How to Develop a HACCP Plan: A Step-By-Step Guide

HACCP plan

What is HACCP?

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a systematic approach to ensuring food safety by identifying, evaluating, and controlling potential hazards throughout the food production process. It is a preventive system that focuses on analyzing and addressing hazards that can cause harm to consumers, aiming to eliminate or minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses.

The principles of HACCP involve conducting a thorough hazard analysis, determining critical control points (CCPs), establishing critical limits, implementing monitoring procedures, defining corrective actions, conducting verification procedures, and establishing documentation and record-keeping practices. By adhering to these principles, food businesses can proactively identify and mitigate risks, ensuring the production of safe and high-quality food products.

Implementing HACCP offers several key benefits, such as enhanced consumer protection, improved product quality, increased regulatory compliance, minimized liability and legal risks, and better overall management of food safety. By following a step-by-step guide on developing a HACCP plan, businesses can safeguard the health of their consumers and build a reputation for excellence in food safety practices.

Read on to gain a comprehensive understanding of how to develop a HACCP plan and unlock the potential benefits it offers.

How to Develop A HACCP Plan: 12 Essential Steps

Developing a HACCP plan involves a systematic approach to ensure food safety from start to finish. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are 12 guidelines to follow, including the 7 HACCP Principles, to develop an effective HACCP Plan.

1. Assemble the HACCP Team

The first step in a HACCP Plan is to establish a dedicated team consisting of individuals from various departments, including production, quality control, and management. The team should have a designated leader responsible for coordinating the HACCP plan development and implementation. Collaborative efforts and diverse expertise within the team ensure a comprehensive and effective HACCP plan.

The FDA recommends that only experts who are knowledgeable in the food process participate and see the plan through, due to the technical nature of the information required for hazard analysis.

Each team member should have the knowledge and experience to correctly do the following:

  • Conduct a hazard analysis
  • Identify potential hazards
  • Identify which hazards to control
  • Recommend controls, critical limits, and procedures for monitoring and verification
  • Decide on appropriate corrective actions when deviations occur
  • Provide research related to the plan if important information is needed
  • Validate the HACCP Plan

2. Establish Product Description and Distribution

Clearly define the product(s) for which the HACCP plan will be developed, including its specific characteristics and intended use. Determine the distribution channels and destinations of the product(s) to identify potential hazards and critical control points in the supply chain. This step enables a targeted approach to developing control measures that address the unique aspects of the product and its distribution.

3. Identify the Intended Use and Consumers

Understand the intended use of the product(s) by consumers and other end-users. Identify the target consumers, their demographics, and any specific requirements or vulnerabilities. This information helps in assessing the potential hazards and determining critical control points tailored to the specific consumer needs.

4. Construct Flow Diagram to Describe the Process

Create a visual representation, such as a flow diagram, to illustrate the sequential steps involved in the production process. Include all inputs, processing steps, equipment used, and outputs. The flow diagram serves as a foundation for conducting a thorough hazard analysis and identifying critical control points.

5. Verify the Flow Diagram

Validate the accuracy and completeness of the flow diagram by conducting on-site observations and discussions with personnel involved in the process. Compare the flow diagram with the actual operations to ensure consistency and identify any discrepancies. This verification step ensures the flow diagram is an accurate reflection of the process, enabling precise hazard analysis and control point identification.

6. Conduct a Hazard Analysis (Principle 1)

Once the preliminary tasks are done, the HACCP team will next conduct a hazard analysis and identify appropriate control measures. When conducting a hazard analysis, the first principle of HACCP, it is crucial to identify and assess the different types of hazards that can potentially affect food safety. There are three primary types of food safety hazards:

Biological Contaminants: Biological hazards include microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and molds. These contaminants can lead to foodborne illnesses and pose a significant risk to consumers. Examples include Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and Norovirus. Proper control measures are necessary to prevent, eliminate, or reduce the presence of biological contaminants in food production.

Chemical Contaminants: Chemical hazards refer to harmful substances that can contaminate food, including pesticides, heavy metals, allergens, and food additives. These contaminants can be naturally occurring or introduced during production, processing, or packaging. Ensuring proper handling, storage, and labeling of chemicals, as well as rigorous testing and quality control, are essential to mitigate chemical hazards.

Physical Contaminants: Physical hazards are foreign objects that can accidentally enter food, causing harm to consumers. Examples include glass, metal fragments, stones, bones, or other extraneous materials. Preventive measures such as effective sieving, metal detection, and proper maintenance of equipment play a vital role in minimizing physical hazards.

In conducting a hazard analysis, various methods can be employed. Here are four common types of hazard analysis techniques:

Qualitative Hazard Analysis: Qualitative analysis involves identifying hazards based on their presence or absence and assessing their severity and likelihood without assigning numerical values. It provides a qualitative understanding of the risks associated with specific hazards.

Quantitative Hazard Analysis: Quantitative analysis involves using data and statistical methods to quantify the risks associated with hazards. It assigns numerical values to hazards, such as probability of occurrence and severity, to facilitate a more precise assessment.

