What does HACCP stand for in the food industry?

Updated: 5 days ago

Whether you’re thinking about opening a restaurant or managing a food manufacturing business, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the concept of HACCP.


Did you know? Every month, there are approximately 6,600 Google searches on average in the UK for the term “HACCP meaning”. And this doesn’t even cover related searches that mention temperatures, forms, audits, plans and processes.


HACCP is a system for managing food safety “through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards” which originated in the US in the 1960s. This globally recognised system aims to identify potential hazards, and form effective strategies to prevent, reduce and eliminate their occurrence, therefore ensuring that food is safe to eat and that consumers are protected.


In the UK, the FSA dictates that your business’ food management system should be based on the universally accepted principles of the HACCP framework. As such, HACCP is essentially the foundation of all food safety programs.


Still a bit confused? Don’t worry, we’ll explain everything in more detail:


What does HACCP stand for?


The acronym HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point.


A hazard refers to any agent with the potential of causing harm to consumers. There are three main types of food safety hazards:


  • Microbiological (e.g. bacteria and viruses)

  • Chemical (e.g. cleaning products)

  • Physical (e.g. objects like glass or hair)


Another potential hazard could be an allergen, for instance, as it can cause an immune-system reaction from susceptible people, and consequently cause harm.


Critical control points are the points in a process “at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent, control, or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level” (as defined by Codex 2009a).


Examples of CCPS: cooking or chilling food in a safe, appropriate manner to ensure the reduction of pathogens present in food.


But what does this all mean for you and your food business? In other words, what does HACCP stand for in the food industry?


restaurant food on a table

HACCP meaning in the food industry


The term HACCP can be defined as “a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards” (L.M. Crawford, in Encyclopedia of Food Safety, 2014).


Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point puts a strong emphasis on preventing the contamination of food with illness-causing / harmful agents (e.g. Salmonella or E. coli), providing a foundation for effective food hygiene practices


Food operators should develop their own food safety management systems (FSMS) based on the HACCP framework and adapt them to their specific needs, considering products, procedures, technology, and more.

N.B. HACCP is not just about paperwork or recording forms. The proper application of the framework should involve monitoring, verification (e.g. calibration of temperature-measuring equipment), critical thinking, and staff training. HACCP forms are only there to “facilitate the systematic approach and thinking process”.

 

The 7 principles of the system


There are seven principles to the globally accepted system, which can be applied at any stage of food production, from preparation to service.


  1. Conduct a hazard analysis: review all steps in the process to identify where food safety hazards are likely to occur.

  2. Identify the critical control points (CCPs): identify the points in the process at which a control can be applied to prevent, eliminate or reduce a hazard to acceptable levels.

  3. Establish critical limits at CCPs: The NACMCF defines critical control limit as “a maximum and/or minimum value to 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”. Critical control limits can be temperature, time, pH, weight or even salt concentration. Example: cooking food to a core temperature of 75°C.

  4. Monitor the control measures at each CCP: establish the monitoring procedures to measure the critical limits at each critical control point. This is to ensure that the process is under control. Control measures should describe how measurements should be taken, who is responsible for the measurements, and more.

  5. Establish corrective actions: describe which actions should be taken if critical limits are breached and what steps can help correct the process.

  6. Establish verification procedures: establish procedures that ensure the validity of your HACCP system (e.g. product testing and instrument calibration).

  7. Record keeping: establish documentation and record what was done to ensure that food was produced in a safe manner. Clear records allow you to show external parties such as environmental health officers (EHOs) that you are upholding high standards of food safety and demonstrate due diligence.

 

Why is this so important?


Poor food safety management can lead to serious consequences, including food poisoning outbreaks and even death. There are other costly consequences such as pest infestations, wasted food caused by spoilage, legal action, and brand-reputation damage.


Did you know? According to a scientific review by the Food Standards Agency, approximately 2.4 million cases of foodborne illness occur every year in the UK. Eating out is estimated to account for 37% of all foodborne norovirus cases, while takeaways are estimated to account for 26%.


The negative consequences of ineffective food safety management highlight how critical it is for restaurants and food manufacturers to ensure they’re upholding the highest standards of food hygiene. This is where HACCP comes in - as the systematic framework for establishing an effective food safety management system that helps identify, prevent and eliminate the occurrence of hazards.


In short, it is in everyone’s best interest to observe good food hygiene practices and follow food safety regulations.


astronaut with earth in the background to illustrate haccp Nasa origins

The cosmic origins of HACCP: NASA space food standards


Wondering about the origins and history of HACCP?


In the 1960s (in the early days of the Apollo program), NASA partnered with the Pillsbury Company to create a systematic approach to quality control for astronaut food. This was called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point.


Often cited as “a major reason for the reduction in foodborne illness”, the use of HACCP is now widespread. What started as a framework to ensure that astronauts had guaranteed-safe food to eat in space is currently helping protect millions of consumers worldwide.


HACCP documents


As a food business, you need to have a food safety management system in place that is based on the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point.


But what is a food safety management system? It’s essentially a “tool” to ensure that safe practices are followed within your restaurant, coffee shop or street food business. It can be described as a documented set of organised procedures and principles that describe how you manage food safety within your business.


A food safety management system usually incorporates the following elements:


  • HACCP systems

  • Staff training records

  • Relevant food safety and operational checks

  • High-risk foods & safety methods to manage them

  • Cleaning schedules

What do I need to do as a food business?


As the owner or manager of a food business like a restaurant or pub, you’ll need to make sure that you have a food safety management system in place, which is based on the principles of HACCP. This is to ensure that you are effectively identifying and controlling hazards - and therefore minimising risk and producing safe food.


There isn’t a standardised FSMS format. You can use whichever format works best for your business as long as it includes all the necessary information. An example of a FSMS is CookSafe, which was specifically designed for catering businesses in Scotland.


You can choose paper for record keeping, or opt for a digital solution like a food safety app. The Hubl app, for instance, includes all your due diligence checks, corrective actions, HACCP temperature logs, and it can even store your FSMS and HSMS documents.


Your documented food safety management system and records maintained should be proportional to the size of your business.


HACCP meaning: quick summary


In this article, we’ve covered the meaning of HACCP and what it stands for in the food industry context. We’ve also discussed the origins of this universally accepted system and its critical importance to ensure that consumers are protected.


HACCP is a framework for identifying and controlling hazards to ensure that food is safe to eat. It should be the foundation for your Food Safety Management System, according to the FSA.



References


Guidance and Regulation, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Accessed in February 2022


Critical Control Points, From: Handbook of Hygiene Control in the Food Industry (Second Edition), 2016; Science Direct; Accessed in February 2022


Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, From: A Complete Course in Canning and Related Processes (Fourteenth Edition), 2015; Science Direct; Accessed in February 2022


HACCP Misconceptions in Food Safety Management A Practical Guide for the Food Industry (2014) by Yasmine Motarjemi, Carol Wallace and Sara Mortimore; Accessed in February 2022


The origin and concept of HACCP; H. E. Bauman; © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995; Accessed in February 2022


“From Farm to Fork”: How Space Food Standards Impacted the Food Industry and Changed Food Safety Standards; NASA History Chapter 12; Accessed in February 2022


How the Moon Landing Led to Safer Food for Everyone; NASA Spinoff; Published in 2020; Accessed in February 2022