What is HACCP? - A complete guide

Learn what HACCP is and how it is originated, developed, and evolved into a final word in food safety.

Fran Dev

The food business has witnessed massive growth globally and continues to expand rapidly. Consider these numbers: The global food & beverage industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.21%  (Compound annual growth rate) and reach $379,650 million by 2025. 

Poet Cecilia Macfarlane humorously sums up the woes of consuming contaminated food:

A mouthwatering buffet that makes you drool ,
Getting sick from food poisoning is not so cool.

On a grim note, the consumption of contaminated food results in approximately 230,000 deaths due to diarrheal diseases every year. 

As a food business owner, is there something you can do to avoid contamination? The short answer is “YES”. Efficient implementation of a food safety program to your business can prevent potential contamination risks.

HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) is one of the most preferred food safety programs being adopted by food business owners across the world. Being a scientific program, it is now widely accepted and is considered a “gold standard” in food safety.

What is HACCP? A brief definition

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. Let’s dissect it and see what all these terms mean. 

What is Hazard Analysis?

What kind of hazards? By and large there are 4 types of hazards that can creep in the process of growing and harvesting ingredients, processing, distribution, merchandising and even how people prepare their food before eating it.

  1. Allergenic hazards are proteins that cause allergic reactions ranging from a runny nose or itchy eyes to rashes, respiratory problems or even death. Allergenic hazards may include eggs, shellfish, nuts, soy, wheat, sesame seeds, milk, etc.‍

  2. Biological hazards include illness-causing Bacteria such as Salmonella or E.coli and Viruses such as Hepatitis A, parasites and molds.‍

  3. Chemical hazards include cleaning compounds, pesticides, preservatives, antibiotics and even food ingredients that are added in at incorrect levels. ‍

  4. Physical hazards could include glass or metal fragments, stones, wood splinters or bone pieces.

What is a Critical Control Point?

A critical control point or CCP is the control step used to prevent, eliminate, or reduce the above hazards to an acceptable level. The most frequently used critical limits are Time, Temperature, Water Activity, pH, Preservatives, Microbiological and Sensorial information.

For example, the temperature that the egg must be pasteurized at and the holding time. These time-temperature combinations are minimum critical limits that have been established - to make sure that harmful microorganisms are destroyed.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a food safety regulatory body, has introduced various programs over the years to cope up with the changing landscape of the food industry and the hazards associated with it.

HACCP is a program that employs a preventive approach to food safety. It checks on each critical point of food businesses, starting from production and manufacturing, to procurement, distribution, and consumption.

HACCP - The story

Apollo 11, the first manned spaceship to land on the moon, had no toilets and only 73 cubic feet of space per astronaut. NASA had to devise a system to prevent the astronauts from contracting any food-borne illness while in orbit. 

In the 1960s, NASA, the Pillsbury Company, and the US Army Laboratories collaborated to devise a food safety program for spaceships, and thus, HACCP was born. 

NASA had been using a Critical Control Points (CCP) system to test its weapons and engineering tools. It asked Pillsbury to use this CCP system as a guideline for the food safety system. 

This guideline was applied by Pillsbury to develop a process for food safety testing. Together, NASA and Pillsbury identified and eliminated `critical failure areas’ in food processing procedures, turning the project into a resounding success.

Around the same time, Pillsbury had to recall its infant cereal product, Farina, as glass pieces and remnants - that had the potential of causing physical hazards and contamination - had been found in it. Howard Baumann, a microbiologist working with Pillsbury advocated for the HACCP program to be implemented by the company. He was a part of the team that had worked with NASA on the program. 

The HACCP project was a huge success at Pillsbury. The company went on to implement HACCP in its food production system. It helped them tackle several foodborne disease outbreaks happening at the time. 

Having experienced first-hand the positive effects of HACCP implementation, in 1971, Pillsbury shared the benefits of the program at the National Conference on Food Protection. The following year, FDA approached Pillsbury to design and manage a training program for the inspection of canned foods for its inspectors. Pillsbury designed and implemented a 21-day program that comprised 11 days of classroom training and 10 days of canning plant evaluations.

The class was named “Food Safety through the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System”. For the first time, HACCP was used as a training and education program for another food facility in the industry. 

In 1974, FDA incorporated the HACCP principles in its low acid and acidified food regulations. Since then, it has been widely accepted and is considered the final word in food safety. Several food businesses have since made it a priority to incorporate HACCP into their food production systems.

Evolution of HACCP

HACCP has continued to evolve over the years. In its initial days it was based on 3 core principles:

  1. Conducting an analysis of hazards
  2. Determining critical control points
  3. Establishing a system to monitor the critical control points

By the late 1970s, many big food processing companies had implemented and were using HACCP. However, it was during the 1980s and 1990s that it was rapidly adopted within the US food industry. 

Many publications were instrumental in this popularity surge, making HACCP the most preferred food safety system in the country.

In 1985, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences published a report titled, “An Evaluation of the Role of Microbiological Criteria for Foods and Food Ingredients”. Also known as the “Green Book”, the publication fervently recommended implementing HACCP to both the food processing industry and government agencies.

It described the program as the most effective way of ensuring food supply safety in the country. The expert committee advocated that HACCP be made a regulatory requirement. 

Subsequently, the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) published the first HACCP document in 1989. Titled HACCP Principles for Food Production, it outlined the seven HACCP principles.

Over the years, these principles turned into an integral part of HACCP, streamlining its implementation for food businesses. 

In 1989, the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) published a book, “Microorganisms in Foods 4: Application of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) System to Ensure Microbiological Safety and Quality which recommended that HACCP be applied to the entire food chain, starting from the farm to food preparation in restaurants and homes. 

The 1990s was an exciting time for HACCP, with the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene recognizing it as a global standard for food safety. 

HACCP today

To sum up, today HACCP is an internationally recognized program for reducing the risk of safety hazards in food businesses. It is applied at every stage of the food supply chain (production, preparation, packaging, and distribution) to avoid safety hazards, which could be allergenic, physical, chemical, or biological. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to manage food safety and sanitation systems, whether in a food production unit, packaging unit, or a restaurant or café.

 An effective HACCP program has become a prerequisite for food business owners today. The program prioritizes and controls potential hazards in the food production life cycle. It ensures that food products are safe for consumption, thus reducing foodborne illness and strengthening public health protection. HACCP is a program that the government, food authorities, and food business owners have relied on for years and are continuing to do so.

HACCP plan template: a step-by-step guide

HACCP is an effective tool to mitigate potential chemical, biological and physical hazards that can contaminate your food products. A separate HACCP plan is required for every single product and process. We will help you understand what an HACCP template is and also walk you through a step by step guide of creating and filling an HACCP plan template.

What is a HACCP template?

The HACCP template is an effective tool used by food establishments as a guide to establish a seamless HACCP system. The template is instrumental in managing food safety hazards for small businesses. Both free and paid templates are available online for business owners to get started. The most commonly used templates include:

  • HACCP Plan Template (CCP Inspection)
  • CCP Monitoring Checklist
  • HACCP Principles Checklist
  • HACCP Food Safety Checklist
  • Corrective Action Template – HACCP
  • HACCP Audit checklist
  • HACCP Risk Assessment Template

How to create a HACCP plan and use the HACCP template?

To implement HACCP, the company first needs to write an HACCP plan. Writing an HACCP plan involves 12 steps. First five are pre preparatory steps followed by the seven principles.

5 Prerequisites of HACCP:
  • Assembling an HACCP team of individuals having in-depth knowledge of the product and processes
  • Detailed product description and distribution method
  • Identify and define the use of the product
  • Develop a detailed process flow diagram
  • Test the flow diagram onsite in the facility where it is to be implemented. Modify the flow in case any gaps are found
7 principles of HACCP
  • Conduct a Hazard Analysis
  • Identify Critical Control Points
  • Establish Critical Limits
  • Monitor Critical Control Points
  • Establish Corrective Actions
  • Establish Verification Procedures
  • Establish Record Keeping Procedures

Record keeping is essential in HACCP. It needs to be done at every step. Templates serve as an important tool for record keeping.

Businesses stand to benefit in multiple ways by using these templates. They help businesses maintain error free documentation, identify and define operational limitations, track work history, generate reports, store all records in one place, and perform regular audits and inspections. 

They are like a report card on where the business stands and what improvements are required.

Steps to complete a HACCP template

Assembling an HACCP team

The first step is to assemble a team of individuals/experts who have in-depth knowledge relevant to the product & process for which the HACCP plan is to be written. The team should be multi professional. It should have experts from departments like engineering, food microbiology, production, sanitation and quality assurance.

