What Are the 7 Steps of an HACCP Plan? – [Updated 2023]

A vivid illustration of a ripe tomato being scrutinized under a magnifying glass, which reveals green virus-like particles on the surface, representing germs or bacteria. The logo 'SAFETYVIDEOS.COM' is positioned in the bottom right corner, suggesting a focus on food safety and hygiene. This image emphasizes the importance of examining and ensuring the cleanliness of food products.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a system designed to establish the best total food monitoring plan. This covers all the steps from harvesting to preparing food for consumption to prevent foodborne illness.

Learn more about implementing a plan in your workplace and discover all the steps required to deliver food safely.  We offer an HACCP training course that help prepare your team for proper food handling, and creating a food illness safety plan.  Here, we will discuss the 7 steps of an HACCP plan.

What is HACCP?

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points. In the United States, it’s a voluntary process, but it’s an internationally recognized food safety management system designed to uphold food safety guidelines. They prevent biological, chemical, and physical hazards from disrupting food safety guidelines during any part of the food operation process.

Now that we know what HACCP stands for, we want to know “What are the 7 Critical Control Points?” or seven HACCP principles. These make up the most effective ways for any food business to guarantee consumer safety through a variety of processes and procedures.

HACCP Certification Stamp

Important HACCP Terminology

Before we can answer the important question, “What are the 7 steps of HACCP?”, we need to review some important terminology to make understanding the conception and implementation of these principles easier to understand.

  • Control: This refers to managing the conditions of operation in order to remain in compliance with the criteria. It may also refer to the state of following correct procedures so that the criteria are met.
  • Control Measures: This includes any actions or activities taken that can prevent, eliminate, or reduce hazards.
  • Control Point: This is a step where any hazards can be controlled.
  • Corrective Action: These are the steps taken if a deviation occurs.
  • Critical Control Point: This is a step where control can be applied and is necessary for upholding food safety by reducing a hazard to an acceptable level.
  • Critical Limit: This refers to the minimum and maximum level that a parameter can be controlled at a CCP to eliminate or reduce a food safety hazard to an acceptable level.
  • Deviation: The failure to meet a critical limit.
  • Hazard: Any biological, chemical, or physical agent that can cause illness or injury if left out of control.

Food Safety Hazards

Below are the biological, chemical, or physical hazards that will violate a food safety management system:

  • Biological hazards: Disease-causing bacteria, viruses, parasites, mold, natural toxins, and yeast.
  • Chemical hazards: Machine oil, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, cleaning solutions, sanitizers, dissolved metal, and excessive food additives.
  • Physical hazards: Pieces of glass or metal, jewelry, toothpicks, hair, and cigarette butts.

These hazards need to be avoided when it comes to a food’s lifecycle from raw materials to consumption. If these are added to the food product during raw material production or any time after, they can cause illness or injury to consumers.

These types of hazards cannot be cooked out or removed from raw materials to prevent them from being a food safety hazard to consumers.

Pork Chops Being Packaged

Why HACCP Plans Are Important

How the food is preserved in each food establishment is up to the owners. However, a HACCP plan is important for maintaining food safety regulations within an establishment. Although an HACCP plan is completely voluntary, it is becoming an industry standard which more and more companies are following.

Every HACCP plan provides detailed instructions on proper monitoring procedures and documentation procedures so that employees know how to handle food in every step of the food handling process.

The HACCP system acts as a backbone for the business by ensuring all procedures are compliant and offer the best and safest level of food and service. No one wants a surprise when the health inspectors come to visit.

The HACCP system will ensure that everything is as it should be when it’s time for a health inspection. There are many benefits of an HACCP plan and almost any food provider or producer would benefit from implementing its principles into their workflow.

What Are the 5 Preliminary Steps of HACCP?

Building a food safety plan required a lot of consideration, time, and thought. Before you can decide on what goes into your HACCP plan, there are at least five preliminary steps that need to be figured out. These steps are designed to prepare you and the food business for making comprehensive HACCP principles.

A HACCP food management system is used to produce safe food. With this in mind, the safety concerns lead to a focus on the product and the process rather than quality. This requires working with people who have experience in a range of fields to ensure food safety is the priority without sacrificing quality.

1. Building a HACCP Team

The first step in creating a HACCP plan is creating a group of people with experience in different aspects of the food safety process.

The individuals who make up this team will come from a background in any part of the process from the point of raw material production to the food production office. The team is intended to be made up of multidisciplinary individuals who are involved in various parts of the manufacturing process.

A HACCP team is created to recognize the necessary steps that need to be taken to stop potentially hazardous food from entering the food chain. Then, they are responsible for the corrective actions necessary to correct the process.

The team members don’t necessarily have to be from the top positions in their field. Having workers that are less experienced participants in creating and upholding a HACCP plan can benefit the whole crew.

The HACCP concept is designed to prevent any food hazards from happening during different parts of food processing. In-line workers are the ones who see everything that is happening during each step, making them the ones with valuable information to contribute.

This team will be tasked with hazard identification and analysis, establishing critical limits and their parameters, creating corrective actions for variations, then monitoring and documenting the process. Every member of the team must have knowledge of what potential hazards look like.

Definition of HACCP

2. Describing the Product and its Distribution

Once the HACCP team is assembled, the specific food product needs to be described in preparation for enforcing the HACCP plan. The HACCP team will spend this step describing your food or menu items, including the ingredients and any derivatives the items may contain, and the manufacturing process.

Knowledge about the product is crucial for this step because all of the ingredients must be analyzed because of by-products that can be potentially hazardous if they undergo certain processes.

Creating these lists also helps the HACCP team analyze the necessary distribution conditions for the product. For example, ready-to-eat meals easily spoil if they are stored at a temperature that is too high. Establishing minimum and maximum temperature requirements for transportation is needed to avoid a food safety hazard.

3. Describing the Product’s Intended Use and its Target Consumer

This preliminary step required the HACCP team to identify the target customer base, the groups that need warnings to exercise precautions when consuming the product. Establishing the target consumer base helps maximize profits because those who are most likely to purchase the product are being considered.

Another important group to focus on are individuals who have hypersensitivities or allergies to any ingredients or byproducts that are present in the final product. Vulnerable groups in this category include those who are pregnant, immunocompromised, the elderly, and young children. This step is essential to assure food safety.

4. Developing a Diagram of the Process Flow

The HACCP team should properly map out all of the intended processes that are related to the product using a flow chart or diagram that outlines your production process. This chart or diagram doesn’t have to be expertly created, but it needs to include all of the methods and conditions involved in each process that has been identified and analyzed in the assessment.

Developing a diagram of the process flow will help determine which process or processes can create potential food safety hazards.

A good diagram will include the potential risk and the succeeding steps necessary to eliminate it or bring it back to acceptable food safety levels. These types of diagrams are also efficient when using them for the monitoring program.

5. Establish Verification Procedures in Preparation for HACCP Principles

Preparation for the HACCP plan is completed when all of the processing steps have been considered, then added to the flow diagram.

To establish verification procedures, an on-site inspection is completed, noting which processes must be considered for the diagram and the steps necessary to keep all critical limits where they need to be. Don’t forget to include regularly scheduled checks of the CCPS and all monitoring equipment. Every step and tool is essential.

HACCP word cloud

Practical HACCP Principles

The practical HACCP principles modify seven steps to make them easier to create and implement. All seven steps cover the process of properly cooking and cooling food, two stages where an illness is commonly caused.

Focusing on the application of the seven practical and formal HACCP principles is helpful in reducing the risks of illness. To successfully regulate these principles, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should be developed.

These procedures should include guidelines for personal hygiene, sanitation, and food storage. They should also take into consideration what types of food are being prepared and the type of equipment that is being used.

SOPs should be set up as a checklist so items that have been completed can be easily checked off.

What Are the 7 Stages of HACCP?

