Unveiling critical control points: 7 key principles of the HACCP plan


critical control points


One of the significant challenges faced by the food industry is delivering safe products to consumers through rigorous critical control points analysis. Given that these products directly impact people’s health, any failure can be detrimental to the business.

This becomes even more critical as customers become increasingly discerning in their choice and consumption of food products.

In this context, the team must be aligned to deliver food within the required parameters.

The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan is implemented to identify critical control points. In this article, we will delve deeper into this subject. Enjoy the read!

What is a critical control point?

A critical control point is any production stage posing food contamination risks, requiring reduction to acceptable levels. Incorrect handling can compromise consumers’ health.

Thus, identifying critical control points is crucial to prevent food contamination during the different stages. It extends beyond a company’s reputation due to lives may be at stake.

Identifying critical control points

To identify a critical control point, managers must ask some questions, such as:

  • Is potential contamination possible at this stage?
  • What actions can we take to avoid the risk?
  • How can we prevent or reduce the risk?
  • Is there a monitoring method in place?
  • What’s the best way to document this?

Once these questions are answered, the manager can create a HACCP plan to minimize risks in that particular stage.

Another way to identify a critical control point is by using quality tools such as check sheets for standardizing data collection and identifying the root cause of problems.

What is a HACCP plan?

As we mentioned earlier, HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is a prevention, rationality, and specificity philosophy used to control food production risks. It monitors from harvesting to consumption to prevent the onset of diseases.

This methodology is recommended by regulatory organizations and is not only employed by the industry but also throughout the entire food supply chain. It spans from agribusiness to restaurants and retailers serving the end consumers.

The HACCP system revolves around examining each process stage, identifying potential problems, their causes, and effects, and then establishing control mechanisms.

What is the HACCP plan for?

The HACCP plan serves to guide the team through each stage of the food process, identifying potential physical, chemical, or biological contamination points. 

Once hazards are detected, managers can develop preventive measures collaboratively with the team to ensure product quality.The ultimate goal is to deliver food in perfect consumption condition. 

Creating an HACCP plan is not a simple task, because it requires time, planning, patience and meticulousness from everyone involved. Team engagement is integral to the process, ensuring the plan’s effectiveness.

Understanding the significance of an HACCP plan

The HACCP plan is vital to prevent food contamination during any production stage. Monitoring is carried out from harvesting to the final product delivery to consumers.

Without stringent monitoring and identification of critical control points, contaminated food would reach consumers’ tables, leading to more frequent foodborne illnesses.

In today’s competitive landscape, a company neglecting the implementation of this plan risks tarnishing its reputation due to potential contamination incidents.

Additionally, they may face issues with regulatory authorities, resulting in fines or even the possibility of business closure.

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How was the HACCP plan developed?

The system was developed by the Pillsbury Company in collaboration with the U.S. military in the mid-1960s.

At that time, the method aimed to meet NASA’s requirements, ensuring that the food consumed by astronauts during space travel would not cause illnesses to the crew.

After extensive research, Pillsbury and NASA scientists worked together to devise a method that allowed for detailed evaluation of each production stage, identifying issues, and monitoring the critical control points.

As a result, the system was created based on 7 principles, ranging from risk identification to information documentation.

7 principles of the HACCP plan

To be implemented, the HACCP plan relies on 7 principles outlined by ISO 22000, the specific standard for food safety management systems. They include:

  1. Risk analysis.
  2. Determination of Critical Control Points (CCPs).
  3. Establishment of critical limits.
  4. Implementation of monitoring procedures.
  5. Introduction of corrective actions.
  6. Creation of verification procedures.
  7. Maintenance and documentation recording.

1. Risk analysis

The first step of an HACCP plan is risk analysis. The goal is to develop a list of hazards that may impact consumer health.

This analysis can include evaluating employee competency, food transportation methods, cooling and thawing potentially hazardous foods, handling and contact, equipment maintenance, food storage, and other factors posing contamination risks.

Once risks are identified and contextualized, it is essential to determine the probability of each one occurring and its potential impacts.

A Risk Matrix, like the one shown below, aids in identifying critical control points:

2. CCP determination

CCP stands for Critical Control Point. In this stage, the goal is to avoid, eliminate or reduce the risks identified in the previous step.