Writing an HACCP plan requires technical expertise hence members of HACCP team must have an expertise and experience in the following areas:

  • Conducting a hazard analysis
  • Identifying potential hazards
  • Identifying hazards that need to be controlled
  • Recommend controls and critical limits
  • Suggest monitoring and verification procedures
  • Suggest corrective actions in the event of a deviation
  • Validate the HACCP plan

The team leader should have traits like being a good listener and ensuring that all individuals are active contributors. He must be able to steer the team towards a common goal of effective implementation of the plan. Besides raw material buyers, packaging specialists, production and distribution staff must also be temporarily included in the team. These are people who do actual groundwork and their inputs can be valuable in designing an effective plan

Making a plan template

Now that you have your team in place, the next step is to begin work on your plan template.

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To effectively use the template, it is important to understand the below terminologies:

  • Possible Hazards: Biological, chemical or physical contaminants which if not controlled can cause serious illness
  • Critical Limits: The maximum and minimum value at which a biological, chemical or physical parameter must be controlled at a CCP to prevent, eliminate or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of a food safety hazard.
  • Monitoring: To use a system of measurements and observations to determine whether a CCP (Critical Control Point) is under control. One has to also ensure that these methods produce an accurate record for future audits/verification
  • Corrective Action: Procedures that have to be followed in the event where critical limits are not met
  • Verification: The activities that the HACCP undertakes other than monitoring to ensure that the HACCP system is working as planned. Verification ensures that the system is effectively working to control the potential hazards
  • Record Keeping: This means documenting each and every detail of your HACCP plan. There are mainly four types of HACCP record keeping. HACCP Plan and its supporting documentation, Critical Control Point monitoring records, record all the corrective actions taken and verification records

Things to remember when writing your HACCP plan

  • Use simple and easy to understand language
  • Keep the descriptions crisp and accurate
  • Keep it simple so that it is easy to understand and follow
  • Review and remove the information that is not relevant

Product description and distribution

The team needs to document a detailed description of the product. This includes vital information like description of food, ingredients being used and processing /production methods to be used. This activity helps in identifying and focusing on potential hazards. It is also important to specify how the food is to be distributed. Will the final product be distributed frozen, refrigerated or at room temperature? Information like the “shelf life” of the product, optimum temperature for storage etc. should also be mentioned. If possible, labelling information should also be dealt with at this stage. Given below is a specimen

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Product-description-and-intended-use_tbl1_271314562

Intended use and target consumer

It is important to define the use of the product. What purpose is the product going to be used for? Is it a product for ready consumption? Is it a raw ingredient to be used at home/restaurant for cooking? Is the product to be further processed by the end user? Who will be using the final product? Is the food meant for consumption by all, or is it for a specific group like infants, people with certain deficiencies, elderlies etc. 

Develop a detailed process flow diagram

Having defined the product, its usage and target consumer the next step is to develop a detailed process flow or a CFD (Commodity Flow Diagram). The scope of the diagram is to outline all steps in the production system right from receiving the raw material to delivery of the final product. It should also mention any other process outside the food chain process if it is mandatory. All the processes that are within the control of the organization have to be mentioned in this diagram. The purpose of the diagram is to mention all steps involved in the process in a proper sequence so that it’s crystal clear to all parties involved. This diagram need not be as complex as an engineering diagram or an architectural blueprint. A simple flow chart works. Please refer to the specimen below:

Linear process flow diagram with additional steps
Source: https://myhaccp.food.gov.uk/help/guidance/process-flow-diagrams

Inputs of the product specialist is extremely crucial at this stage. However, the product/commodity systems will be different in different parts of the world. The system is built taking into context the product and local regulations. There is no standard set of rules here

Verify the flow diagram

Once the flow diagram/CFD is developed, the HACCP team has to verify the whole process. The team visits the actual worksite (processing unit, manufacturing unit, packaging facility, restaurant as the case may be) and compares the CFD with what the actual sequence of events.  This step is important to test the completeness and accuracy of the process flow. In case there are any gaps found the same needs to be documented and necessary changes done in the diagram. It is a good practice to visit the site multiple times for which HACCP is being written. These visits ensure that all data that is recorded is accurate.

The above listed prerequisites are imperative to a good HACCP plan. These are as important as a strong foundation in building a house. Once this groundwork is complete, the last and final step is setting in motion the 7 HACCP principles. 