Below are the practical HACCP stages that should be implemented along with the seven formal HACCP principles:

  1. Review menu items and evaluate potentially hazardous food.
  2. Review recipes that contain potentially hazardous food and evaluate problem ingredients.
  3. Including critical temperatures and times in recipes and procedures
  4. Check food temperatures while preparing, holding, cooking, and cooling food.
  5. Correct if required temperatures are not being met.
  6. Verify that all previous steps are being followed.
  7. Record time and temperatures.

What Are the 7 Steps of HACCP?

What is the First Step in the 7 Principles of a HACCP Plan? The HACCP concept is made up of tedious but essential procedures that streamline the entire food production process. This is done through checklists for keeping and documentation procedures,

The seven steps of HACCP food preservation need to be followed correctly to prevent the spread of illness. Below we go in-depth about these essential seven steps, starting with step number one to conduct a hazard analysis.

7 Parts of HACCP


1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis

Hazard evaluation is the first step when it comes to your HACCP. The hazard analysis is designed to create a list of all hazards that commonly cause injury or illness if they are not identified and controlled. When conducting hazard identification, a few things need to be considered:

  • The skill level of every employee
  • Food transportation services
  • Whether you are serving those that are elderly, sick, young children, or immunocompromised
  • Volume cooling levels
  • Whether you might be thawing potentially hazardous food or not
  • The degree of food handling and contact
  • If there is adequate availability of preparation and holding equipment
  • The storage situation
  • Method of preparation

Hazard evaluation will determine the degree of risk possible by the identified hazard. The next part of the hazard analysis step is to determine if the identified factors can influence or increase the severity of the health hazards being controlled. Last, in this step, the hazards associated with each step in the flow of food processing should be listed with the control measures required to keep the hazard contained. From here, all seven steps create a comprehensive plan that will keep the environment safe for workers and consumers.

To conduct a hazard analysis, the team needs to identify the succeeding steps to control the identified risk. This is where control measures come in to eliminate or reduce the risk to acceptable levels.

2. Determine Critical Control Points (CCPs)

Hazard analysis and critical control points (CCPs) work hand in hand to establish the hazards and the rules for containing them to create food safety. A hazard analysis critical control plan needs to be created before it can be used.

Critical control points are any steps in which a hazard can be stopped, eliminated, or reduced to acceptable levels. CCPs are typically practices or procedures that will cause an illness outbreak if they are not completed properly.

Critical control points are considered processing steps that are applied to all products to follow food safety rules. Some examples of a control point in the process include physical and chemical tests, refrigeration, and RT-PCR detection to test for pathogens. These steps are crucial because they guide hazard analysis and critical control of production.

Each critical control point for different products and processes will differ from one another. A practical example of this process involves properly keeping the right temperature of cooked rice. Cooked rice can be easily contaminated if it’s not kept stored at the right temperature, which can cause individuals to become sick if they consume it. In order to solve this problem, the critical control point in this example would be to keep the rice at low temperatures to control the growth of toxic microorganisms.

The HACCP principle and the critical control points need to be carefully guided. These process steps are considered the critical control point if a deviation from the established standards can cause a food safety hazard.

In the food industry, using a decision tree or similar diagram can help identify every critical control point. A decision tree is a type of flow chart that consists of two questions that will lead to a decision on whether the process is discussed at a critical control point or not.

3. Establish Critical LimitsHACCP Certification

A critical limit creates control over a biological, chemical, or physical hazard using a CCP. Every CCP should have a minimum of one critical limit. Critical limits need to be something that can be monitored by measurement or observation. They must also be based on scientific or regulation based on measurements of:

  • Temperature
  • Time of processing
  • pH levels
  • Acidity levels
  • Water activity
  • Moisture levels
  • Chlorine levels
  • Preservatives
  • Proper sizes

To know whether the HACCP system is working for food safety, regulatory standards need to be set. When looking at the food industry through the context of the HACCP plan, the standards being followed are considered critical limits. The critical limits are established based on scientific studies and are usually presented in numbers.

