Definition: You may have heard the initials “HACCP,” but don’t really know what they mean or how they relate to the commercialization of your product. HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points—in short, a system designed to identify and prevent microbial and other hazards in food production.

Problem Prevention: HACCP aims to prevent problems in manufacturing and packaging processes before they occur, and to correct deviations as soon as they are detected. Scientific authorities and international organizations recognize the HACCP system as the most effective approach for producing safe food.

The Seven Principles: HACCP is based on seven principles articulated by the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF):

Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis.

Principle 2: Identify critical control points.

Principle 3: Establish critical limits for each critical control point.

Principle 4: Establish critical control point monitoring requirements.

Principle 5: Establish corrective actions.

Principle 6: Establish record-keeping procedures.

Principle 7: Establish procedures for verifying that the HACCP system is working as intended.

Preparing our Plan: Coming up with an HACCP plan can be a burden—and it’s not a task you can toss off while watching your kid’s soccer game. Still: HACCP can be your friend! Even if your product doesn’t require an HACCP plan — The FDA and USDA require it only for facilities that produce meat, juice, seafood and dairy — voluntarily implementing one shows your dedication to running a sanitary and safe operation.

When You Need a Plan: As your company grows larger stores will probably expect you to have one in place. What’s more, don’t be afraid to ask your vendors to show you their HACCP plans, even if they do not make products that require one. And when selecting a co-packer, you or your auditor should ensure that it has a HACCP plan in place. Finally, if you manufacture your product in a commercial kitchen, you will need an HACCP plan for the following:

  • Meat Products USDA
  • Juice Products FDA 21 CFR 120
  • Seafood Products FDA 21 CFR 123.6
  • Dairy Products (as a voluntary alternative to the Grade A Pasteurized Milk Ordinance described in Chapter 7)

Resources: Having a good understanding of HACCP is important, especially if you want to manufacture your products in a commercial kitchen and are required to set one up yourself. If you want to know more about how to write an HACCP plan or at least see what one looks like, the University of California at Davis offers HACCP courses that are accredited by the International HACCP Alliance. Many other courses and books are also available. The USDA also provides your state with HACCP resources.