Procedures and processes related to each stage that may incur contamination risks are assessed. The following questions arise:

  • Can we avoid this step?
  • What is the best way to prevent risks?
  • Which methods can we use?
  • Can we create indicators to measure them?

Once managers answer these questions, it is essential to establish critical limits for food handling.

3. Establishment of critical limits

When critical limits are established, it becomes easier for employees to understand the range they need to work within to avoid any contamination risks.

Each critical control point must have at least one critical limit that can be monitored through measurement or observation. This limit should be based on scientific or regulatory considerations, taking into account variables such as temperature, time, pH, water activity, etc.

For example, during food transportation, what temperature is required to prevent any contamination risk?

Once these parameters are determined, the company adjusts its entire delivery fleet to meet this criteria; and the same is done in production, storage and other stages.

If you want to learn more, explore what are the KPIs for quality assurance that you should use in your business?

4. Implementation of monitoring procedures

One observation made by regulators is that risks are not static. If they were, all measures to avoid them would have already been established.

However, risks are dynamic and constantly changing. Hence, it is crucial to monitor critical control points to assess compliance within critical limits.

Those in charge of monitoring should be well trained, as they will be responsible for communicating and initiating actions to achieve desired outcomes.

Having a robust risk management system is also essential at this stage, as it aids in swiftly identifying established parameters.

5. Introduction of corrective actions

When critical limit criteria are perfectly met, no corrective action is necessary. However, if these criteria are not met, the organization must have a corrective action plan.

During the HACCP plan, these actions need to follow specific guidelines. One is determining who is responsible for implementing the action, and the other is who will execute it.

Typically, a question is asked: have the critical limit criteria been met? If yes, the issue is resolved. If not, what corrective action should we take, and who will implement and execute it?

Having these questions well defined makes it easier for the company to address any issues that may arise promptly.

6. Creation of verification procedures

Some procedures go beyond simple monitoring and are referred to as verification procedures.

They determine if the system is functioning correctly according to the HACCP plan. An interesting aspect of verification is ensuring the plan is scientifically and technically sound.

Additionally, the verification procedure illustrates whether risks have been correctly identified and addressed, and if they are effectively controlled.

Some companies hire specialized external consulting firms for scientific studies during the verification stage, ensuring everything goes as expected. 

These consulting firms not only possess expertise in scientific studies but also have the capability to observe food flow and conduct measurements and evaluations.

It is worth emphasizing that this stage offers the most opportunities for continuous improvement within the plan, making it essential for focused attention.

7. Maintenance and documentation recording

Finally, the last step is documenting the procedures, which should be straightforward and easily accessible to all involved in the process.

The documents must include information that demonstrates compliance with established standards. To achieve this, responsible individuals should be trained on how to maintain these records, which may include:

  • time;
  • temperature;
  • forms;
  • checklists;
  • training logs;
  • flowcharts.

Cloud computing is highly beneficial in this process, ensuring all employees can access records from anywhere.

How to implement the HACCP?

The implementation of HACCP within a company requires significant effort from all involved, as it encompasses all stages the food goes through.

Intensive training for all employees is necessary to understand the system, the identified hazards and the software used for risk identification and monitoring.

During the verification stage, the company may either hire a third-party firm or heavily invest in qualified personnel and state-of-the-art equipment to support decision making.

Major players in the food industry heavily invest in this methodology as it ensures business efficiency. As a result, products bearing their brand rarely reach the market with any contamination compromising consumer health or tarnishing the company’s reputation, leading to sales declines.

Leveraging technology for HACCP implementation

Due to its rigorous implementation, it is crucial to choose a system that provides employees with easy access and the ability to create monitoring metrics.

STRATWs One is a project management software that allows managers to visualize all stages, identifying risk points. They can closely examine each process, ensuring it adheres to established parameters and addressing any necessary corrections.

As a cloud based system, it enables access from any device, facilitating information input and stage management.

If you aim to implement HACCP in your company to enhance food production quality, don’t miss the opportunity to explore STRATWs One. Visit the website and schedule a free tryout: