Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a global framework for preventing hazards in the food supply chain. It’s a cornerstone of many food safety initiatives and is required for some food processors in the US. This guide explains how to develop an HACCP plan using 7 HACCP principles.

Table of contents
  1. What Is HACCP?
  2. Who Needs an HACCP Plan?
  3. Benefits of Having an HACCP System
  4. Developing an HACCP Plan
  5. How To Achieve HACCP Certification
  6. Where To Find Further Information About HACCP
  7. FAQs
  8. The Bottom Line on HACCP
  9. Disclaimer

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points—a global system for preventing biological, chemical, and physical hazards in the food supply chain. It forms the basis of most major food safety standards and is required for certain food processors in the United States.

Developing an HACCP plan is important if your business handles food or raw ingredients. Without one, you could face fines for non-compliance with food safety regulations or have difficulty finding distributors for your products. You also risk contamination that could lead to an expensive recall of your products.
In this guide, we’ll answer the question, “What is HACCP?” and explain everything you need to know to develop an HACCP plan for your business.

Key Takeaways

  • HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. It’s a global framework for reducing safety risks in the food supply chain.
  • An HACCP plan is optional for most food processing businesses. However, it can help your business meet the Food Safety Modernization Act requirements and is required by many food distributors.
  • There are 4 preliminary steps and 7 principle steps you need to take to create an HACCP plan. These steps include identifying hazards, establishing critical control points, and monitoring to ensure the achievement of critical controls.
  • Your business can achieve HACCP certification from a third-party auditor.

What Is HACCP?

HACCP, meaning Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, is an internationally recognized framework for identifying and preventing hazards in the food system.

HACCP considers biological risks that could cause foodborne illnesses, as well as chemical and physical hazards that could cause other negative health impacts. For example, an HACCP plan could be designed to prevent Salmonella contamination in food products that contain raw eggs. 

The framework follows the entire food production process, from raw material production (e.g., harvest) to manufacturing (e.g., meat processing) to consumption (e.g., cooking instructions).

Importantly, HACCP is proactive rather than reactive. The goal of the HACCP framework is to prevent disease outbreaks, chemical contamination, and other food supply-chain risks before they cause health issues or economic damage.

Who Needs an HACCP Plan?

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules require businesses involved in producing certain categories of food to have an HACCP plan. These food categories include juice, seafood, meat, poultry, and eggs.

Some specific types of food processing also require an HACCP plan. These include:

  • Curing.
  • Dehydrating.
  • Fermenting.
  • Pickling.
  • Smoking.
  • Vacuum-packing.
  • Preserving with vinegar.

However, when your business is involved in any type of food production, you must follow the Food Safety Modernization Act, which the FDA oversees. An HACCP plan meets most of the requirements of this act, so most food processors in the US choose to develop an HACCP system even if it’s not explicitly required by law.

Some countries, like the UK, require an HACCP plan for all food businesses. So, a US company that wants to sell to the UK market must have an HACCP plan.

In addition, having an HACCP system in place at your business is a prerequisite for achieving most major food safety certifications, such as Global Food Safety Initiatives (GFSI) certification or Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification. Audits for these certifications typically include a review of your business’s HACCP plan.

Large food distributors often require suppliers to have 1 or more of these major food safety certifications. They might also require those suppliers to prove that their own suppliers have these certifications. So, nearly all companies involved in the food supply chain need an HACCP system if they want to win business.

🧠 Did You Know? 

Manufacturing employers—including food processors—can easily manage their workforce and production processes using Connecteam. The all-in-one platform lets you store HACCP system processes and procedures in one secure place, share them directly with workers, create custom training on HACCP best practices, and more.

Benefits of Having an HACCP System

There are obvious benefits to having safety measures in place across the food supply system. On a nationwide scale, food safety frameworks like HACCP reduce outbreaks of foodborne illness, ensure public trust in the food supply, and reduce economic disruptions.

But there are also many benefits that becoming HACCP certified can bring to your business. These include:

Streamlined regulatory compliance

Even if your business isn’t required to be HACCP-certified, you must comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act. Creating and following an HACCP plan achieves most of the requirements of this act.

Access to more distributors

Many food distributors and retailers require their suppliers to be HACCP-certified or have another food safety certification. With an HACCP plan, you can sell your products to a wider range of distributors and retailers.

Increased trust in your business

Having an HACCP system increases customers’ trust in the safety of your food products. Distributors and retailers are more likely to work with food processors whose products they trust.

Reduced likelihood of recalls

Product recalls due to contamination can be extremely costly and cause long-term harm to your business’s reputation. The HACCP framework emphasizes prevention, so when you follow this framework, you reduce the chances of your food products being recalled.

Decreased risks to employees

Biological and chemical contaminants introduced during your product processing can impact employees’ health and result in costly workers’ compensation claims. An HACCP system helps ensure your workplace is safe for employees.