Physical contaminants are controlled by establishing an allowed amount of the contaminant in the food. An example of how this process works includes deciding on whether to accept a bag of salt based on the weight of sieved physical contaminants on a batch for sampling. In some cases, metal contamination can be assessed through the amount and size of shards present in the salt. The minimum and maximum critical limits are set at the same time, taking into consideration preventative measures that determine critical control points.

The FDA has published factors that can be used to establish critical limits and each corresponding critical control point. When the critical limit is not met, the food business can face public backlash from consumers or regulatory agencies because of the violation of food safety guidelines.

Preventative controls come in different forms when it comes to manufacturing setup. This is why it’s important for the HACCP team to establish critical limits that work for the business.

4. Establish Monitoring Procedures

Monitoring procedures are a principle that includes observing and measuring to assess if and how the CCP is being met. This provides a record of all food products moving through the establishment.

If monitoring procedures indicate any of the critical limits are not being met, then corrective actions must be taken in order for the limits to be met. Continuous monitoring strategies need to be created to ensure the HACCP plan is effective.

The monitoring system selected needs to be easy to follow and understand to effectively meet the standards of the establishment and regulatory standards. The monitoring job should be assigned to one person or a group who understands the monitoring technique.

5. Establish Corrective ActionsFood safety word cloud

If the criteria for the CCP aren’t met, corrective actions need to be taken. Knowing what the criteria are will help the team know how to establish corrective actions.

All critical control points (CCPs) need to meet the standards that are outlined in step three- establish critical limits based on the facts and experiences of measurable, everyday working conditions.

The HACCP plan should also include who is appointed to carry out the corrective action and what corrective action was taken to resolve the issue. This should always be established in advance and implemented as part of the HACCP plan.

The individuals given the responsibility to carry out the plan will also be the ones to establish corrective actions and then verify the documentation for the process.

Corrective action is taken when a deviation in the critical limit occurs. When this happens, the team will conduct the analysis and critical control tests to figure out why the problem has occurred and how to fix it.

Identifying critical control points is the essential element to establishing the succeeding corrective actions.

Don’t forget the importance of establishing monitoring procedures in this step. Corrective actions can include cooking food until the established temperature is reached or throwing out an expired or spoiled product, and more.

The corrective action depends on the type and severity of the issue. These are a few steps included when the team can effectively establish monitoring procedures for food so it is thrown out when necessary.

6. Establish Verification Procedures

Verification procedures determine the validity of the HACCP plan and the system used to operate the plan.

One significant aspect of verification is determining if the plan makes sense scientifically and technically to prevent food safety hazards. The verification procedures of the HACCP plan are also to ensure the ability to identify potential hazards and, once the hazards are identified, can be effectively controlled by the HACCP plan being implemented.

The verification procedures can be completed using advice from experts, scientific studies, observations for producing safe food, and their measurements and evaluations.

Another way to conduct verification procedures is to complete an on-site review of the established critical limits. Each critical control point will have an independent authority. This verification step gives an opportunity for everyone to make the necessary modifications to the HACCP plan.

7. Establish Record Keeping and Documentation Procedures

Record keeping and documentation procedures should be simple. Establish record-keeping procedures that include information that easily indicates that established HACCP principles are being met. All employees need to be trained in the procedures for record-keeping and documentation. They should also be aware of why this is an essential part of the job.

Tomato with mold on itExamples of how to establish record-keeping procedures include:

  • Time logs
  • Temperature logs
  • Checklists
  • Employee training records
  • SOPs
  • The HACCP team is comprised of multi-disciplinary individuals from areas including, production, sanitation, quality assurance, and food microbiology. With this in mind, the documents and records kept will easily cover all of the hazards identified and the necessary procedures to fix them.

Reviewing records and documents can also help with quality assurance. This is because the principles will be physically recorded along with any potential past issues and the corrective action that fixed the problem.

Following the Seven HACCP Principles

Following the seven principles of the HACCP system is essential for keeping food safety rules at any time in the food chain process.

All businesses within the food industry have the option to follow this voluntary process, but it’s highly encouraged to guarantee health and safety guidelines are met. Over time, these principles will become a routine part of the job.