HACCP | 12 mins read

HACCP for Beginners

haccp for beginners
Dakota Sheetz

By Dakota Sheetz

What Is HACCP?

HACCP is an acronym that stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points. It is a method recognized around the world that is used to identify and manage food safety risks. HACCP addresses food safety risks by analyzing and controlling biological, chemical, and physical hazards that exist from in raw materials, the production of food, the procurement of food, the handling of food, the manufacturing of food, the distribution of food, and the consumption of the final product.

A HACCP plan is customized based on the needs of the restaurant. While all the restaurants in your state must comply with the food handling and health laws set forth by your states legislation, not every restaurant will use the same vendors for ingredients. A HACCP plan takes the restaurants individualized particular hazards into consideration to develop the analysis control points.

We recognize that when separated out, this system appears to be a complicated process. In fact, it often scares restauranteurs into avoidance. While HACCP is not required by law, it is extremely beneficial and avoidance is not the solution, as HACCP protects both you and the consumer.

HACCP is a key part of a well-designed food safety program, used by other industries, not just restaurateurs. Its used by the best food manufacturers, as well as the vendors that you purchase your ingredients and precooked foods from.

The Importance of HACCP

HACCP holds importance for a few reasons. HACCP helps control the risk of foodborne illness. HACCP analyzes and helps control biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw foods. This includes foods that are associated with making consumers sick. The foods most likely to cause food poisoning according to the CDC are-

  • Raw foods that come from animals, including meat (raw or undercooked), eggs, milk, or shellfish
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Foods that are cross-contaminated during the food production stage if it comes into contact with raw meat
Proper use of HACCP helps your staff understand the critical control points in the kitchen that can minimize or eliminate cross-contamination, understand how the biological nature and chemical nature of both raw ingredients and the most common foodborne illnesses, and what the processes will be to minimize or eliminate the risk to diners as well as to your staff.

Less risk in the kitchen and to your patrons will help minimize your expenses. This can be having fewer costs associated with workers' compensation claims that stem from sickness in the workplace or even have fewer diner claims of foodborne illness resulting in lawsuits or demand letters from attorneys. Because you're relying on science and technology, you're keeping your staff, your guests, and your investment safe.

The Evolution of HACCP

HACCP is a concept that was born in 1959 by a team of food scientists and engineers working for The Pillsbury Company, the Natick Research Laboratories, and NASA. They created a system to ensure food safety for the space program. In 1971, Pillsbury presented the initial concept during the National Conference on Food Protection. This Conference was jointly sponsored by the FDA and the American Public Health Association. The initial program contained three ideals-

1. Identifying and assessing hazards associated with food from farm to fork
2. Determining the critical control points to use to control identified hazards
3. Establishing systems to monitor the critical control points

As time went on, changes have, of course, occurred to make the process more effective, but the original concepts of identifying and assessing hazards, determining critical control points of the identified hazards, and establishing systems to monitor those critical control points certainly have not.

In 1974, the FDA took on the concepts of the HACCP into low acid and acidified food regulations as a way to respond to outbreaks of clostridium botulinum poisoning that occurred in commercially canned food. Doing so helped prevent further outbreaks.

In the late 1980s, numerous publications made HACCP the main food safety system for commercial food production, including the green book. In 1989, The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods published the first HACCP document which essentially created the standard codified practice that created the seven principles as we know them today.

While food safety continues to evolve, HACCP certification courses and auditor courses now exist which help keep restaurants in compliance with HACCP. While it is not required to have someone oversee the process who has a certification, it can certainly be extremely beneficial since you can be assured that youll have someone taking the reins with the proper training.

Prerequisites for HACCP

To properly establish HACCP for your restaurant, there are certain procedures that must be taken. Your HACCP plan relies on having other parts of your food safety plan in place or at least documented. Three of the most common prerequisites include-

1. Water, steam, and ice- Every part of how food is processed in your restaurant relies on water, steam, ice, or some combination. Ensuring the water is clean and not exposed to harmful bacteria when it is transported. It must also be potable and available in sufficient quantities.

Other concerns include the plumbing system, documenting annual water quality test results, a notification from the municipality about tests, documentation about water safety if youre using a private water source including tests for chlorine levels and microbiological activity, as well as cross-contamination, backflow and corrective actions related to plumbing.

2. Conditions and cleanliness of surfaces where food contact is made- Any surface or utensil that food will contact must be designed and maintained in a way that will be easy to clean and that can withstand regular use. For example, equipment and utensils should have smooth seams. If the parts are worn, it should be thrown away or replaced. Other concerns include cleaning and sanitizing procedures, frequency of cleaning, monitoring of cleaning, how cleaning will be performed, and how verification of cleaning will be performed.

3. Preventing cross-contamination- Cross-contamination can occur in a multitude of ways, more commonly when bacteria moves from one place to another. It is generally caused because of poor employee hygiene, employee mistakes, such as non-compliance with the food safety plan, improper food handling, failure to use different utensils for raw and cooked foods, and inadequate cleaning and sanitizing.

HACCP and The Food Safety Modernization Act

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HACCP is a standard that many restaurants willingly adopt as the core of their food safety plans even when it isnt a regulatory requirement. Major changes in food laws have led government leaders to create the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Much like HACCP, FSMA focuses on preventative methods.

