HACCP Plan: Everything you need to know

Saro Loucks
Saro Loucks

Last updated: February 23, 2024

Are you starting your HACCP journey? Writing a HACCP plan or preparing for the audit can require a lot of research, and it’s always confusing as HACCP includes a lot of aspects, stages, and rules.

Don’t worry, you won’t get lost! We’ve done the research for you and compiled everything into a well-detailed HACCP guide where you’ll find everything you need to know.

HACCP Definition

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points.

According to the FDA, HACCP is a management framework that ensures food safety by regularly evaluating and controlling biological, chemical, and physical hazards at any stage of food production and the supply chain.

A HACCP plan lets you control every step and process at your food and beverage company. It means you can identify and eliminate an issue so your clients consume a safe product.

In other words, HACCP purpose is to prevent hazards that can lead to negative consequences like foodborne illnesses. Prevention is always better than cure, right?

HACCP is included in Codex Alimentarius, which provides guidelines for food safety worldwide.

Originally, the concept was introduced by NASA in the sixties. Later, in the nineties, The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods introduced and improved the principles of HACCP, which we will talk about later in this blog.

Why do you need a HACCP Plan?

Although the HACCP plan is sometimes voluntary, there are some factors to consider, like the benefits of HACCP, business development, and legal requirements.

First and foremost, food safety is the most essential reason for having a HACCP plan. It helps identify and mitigate risks, ensuring the safety of consumers. As a result, your clients are healthy and satisfied.

You will enhance your product quality so people return to you, making your business more and more reliable.

FDA made implementing HACCP compulsory within specific food and beverage industry branches. It is described in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which came into force in 2011.

The FDA’s primary goal is to prevent foodborne illnesses rather than deal with them afterward.  And the HACCP plan is the best way to stick to these principles. So, once you have a program, you can be safe from legal issues, fines, and other problems.

A HACCP plan will regulate the working process. The employees will know how to deal with their tasks correctly and how to reach the highest quality of the product.

A HACCP plan saves you money. If your production is safe and compliant, you reduce the risk of recalls, losing customers, reputation problems, and dealing with even more severe issues. Consequently, you save money, reduce waste, and enhance efficiency.

What happens when a company demonstrates its commitment to food safety? They attract more customers, partners, and investors and become a strong competitor in the market. Also, HACCP facilitates access to export markets that often require a HACCP certification.

Once you implement your HACCP plan, you will constantly work on its improvement as it requires regular updates. The more you improve your HACCP plan, the safer and higher quality your product is.

Another important aspect is that a HACCP plan is essential to different 3rd party audits like SQF, BRC, and others. If you want to pass any of the GFSI-recognized certifications, you won’t move further without a HACCP plan.

Overall, a HACCP plan can only benefit your company and ensure many prospects for your business in the long run.

How to build a HACCP Plan?

There is an established procedure and recommendations for creating a HACCP plan. I’ll cover all the steps briefly, but you can also read a detailed guide on how to create a HACCP plan with examples! 

Developing a HACCP plan is manageable with these steps:

First of all, decide who will work on the HACCP. You should choose well-trained workers representing different facility departments like maintenance, production, receiving, etc. It will help control all the details at different stages.

You should know the product well: how it will be processed and distributed, its final purpose, and so on. Describe your target customer and market. For example, different points must be considered while making food for pregnant women and people with celiac disease.

Then, determine a structured food process flow chart from receiving raw ingredients to selling the ready product.

After that, the team has to verify the chart and identify if there are any gaps or mistakes. You should correct everything before the implementation.

Once you finish these steps, you have to apply the 7 HACCP principles. Those will be the next steps in developing a HACCP plan.

Seven HACCP Plan Principles

Let’s delve into this and look at seven HACCP principles any HACCP plan can’t do without.

Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis.

A qualified HACCP team identifies all the potential biological, chemical, or physical hazards that can appear at any stage of food production. Then, the team classifies the hazards from most to least important, severe, or repetitive. This way, they prioritize controlling the most dangerous hazards.

Principle 2: Determine the critical control points (CCPs).

Critical Control Points are steps in the process when you can avoid or control a hazard and prevent injuries or further food contamination. CCPs are associated with hazards that could undermine food safety when not being controlled. CPPs can be determined in transportation, cooking, reheating, and other stages.

Principle 3: Establish critical limits.

Simply speaking, the critical limits are the highest and lowest points necessary to gain control over the hazards at each CCP.