Increased efficiency

Creating an HACCP plan can help you identify ways to reduce food waste or streamline your processing operations. Small increases in efficiency can add up to significantly higher margins for your product.

Developing an HACCP Plan

You can build an HACCP plan following 4 preliminary steps and 7 HACCP principles. We’ll walk through these below.

Preliminary steps

Before laying out a new HACCP plan, it’s important to create a strong foundation for your effort with these preliminary steps.

Step 1: Establish an HACCP team

Your HACCP team should include employees from your business with different training and backgrounds. For example, you can include employees from your production line, quality-control department, and sanitation team. The more perspectives you can bring to your HACCP system, the more likely you are to identify all relevant hazards.

Ideally, the members of your HACCP team should be trained in food safety management systems. The International HACCP Alliance offers a list of training courses and approved curricula.

🧠Did You Know?

You can create your own in-house HACCP training using Connecteam. Connecteam offers tools for building self-paced training courses that you can assign to new members of your HACCP team. You can also assess team members’ knowledge retention using quizzes.

Step 2: Understand your product

Create a list of all raw materials and ingredients your company handles during product processing. For each material or ingredient, describe the following:

  • How it’s packaged.
  • How it’s stored.
  • How long its shelf life is.
  • How it’s processed.

This information will help your team identify potentially hazardous materials that your HACCP plan should pay special attention to.

Step 3: Consider how consumers will use your product

Think carefully about how your food products will be distributed and consumed. You should consider how you intend for your consumers to use your product and how consumers may actually use it.

Let’s say you sell cookie dough. You may intend for consumers to bake the dough before consumption. However, it’s realistic to assume that some consumers will eat the dough raw. Your HACCP plan should account for this.

Step 4: Create a flow diagram

Create a detailed flow diagram that illustrates your product processing from start to finish. The flow chart should include how you purchase raw materials, how each material is processed, and how you hand your product off to a distributor or customer.

This flow diagram will be the basis for your HACCP plan, so it’s important to make it as detailed and clear as possible.

As an example, let’s say you’re manufacturing dry brownie mix. Your flow diagram should show each ingredient in the mix and how they’re stored in your facility. It should then show where in your manufacturing process each ingredient is added and how they’re mixed together. Finally, the flow diagram should show how the finished mixture is packaged and sealed. 

Once you’ve created the flow chart, your team must verify its components. Walk through your business and take notes on the chart, adding and modifying elements as needed.

To become HACCP certified, you must prove that you’ve taken this verification step. One way to do this is to keep a copy of your original flow chart so auditors can see how you modified it to create your final chart. 

🧠Did You Know?

Connecteam includes unlimited document storage in the cloud so you can easily save every version of your HACCP flow diagram. Since your flow chart is stored in the cloud, it’s also easily accessible to HACCP auditors and team members.

The 7 HACCP Principles

The 7 HACCP principles describe standardized steps you should take when creating an HACCP plan. 

1. Conduct a hazard analysis

A hazard analysis involves reviewing all data about your product’s safety and identifying hazards that can compromise food safety. Your analysis should include relevant data from your processing equipment, any known product defects or customer complaints, and data from food safety audits.

Some potential hazards could include:

  • Spoilage of raw ingredients before or during your manufacturing process.
  • Defects in your packaging that cause your product to spoil.
  • Contamination with chemicals used in your manufacturing process, like a refrigerant.

The result of your hazard analysis should be a list of all potential hazards, along with each hazard’s likelihood and potential severity. You should also create a list of your most significant hazards.

2. Identify critical control points

Critical control points are practices or procedures that significantly reduce or eliminate hazards in your process. They can include heating, pasteurization, adding preservatives, refrigeration, and more.

Each critical point you identify should correspond to a specific hazard listed in your hazard analysis. It’s a good idea to document how a critical control point controls food risks and addresses the hazard.

For example, say your product uses eggs as an ingredient, and you identified spoilage of eggs during storage as a hazard. In that case, refrigeration during storage could be a critical control point to prevent spoilage.

3. Establish critical limits

Every critical control point should have at least 1 critical limit. This is a measurable value that defines whether you’ve achieved a critical control point. Examples include time, minimum or maximum temperature, and moisture content. Your critical limits should be based on scientific evidence, and your HACCP plan should reference the evidence supporting each critical limit.

As an example, say you use heating as a critical control point to kill Salmonella in chicken before adding it to your product. Your critical limit could be the internal temperature of the chicken. Based on scientific evidence and USDA guidelines, you can set this critical limit to 165°F.

4. Monitor critical control points

Your HACCP plan should also establish a process for monitoring whether you’ve achieved critical limits for each control point. This can prevent control points from being missed in your process.

Your monitoring procedure can include:

  • Which variables you’ll monitor.
  • Which equipment or techniques you’ll use for monitoring.
  • Who’s responsible for monitoring.
  • How often a critical control point will be monitored.