The FSMA requires that the restaurants owner, operator, or the person in charge must prepare or oversee the preparation of a written food safety plan that has one or more preventative qualified individuals (PCQI).

The guidelines for FSMA are stricter than HACCP as the FSMA is a matter of regulatory compliance and HACCP is adopted by many simply because it is good science. The PCQI must follow highly specific processes and must complete specialized training. A HACCP team may rely on external experts who have a better understanding of the hazards that create the processes and procedures for the restaurant.

To manage your FSMA compliance, rely on your knowledge of HACCP. All of the prerequisites that must be included in your HACCP plan must also be covered in FSMA to ensure compliance with this food safety regulation.

Remember, the main difference between the two is that the FSMA is a federal regulation that requires your compliance, and HACCP is voluntary and science-based with rules that arent quite as strict since it isnt a federal regulation.

The FDAs website dedicates an entire page to the FSMA. It covers rules and related programs, offers guidance documents, provides links for training and technical assistance, offers compliance and implementation tools, explains the background of FSMA, and provides you with the impact the FSMA has left on public health.

HACCP vs HARPC- What Are the Main Differences?

HARPC, or the Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls. It is a provision of the FSMA. It was modeled after HACCP, but is more comprehensive, differentiating by-

  • HACCP only applies to seafood and seafood juice processors (although, again, any restaurant can choose to adopt its principles).
  • HARPC is part of a federal regulation that applies to almost all food-processing facilities except those covered by and complying with the HACCP or those considered exempt.
  • HARPC requires a thorough hazard analysis for all food processing procedures that take place in the facility.
  • HARPC requires that the controls that are developed and implemented must also be monitored for effectiveness.
  • HACCP requires a team as well as a process flow chart while HARPC relies on a single qualified individual and no flow chart.
  • HARPC requires that the plan be reviewed and analyzed every three years unless product lines are added, equipment is changed or upgraded, or if other changes are made that necessitate a new analysis. HACCP requires an annual review.
  • HARPC requires planning for potential terrorist acts, intentional adulteration, food fraud, and a comprehensive recall plan for food.

What Are Critical Control Points?

In HACCP, critical control point is a term that is actually defined by the FDA as a step at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.

There is no singular way to determine critical control points. Remember that HACCP is a voluntary process that depends on whats happening in your restaurant. However, there are some questions that you can ask if you think that there is a hazard-

  1. Are there preventative measures?
  2. Can hazards be reduced or eliminated?
  3. In real-world situations, what is the level of risk?
  4. Is there another step that can be taken to reduce or eliminate the hazard?
Some of the most common critical control points are found in cooking, holding, cooling, and reheating food.

The 7 Principles of HACCP

  1. Start the hazard analysis- This involves looking at every step in your manufacturing process- raw ingredient production, where your raw ingredients come from, how your raw ingredients are handled, distribution, manufacturing of your dishes, and the consumption of the final productions. Think about the potential risks associated with biological, chemical, and physical contamination. After you identify the risks, begin to identify and implement preventative measures for each risk.
  2. Identify each critical control point (CCP)- Remember the FDA definition. This is a point where a step can be applied to eliminate or reduce a food safety hazard.
  3. Establish critical limits for each CCP- Each CCP needs a critical limit. A critical limit is a minimum or maximum value that provides reliable prevention, elimination, or reduction of a hazard. If it is a reduction, the reduction is to an acceptable level.
  4. Establish requirements for monitoring CCPs- Monitoring requirements must be effective. They must also be frequent enough to ensure that your CCPs remain within critical limits. Monitoring will also help you know whether your processes are working or whether you need to revisit your HACCP processes.
  5. Determine corrective actions for the HACCP system- Although the purpose of the HACCP system is to prevent hazards, you may discover, during your monitoring or even outside of your monitoring, that a hazard occurred. You must be prepared to use corrective actions. Corrective actions should determine and correct the cause of the hazard, determine what will happen to the affected product, and keep a record of the corrective actions taken. Corrective actions should include what to do if a deviation from the HACCP occurs, who is responsible for implementing corrective actions, and how the deviation and corrective action should be recorded.
  6. Create verification procedure- Because HACCP is backed by science, your plan needs to have verification procedures. Keeping a log helps verify that the proper controls are being used to control hazards and that the plan is being used consistently. This is particularly important if you plan to use periodic audits.
  7. Create and use record-keeping and documentation methods- Creating record-keeping and documentation methods are just one part of the equation. You must also ensure that you're keeping records and documentation as you stated you would in those methods. Clear and easy to understand documentation makes it easier for you as well as any auditor to understand your HACCP plan as well as any evidence supporting identified CPPs, critical limits, and any corrective action that may have been taken.


  • The HACCP is a voluntary food safety management method backed by scientific principles.
  • It has more than 50 years of scientific findings and data supporting it.
  • While similar to both the FSMA and HARPC, there are some key differences. For example, FSMA is a federal regulation.
  • Critical Control Points (CCPs) are defined by the FDA as steps at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level. However, they may vary from restaurant to restaurant.
  • There are seven principles found in a HACCP plan.