For instance, there should be documented norms of cooking temperature for specific products to kill pathogens, or perhaps a product needs to be at a certain acidity to control bacterial growth.

Principle 4: Establish monitoring procedures.

It is an essential procedure to track the hazards, as well as identify and tackle any deviations from CCPs. These can include logging cooking time and temperature, equipment testing, examination for pathogens, etc.

Workers must document all the details so there is accessible documentation that can be required during the audits. FoodReady has a mobile app, so your staff can log their HACCP monitoring actions in real-time.

Principle 5: Establish corrective actions.

Corrective actions should be established when preventive measures don’t work, and the hazards are not handled at CCPs. For example, it can be the disposal of undercooked ingredients. This step also has to be monitored and documented.

Principle 6: Establish verification procedures.

Your HACCP plan has to be verified to prove it is effective. It means that HACCP-trained specialists will check if everything corresponds to the established norms. For example, ovens need to be tested to see if they can reach the temperatures needed to kill pathogens. This is done to omit mistakes and enhance food safety.

Also, you will want a third-party auditor to inspect your HACCP plan occasionally to ensure it follows established rules.

Read more about validation in a HACCP plan.

Principle 7: Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures.

This principle is self-explanatory. Everything related to the HACCP plan, including the plan itself, has to be documented and stored. It has to be easily accessible in case of audit, recall, or other procedures. It is mandatory, so think about how you will keep the documents.

FoodReady can help you with that, as we have a robust cloud-based document management system!

Seven principles of HACCP

HACCP Plan Implementation

By implementing these stages, you and your team will write and incorporate a successful HACCP plan and achieve the highest possible level of food safety.

HACCP implementation is an intricate process and requires a lot of determination. The FDA provides the guidelines to help apply the HACCP principles and write a sophisticated HACCP plan.

Prerequisite Programs

Take care of the prerequisite programs. This is an essential requirement for creating a good HACCP plan. PRPs can create an acceptable environment and operating conditions for hazard-free, safe food production.

These environmental requirements can be indicated in state and local codes, standards, and guidelines like cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices).

Prerequisite programs are developed and incorporated separately from the HACCP plan. However, some aspects can still be managed within the plan, for example, equipment maintenance and settings.

Prerequisite programs include an abundance of factors. Let’s look at some of them:

  • Your facilities have to be built according to the principles of sanitary design.
  • Your supplier must be reliable and have GMP and food safety programs.
  • Maintain the equipment according to the established hygienic standards.
  • Implement effective sanitation practices.
  • The personal hygiene of employees has to be controlled.
  • Traceability and recall procedures have to be well-organized, etc.

Standard Operating Procedures

One of the crucial prerequisites in HACCP implementation is the establishment, documentation, and execution of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).

SOPs are detailed written guidelines indicating how to perform routine tasks that directly influence food safety.

Every Standard Operating Procedure should cover aspects like monitoring, documentation, corrective measures, and periodic assessment. Following SOPs will help in monitoring and preventing potential hazards.

Also, it is an effective way to keep the employees aware of how to perform their work.

These manuals have to be easy to read and regularly updated. They can be presented in different formats like steps, flowcharts, or diagrams.

FoodReady has everything you need for effective SOPs. Our AI SOP generator will easily create SOPs in no time. We will help keep your SOPs compliant and up-to-date as you’ll be able to track changes, control, and restore previous document versions.

Try it out today!

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HACCP Training for Employees

You must always know what you are dealing with. That’s why HACCP training for management and employees is a key to the successful HACCP plan.

The HACCP team must be well-educated and equipped to develop, implement, and update the plan. The training should include modules that cover the work with CCPs. 

Once you and your team are educated enough to work with the HACCP system and the well-established prerequisite programs, you are ready to develop and implement the plan.

The HACCP system will remain effective if you stick to planned verification procedures and maintain the plan when required. But remember that the program won’t work unless the staff knows their role and responsibilities. Their input is invaluable.

HACCP Certification for your Food Company

Once you have developed and implemented your HACCP system, you can try to get your HACCP plan certified. 

A HACCP certification is a document that proves that you have developed a great HACCP plan and efficiently implemented it into your food safety management. If you are a food manufacturer or anyone who deals with food at different phases of the supply chain, HACCP certification will be an advantage.

The procedure and the preparation will include some of the steps you are already familiar with.

First of all, work on perfecting your prerequisite programs. Then, develop, improve, and implement your HACCP plan.