HACCP 7 principles

1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis

Your process flow diagram is now complete. Now is the time to evaluate each step that you have identified for a potential physical, chemical or biological hazard. This is setting in motion principle #1 of HACCP. Document each hazard likelihood and ways to control it on the HACCP Hazard Analysis template. Given below is a specimen of what the template looks like:

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Hazard-analysis-critical-control-points-HACCP-plan-for-the-production-of-Rooibos-tea_tbl3_261990353/download

2. Identify Critical Control Points

This is setting in motion principle #2. Now that you have identified potential hazards you can use the CCP tree to identify CCP’s for each step in the process. CCP is the point where you have to step in to eliminate or reduce the hazard to an acceptable limit. However, it’s interesting to note that one CCP may eliminate or control multiple hazards at a time. Similarly, multiple CCP’s may be required to control a single hazard. Given below is a specimen of a CCP Decision Tree.

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Figure-1-CCP-Process-Decision-Tree_fig1_236741832

Fill the CCP and identify potential hazards in the respective column in your HACCP plan template.

3. Establish Critical Limits

This is setting in motion principle #3. At this stage you have to define the critical limit, which means acceptable values (minimum or maximum) at which food is safe for consumption. An example can be defining the minimum temperature at which raw chicken has to be cooked so that it is safe for consumption. At this stage, fill the critical limits column in your HACCP template with acceptable and measured controls

4. Monitor critical control points

As explained, monitoring is to use a system of measurements and observations to determine whether a CCP (Critical Control Point) is under control. An example of a CCP monitoring chart for a chicken ball:

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/HACCP-control-chart-for-chicken-ball-production_tbl3_328214413

Monitoring helps you identify the deviations and devise a corrective action plan. It is also vital for future audits, record keeping and verification. Fill up all the monitoring columns in your plan template at this stage

5. Establish corrective actions

By now you have your process flow defined, you have identified the potential hazards, identified the CCP’s, established CCP limits and monitored if everything is on track. In the process of monitoring you have identified certain deviations as well. Setting in motion principle #5, you now need to establish a corrective action plan for deviations in each of the CCP’s. This will help you in the following ways:

  • You will be able to get the plan back on track
  • Identify who is to be held accountable for which corrective action
  • Who should be recording the information, where should he be recording it and what information has to be recorded?

Fill up the corrective action plan column of your template after completing this exercise.

6. Establish verification procedures

Now we set in motion principle #6, verification. As a business owner revisit and verify your HACCP on a regular basis. Future verification and validation points must be clearly identified in your verification plan. Parameters like frequency and methodology to be used must be well defined. In the verification column, make a note of what tools will you use and the time interval for verification procedures 


7. Establish Record Keeping procedures

Identify the records that are mandatory to be maintained for your business. This is of utmost importance for you as a business owner and also for your employees and future auditors. List out all the important logs you will need to maintain in the record keeping column of the template

Example of some of the logs that food business owners need to maintain can be:

  • Monitoring of critical limits
  • Stock receiving and use best before dates 
  • Servicing and maintenance of appliances logs
  • Thermometer and weighing scale calibration logs
  • Corrective action records

Re-check your documentation

You have now successfully made your plan your template is complete and all supporting documents to the template are also in place. Keep everything together along with the HACCP template in a file and re-check every single detail. Identify who will be responsible for maintaining and updating this file. 

You have now successfully completed your HACCP plan. However, the plan will only be effective if it is implemented and executed properly. The program prioritizes and controls potential hazards in the food production life cycle. The system ensures that food products are safe for consumption, which in turn reduces foodborne illness and strengthens public health protection. Over the years an effective HACCP program has become a prerequisite for food business owners.  HACCP is a program that the government, food authorities and food business owners have relied on for years and are continuing to do so.


Worried about the compliances that you need to adhere to while running a food business? Are you looking for a quick guide that will help you navigate some of the often discussed terms in food safety? We have compiled a list of few common FAQs related to HACCP that’ll help you in understanding these. So dive in and start reading.

What is HACCP?

HACCP is an abbreviation for ‘Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points’. It is a globally accepted food safety management system that helps identify, evaluate and control hazards that can pose risk to food safety. Having an HACCP system ensures that your consumers get safe food. It applies to food manufacturing, catering and food retail establishments. 

How many types of food hazards are there?

There are 3 types of food hazards identified under the HACCP system:

  • Biological hazard: Presence of living organisms like bacteria, virus, pests in the food
  • Chemical hazard: Presence of foreign chemical substances in the food, identified as unfit for human consumption
  • Physical hazard: Presence of a foreign particle like small pebbles, plastic or glass pieces

Besides, there are chances of cross contamination (one of these contaminants might travel from one source to another) as well which might pose a higher risk.