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA): FMEA is a systematic approach to identifying potential failures, their causes, and their effects on the overall process. It helps assess the risks associated with hazards by analyzing their potential failure modes and their impact on food safety.

Hazard and Operability Study (HAZOP):
HAZOP is a structured and systematic technique used to identify potential hazards, assess their consequences, and identify control measures. It involves examining deviations from normal operating conditions and assessing the associated risks.

haccp for food safety

 7. Determine Critical Control Points (CCPs) (Principle 2)

Identify the specific points in the production process where control measures are essential to prevent, eliminate, or reduce hazards to an acceptable level. These are the critical control points (CCPs), and their identification is crucial for effective hazard control.

8. Establish Critical Limits for Each CCP (Principle 3)

Critical limits are the maximum or minimum values that must be achieved at each CCP to ensure food safety. Establishing these limits is essential to define the boundaries of acceptable control and ensure that hazards are effectively managed.

9. Establish Monitoring Procedures (Principle 4)

Develop monitoring procedures to assess and document whether the critical control points are under control. Monitoring involves scheduled observations, measurements, or tests to ensure that the critical limits are consistently met.

10. Apply Corrective Actions (Principle 5)

When deviations from critical limits occur, prompt corrective actions must be implemented to bring the process back under control. Clearly define the steps to be taken, responsibilities, and timeframes for implementing corrective actions.

11. Conduct Verification Procedures (Principle 6)

Verification procedures are essential to determine whether the HACCP plan is being implemented correctly and is effective in controlling hazards. Verification includes reviewing records, conducting audits, and validating the effectiveness of control measures.

12. Establish Documentation and Record-Keeping (Principle 7)

Maintain accurate and up-to-date documentation throughout the HACCP plan development and implementation. This includes records of hazard analysis, critical control points, monitoring results, corrective actions, and verification procedures. Documentation ensures transparency, facilitates audits, and provides a historical record of the plan's effectiveness.

Implementation and Maintenance of the HACCP Plan

Upon completion of the plan, the FDA recommends developing a timeline for the next steps involved in the initial implementation of the HACCP plan. The implementation process involves the continual application of corrective action procedures, monitoring, and record-keeping.

To effectively maintain the HACCP system, proper training and effective communication within personnel are important aspects so each individual involved in the implementation understands their role and can effectively fulfill their responsibilities.

Training and Education: Adequate training and education of personnel involved in the implementation of the HACCP plan is crucial. It ensures that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities, as well as the importance of following the plan consistently.

Effective Communication: Clear and effective communication is essential throughout the organization to ensure that everyone is aware of the HACCP plan and its requirements. This includes communicating changes, updates, and any necessary corrective actions promptly.

Regular Monitoring and Verification: Continuous monitoring and verification are necessary to ensure that the critical control points are being effectively managed. Regular inspections, testing, and data analysis help identify any deviations or potential issues that require corrective actions.

Record-Keeping: Accurate and detailed record-keeping is vital for maintaining the integrity of the HACCP plan. This includes documentation of monitoring results, corrective actions, and any modifications made to the plan. Records serve as a valuable reference for audits and continuous improvement.

Periodic Review and Updates: The HACCP plan should be periodically reviewed to ensure its effectiveness and relevance. As new hazards emerge or processes change, updates to the plan may be necessary. Regular reviews also help identify areas for improvement and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

haccp planning


1. Why is developing a HACCP plan important for food businesses?
Developing a HACCP plan is vital for food businesses because it helps ensure the production of safe and high-quality food products. It provides a systematic and preventive approach to identify and control hazards throughout the production process, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses and protecting consumer health.

2. What are the essential components of a HACCP plan?
The essential components of a HACCP plan include conducting a hazard analysis, identifying critical control points (CCPs), establishing critical limits, implementing monitoring procedures, outlining corrective actions, conducting verification activities, and maintaining accurate records. These components work together to manage and control food safety hazards effectively.

3. How can I identify critical control points in my food production process?
Critical control points (CCPs) can be identified by conducting a thorough hazard analysis. This involves examining each step of the production process to identify hazards and determining where control measures are necessary to prevent, eliminate, or reduce those hazards to an acceptable level. CCPs are typically points in the process where control is essential to ensure food safety.

4. What are some common challenges businesses face when developing a HACCP plan?
Common challenges when developing a HACCP plan include limited resources, lack of expertise or training, complex supply chains, changing regulations, and maintaining ongoing commitment from management and staff. Overcoming these challenges requires dedication, proper allocation of resources, access to relevant expertise, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

5. Are there any regulatory requirements or standards associated with HACCP implementation?
Yes, there are regulatory requirements and standards associated with HACCP implementation. Many countries have specific regulations mandating the implementation of HACCP in certain food sectors. Additionally, international standards such as ISO 22000 and Codex Alimentarius provide guidelines and requirements for HACCP implementation. Compliance with these regulations and standards helps ensure the consistency and effectiveness of HACCP systems.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.