Perform a Gap Analysis

Gap assessment will be an excellent preparation before the actual audit happens. Check all the processes to identify the gaps and areas for improvement so that you are entirely prepared for the inspection by the auditor. It’s always better to involve a third person who will be unbiased. That will help make the preparation more efficient.

As an example of preparation, you can conduct random temperature measurements and organize and check if the documents are easily retrievable, updated, and organized. Follow and include the latest food safety updates into your food safety management system.

Hire a 3rd-Party Auditor

Choose a verified third-party auditor. They are trained to thoroughly review the entire organization to confirm they adhere to the established food safety standards.

The HACCP certification routine can be time-consuming but definitely worth it. The audit itself will take approximately five days to complete. But the rest will depend on your certification goals, current workflow state, company’s size, etc.

Pass your HACCP Audit and maintain your result

It’s time to pass the HACCP audit and get certified. After successful certification, you are responsible for keeping your results, as a HACCP plan requires constant implementation and continuous improvement.

HACCP certificates need to be renewed within a certain period, which depends on the decision of the auditor you choose. In the next two years, you will have an announced or unannounced surveillance audit to verify if you still adhere to the HACCP standards.

You should also know that you risk revoking your certification if your company breaches the HACCP requirements.

In general, once you get HACCP certified, you must be responsible enough to improve your food safety and maintain your achievements.

Common mistakes when working with the HACCP Plan

When it comes to HACCP, it may be challenging, so it is crucial to know some common mistakes that can appear and avoid them.

First of all, generalized and irregular checkups can be a problem. Various processes and facilities can hide different hazards. It is essential to check everything in detail and constantly so you maintain a steady checking routine. But remember that everything has to be in moderation; overly simple or intricate reviews can both be harmful.

Companies need to pay attention to prerequisite programs and prioritize training and preventative maintenance, so they can keep on top of hazards before they are introduced into the production process.

Another problem is neglecting reviews. They are usually associated with the audits; however, the HACCP plan must also be reviewed in other cases. For instance, when there are changes in the legislation, or you modify a recipe. 

In general, ignoring or underestimating some of the compulsory steps or prerequisite programs can lead to issues with developing and implementing the HACCP system into the business.

FoodReady software and consulting will help you do everything right the first time.

See how our customers have flourished with our HACCP and 3rd-party audit help.

FoodReady will assist you with your HACCP Plan

FoodReady strives to help food companies manage food safety and digitize food safety compliance.

Our software has a HACCP builder with over eighty customizable HACCP templates to fit your business needs.

Make your quality and operational tracking tasks more efficient and optimized using FoodReady’s task manager or the user-friendly “drag-and-drop” checklist builder. This simplifies the transition for organizations seeking to replace their manual spreadsheet systems.

Also, you will track biological, physical, and chemical hazards in a database, as well as work with CCP logs with Bluetooth thermometer integration. 

With FoodReady, you will feel confident about traceability and recall, monitoring, correction, verification procedures, and other significant steps needed for your HACCP plan.

We do offer consulting services as well, and our HACCP consultants will gladly assist you.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What does “kill step” in a HACCP Plan mean?

Kill steps are those that you need to do to eliminate the bacteria. These can be cooking, freezing, pasteurization, and others. Read more about the “kill step” in the HACCP plan here.

What are the disadvantages of HACCP?

Implementing HACCP can be an intricate, demanding, time, and money-consuming process. However, if you make sure your company can handle that, this is a worthy investment.

Is HACCP applicable only to food safety?

No, HACCP can fit other industries apart from food and beverage. For example, it can be cosmetics or pharmaceuticals.

In a global supply chain, what to do to adapt the HACCP plan to regulatory requirements in different countries?

Apart from the primary rules of HACCP, you should also learn how to align with regional standards, customize plans, and train your staff based on regional peculiarities.

Don’t forget about risk assessment to discover potential risks. Follow the international guidelines like those established in Codex Alimentarius.

How much does the HACCP certification cost?

The cost will depend on various factors. Firstly, different certification firms will offer their quotes. Also, aspects like the size of the company, your preparedness, training, the need for corrective actions, etc, influence the price a lot.

It’s better to research the certification bodies you prefer and ask for a customized quote. FoodReady offers cost-effective software and consulting services to write and implement your HACCP plan and prepare for the audit.

In this article

Saro Loucks

Saro Loucks

HACCP Certified, food safety enthusiast.

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