When and where did HACCP originate from? Since when has it become mandatory for food business?

HACCP was conceived in the 1960's by NASA in collaboration with the Pillsbury Company, and the US Army Laboratories to devise a food safety program for its spaceships. It was officially determined as a food safety program by the World Health Organization’s Codex Alimentarius Commission in the 1990s. Food establishments were suggested to implement the HACCP plan in 1996 after an E.coli breakout in Scotland. However, HACCP was made mandatory only from 1st January 2006.

Who should use HACCP and what are its advantages?

HACCP Food Management system should be used by all food establishments including manufacturers, food packaging units, catering services, food retail outlets and restaurants. Successful implementation of an HACCP plan safeguards you as a business owner from the possible financial and legal problems that may arise due to food contamination incidents. It also helps you build “Goodwill” as a business and foster long-term relationships with your consumers.

What are the prerequisites of HACCP?

The planning that goes into the implementation of an HACCP system refers to prerequisites. For ease of understanding the following 5 prerequisites have been outlined:

  • Assembling an HACCP team of individuals having in-depth knowledge of the product and processes. 
  • Detailed product description and distribution method
  • Identify and define the use of the product
  • Develop a detailed process flow diagram
  • Test the flow diagram onsite in the facility where it is to be implemented and modify it incase any gaps are found

All the parameters will be in context with the nature of food being handled. For example, a unit dealing in manufacturing and packaging of frozen foods will have a different set of processes as compared to a unit dealing with ready to eat potato chips.

What are the 7 principles of HACCP?

HACCP food safety system is based on the following 7 principles:

  • Conduct a Hazard Analysis
  • Identify Critical Control Points
  • Establish Critical Limits
  • Monitor Critical Control Points
  • Establish Corrective Actions
  • Establish Verification Procedures
  • Establish Record Keeping Procedures

In order to effectively implement a HACCP system, it is imperative to follow these principles. Also, regular monitoring and review is equally important.

Are there different approaches to an HACCP Plan?

Good planning is key for an effective HACCP system. As a food business owner; you can have two approaches, linear and modular.

  • Linear approach: Each product has its own HACCP plan from start to finish.  For example, you have a unit manufacturing potato chips and glucose biscuits. In this approach both products will have their own HACCP plans.
  • Modular approach: Each process in the product life cycle has its own HACCP plan. For example, delivery of raw material, production, packaging etc.

How is a process/product flow diagram useful?

A process/product flowchart is a diagrammatic representation of the steps involved. It helps the team to easily identify CCP’s in the process. 

What do you mean by Critical Control Point (CCP) in HACCP?

Critical Control Point can be defined as, "A point, step, or procedure in a food process at which control can be applied and, as a result, a food safety hazard can be prevented, eliminated, or reduced to acceptable levels." For example, establishing the minimum temperature at which raw chicken should be cooked in order to be safe for consumption.

Should HACCP systems be reviewed regularly? If yes, what should be the frequency?

It is extremely important to review your HACCP system, so yes it should be reviewed on a regular basis. The frequency will depend upon you as an establishment and also on the nature of your produce. For example, in restaurants it is recommended to review your day to day monitoring parameters on a monthly basis. In a food production/manufacturing reviews can be done every six months or annually. 

Is it mandatory to maintain HACCP records? 

Record keeping is non-negotiable for an effective HACCP system. As per principle #7 of HACCP, a business is required to maintain records for each, and every step of the processes followed. There is no legal binding on how long the records should be kept. As a business owner, you are the best person to decide for how long you would like to maintain the records depending on the nature of your business. 

Is it mandatory to train your staff on HACCP systems?

Yes, it is mandatory for all parties involved to get trained on the HACCP system. Only when they are trained will they have clarity on their roles and responsibilities. You cannot expect seamless implementation and working of your system, unless you have a well-trained staff to manage it.

At which stage of food manufacturing should HACCP be implemented?

HACCP needs to be implemented at all stages of food production. It starts right from the procurement of raw materials to the delivery of the finished product.

Does the hospitality industry come under the purview of HACCP?

Any establishment dealing with food products comes under the purview of HACCP. So yes, the hospitality industry needs to have a HACCP system. In this case, food is actually being prepared and served on-site.

We have tried to cover most of the questions pertaining to HACCP here. In case you have more questions regarding the subject please feel free to write in to akshay@delightree.com

We will be more than happy to assist you with your question on the subject.