Food Safety / HACCP

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Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point logo

What’s on this page?

HACCP stands for “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point.” A hazard analysis is the process used to determine the food safety hazards reasonably likely to occur in the production process. This also identifies the preventive measures, or “critical control points,” that the establishment can use to control those hazards.

Hazards are grouped into three categories:

  1. physical – e.g., metal, glass, bone fragments
  2. chemical – e.g., detergents, nitrite when used in excess
  3. biological – e.g., pathogens

On this page, you’ll find resources for helping you get started with your HACCP plan: what is HACCP, where to go for help, model plans, a crash course in microbiology, and more.

Q: I’m a processor, not a microbiologist. What do I need to know?

A: Never fear, we’ve got you covered: Microbiology for Meat Processors

Q: What is HACCP? How do I get started? 

Q: Where can I go for help with my HACCP plan?  Are there any classes I can take? 

Q: Are there any sample HACCP plans I can see?

Q: What about supporting documentation for my HACCP plan?  Where can I find that? 

Q: What is a Food Defense Plan?  Do I need one of those too? 

What is a HACCP Plan?

HACCP is a process control system.  You identify where hazards might occur (the HA or “hazard analysis” of HACCP) and then put steps into place that prevent that hazard from occurring (the CCP or “critical control points” of HACCP).  A HACCP Plan is the document that contains these hazards and critical control steps.  HACCP is based on 7 principles:

  1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis: what are the steps I am taking to make my product and where might a hazard (physical, chemical or biological) be introduced?
  2. Identify the Critical Control Points: where in my process can I insert preventative measures (such as time, temperature, pH, salt, etc.) to control for hazards?
  3. Establish Critical Limits: what are my criteria for each critical control point: e.g. a min. and max temperature.
  4. Establish Monitoring Procedures: determine what you will measure and how you will measure it.  Keep records!  Using temperature again as an example,   you could use a digital thermometer to continuously monitor temperature and alert you when a cooler or smoker is out of your set temperature range.
  5. Establish Corrective Actions: what will you do if a critical limit is not met?  How will you ensure that product that doesn’t meet your critical limits isn’t sold?  You must also include how you’ll evaluate the process to determine why the critical limit wasn’t reached and how you’ll work to address this problem in the future.
  6. Establish Recordkeeping Procedures: what kind of records will you need to keep to prove to regulatory agencies that critical limits have been met?
  7. Establish Verification Procedures: Your HACCP plan is a living document.  You’ll continually assure that it is effective, that the end product is meeting your specifications and that the controls are working as planned.  Develop plans to conduct this ongoing verification.

​adapted from 22000 Tools,

Think about writing a HACCP plan for making a peanut butter & jelly sandwich: what are some of the “hazards” that could occur?  How would you control for these hazards? What are your critical limits and monitoring procedures? etc., etc.

How do I write one?

HACCP can be intimidating, but once you get started you’ll likely find that it is really all about documenting things you are already doing.  The first step to creating a HACCP plan is attending a HACCP workshop. This will not only train you in HACCP, but it will also provide you with a HACCP certificate. At least one person in every plant must be HACCP certified in order to sign the HACCP plan and any revisions.

Next, we suggest downloading FSIS’s “Guidebook for the Preparation of HACCP Plans” (available here).  This pdf will guide you, step-by-step, in writing your HACCP plan.

Thinking about hiring a consultant?  Some good advice from another processor:

“My husband and I opened our USDA slaughterhouse in October of 2013.  In the end we wrote our own HACCP plan and it has been well worth it for us.  We both took the HACCP training class, which was extremely helpful.  Writing the HACCP was at times very overwhelming and it took many months.  Most of my summer of 2013 was spent putting together our HACCP.  

There was moments of doubt.  After we had drafted the HACCP plans, but prior to any pre-requisite programs, we hired a consultant to help us.  What we found was that our HACCP plan that we understood became too confusing and because we were no longer writing it, it was hard to see it as a whole.  We decided to take the project back over.  When we opened in October, our written HACCP plan was not perfect.  In fact we had to make changes to the program, but having to make those changes was easy because we wrote the program and we understood it.  Additionally, my husband and I are the HACCP team, and one of us if not both of us, are available to inspectors any time we are operating.  Therefore any questions in regards to HACCP are taken care of immediately, eliminating the need to contact the person who wrote the HACCP to explain it. 

I never look at our HACCP as finalized.  It is a working document that needs to change with your processes or regulations.  Every part of it is connected and that is the overwhelming challenge when putting it together. We have found great resources from American Association of Meat Processors.  I have posted many questions on this site that have aided in writing our HACCP.” 

HACCP in an Hour: Archived NMPAN Webinar

On this webinar from May 2014, you’ll learn the ABCs of HACCP — vocabulary and basic concepts — from an experienced HACCP instructor, Jonathan Campbell from Penn State University. If you’re a farmer or rancher who brings animals to an inspected processor, if you’re thinking you might want to get into the processing business, or if you just want to know what the heck HACCP actually is, this webinar is for you.

Jonathan Campbell is Meat Science Extension Specialist at Penn State University and a member of NMPAN’s Advisory Board.  Click here to view the webinar.


Help with your HACCP plan is available in your state!  Check here to see a list of HACCP Contacts and Coordinators by state.

HACCP Resources

These resources, from the federal government and others, provide information on HACCP requirements, testing, model plans, and more.

HACCP Workshops 

HACCP workshops are regularly conducted around the country, often at land grant universities. Each State is assigned a HACCP Coordinator to assist plants with the development of HACCP Program. State HACCP Coordinators will typically know when and where HACCP workshops take place in your state. The Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network’s State Affiliates may also be able to help you with your HACCP plan and/or finding a HACCP workshop in your area. 

You may also hire an outside consultant to develop your HACCP plan (see above for advice on this). Questions about the use of consultants may be answered by an FSIS representative.

Sample HACCP Plans

USDA FSIS is revising their HACCP guidebook and model plans. They expect them to be published by the end of 2018. In the meantime, check out the UW-Madison resources below.

The Center for Meat Process Validation at UW-Madison has developed several useful model HACCP plans.  To download a model HACCP plan from this site, click here, decide which type of processing will be done (Slaughter, Raw-Not Ground, Etc.), and follow the steps accordingly.

Supporting Documentation Materials for HACCP Decisions

This document page provides a very comprehensive listing of the scientific and technical resources processors can cite in their HACCP plans as justifications for the hazards identified in their hazard analysis and the critical control points chosen to control hazards. There are also resources that show how to find additional supporting documentation.

Developing a Food Defense Plan for Meat and Poultry Slaughter and Processing Plants

This link contains everything you need to know about developing a Food Defense Plan , published by USDA FSIS.

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