For example, when heating chicken to 165°F to kill Salmonella, you should specify how you’ll measure the ingredient’s internal temperature, who will do the measuring, and how frequently. It may be sufficient to inspect several pieces of chicken at random every few hours as a quality control measure rather than measure the temperature of every piece of chicken you include in your products.

🧠Did You Know?

You can use Connecteam’s digital forms and checklists to monitor critical control points. Employees can document that critical limits have been reached—straight from their mobile devices. Connecteam securely stores all documentation for future reference. 

5. Establish corrective actions

For each critical control point, you should establish pre-determined corrective actions that you’ll take if you don’t achieve the critical limit. Corrective actions can range from re-heating a product to throwing it out. 

You should also take steps to identify the cause of the failure and rectify it as quickly as possible. For example, when you find that your chicken is frequently under-heated, an inspection of the heating equipment might reveal malfunctions. You can address this by having the equipment fixed or replaced. 

When you take corrective actions during processing, you must record them.

6. Establish verification procedures

Verification procedures ensure that your HACCP system is operating properly. These procedures should confirm your employees are following your plan and preventing food safety hazards effectively.

Verification procedures can include taking measurements other than those required for monitoring critical limits, inviting third-party food safety auditors into your processing facility, and thoroughly evaluating your operations (e.g., by examining your employees).

7. Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures

You must keep a record of all operations related to your HACCP plan. Records should include plan documents, records of corrective actions, records of employee training, standard operating procedures, equipment maintenance logs, and more.

🧠Did You Know?

Connecteam can help with the documentation process. For example, you can create a digital  knowledge base that clearly describes standard operating procedures. Your team members can access this information anytime, anywhere. You can also monitor employees’ training and ensure their certifications are up to date using Connecteam’s employee timeline management features.

How To Achieve HACCP Certification

Third-party food safety auditors like the NSF and ASI Food Safety can review your business’s HACCP system and provide HACCP certification.

This is a rigorous process in which the auditor examines your HACCP plan, interviews your employees about safety practices, inspects your food processing equipment, and reviews your company’s safety and process monitoring records. 

Depending on the size of your business and the complexity of your food processing system, an on-site audit to become HACCP-certified can take several days.

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Read our guide to fostering workplace compliance to ensure your employees follow your HACCP plan.

Typically, you must renew your HACCP certificate annually, although this varies by auditor and the food safety risks associated with your business. 

Auditors may conduct unannounced checks on your business at any time while you hold an HACCP certificate. They may revoke your certification if they find you aren’t following your safety plan.

Where To Find Further Information About HACCP

The requirements for HACCP certification are complex, and it’s important you fully understand them. Otherwise, you could fall out of compliance and lose your certification, which has consequences for your business’s ability to operate legally and work with major distributors.

The FDA has a detailed guide to HACCP that can be helpful for all food processing businesses. There are also specific guides for seafood, juice, and dairy processors. 

Additionally, you can use the FDA’s Food Safety Plan Builder tool for assistance in creating your HACCP plan. The USDA’s guide to preparing HACCP plans might also help you. 


What is HACCP certification?

An HACCP certificate signals that a third-party food safety organization has audited your HACCP plan. Many food distributors and retailers require vendors to have an HACCP certificate. A certificate is also a prerequisite for food safety standards such as the Global Food Safety Initiative.

What are the 4 types of food hazards?

The 4 primary types of food hazards are:

  1. Biological hazards, like viruses and bacteria, that cause foodborne infections or illnesses. Common contaminants include E. coli, Salmonella, Norovirus, and Listeria. 
  2. Chemical hazards, such as pesticides, additives, heavy metals, and other toxins.  
  3. Physical hazards, like glass or metal fragments, hair, plastic, wood, or any other foreign material that might end up in food. Physical hazards can cause injuries, physical harm, or general discomfort.
  4. Allergenic hazards, which comprise any food compound that can cause an allergic reaction in the consumer. Common allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, wheat, dairy, and eggs. 

💡 Tip:
You might want to read our in-depth review of the best digital checklist apps in 2024

The Bottom Line on HACCP

HACCP systems ensure the safety of the food supply and play an important role in helping businesses meet the safety requirements set out by regulators and food distributors. Developing an HACCP plan is a significant endeavor, but it brings many benefits. You can ensure your products are safe, maintain compliance with regulations, and enable your business to sell food products to a broader range of customers. 

You can use Connecteam to document your HACCP plan, train employees on essential food safety practices, monitor critical control points, and more. Try Connecteam for free today!


The information presented on this website about HACCP certification is intended to be a summary for informational purposes only. However, laws and regulations regularly change and may vary depending on individual circumstances. While we have made every effort to ensure the information provided is up to date and reliable, we cannot guarantee its completeness,  accuracy, or applicability to your specific situation. Therefore, we strongly recommend that readers seek guidance from their legal department or a qualified attorney to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Please note that we cannot be held liable for any actions taken or not taken based on the information presented on this website.

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