manage their HACCP-based food safety program. This drives compliance, efficiency, data integrity, and proactive hazard control.


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The hazard analysis identifies dangers to control, so guides determination of CCPs, their limits, monitoring, and corrective actions needed. It provides the informational basis for the whole plan.

CCPs allow businesses to strategically identify steps where applying control is essential to reduce food safety hazards to acceptable levels. Targeting control where it matters most.

If critical limits are set too low, resources may be wasted. If set too high, hazards may not be effectively controlled. Limits must be scientifically validated to ensure proper hazard control.

Monitoring frequency should enable quick detection of deviations so that prompt corrective actions can be taken before product safety is impacted.

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