HACCP Audits

Ultimate Guide to HAACP Audits: From in-house preparation and systems to auditing and certification
Amy Dignon
Feb 2024
4 min read

If you're a business involved in the food industry, ensuring the safety and quality of your products is of utmost importance. In this guide, we will provide you with an in-depth guide to understanding HACCP audits, starting from preparations and HACCP system implementations all the way to the auditing process and certification.

What is HACCP? 

HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is a widely used approach to food safety that helps prevent, identify, and manage food safety hazards. HACCP audits consider the physical, microbiological, and chemical food hazards and are a critical component of this process.

Importance of a HACCP audit & certification

While it is highly recommended for restaurant operators in the UK to implement a HACCP system, it is not explicitly mandatory to possess a HACCP certificate. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK advises food businesses to have effective food safety management systems in place, and HACCP is recognized as a robust system for ensuring food safety. 

However, the FSA does not require certification of the HACCP system itself. It is still essential for restaurants to follow relevant regulations and guidelines to maintain food safety and hygiene standards.

How to get a HACCP certification 

To obtain a HACCP certification, you will need to follow these steps:

1. Educate yourself 

Familiarise yourself with the HACCP principles, requirements, and guidelines. You can find resources and training materials from organisations such as the MyHACCP Tool developed by the Food Standards Agency.

2. Develop a HACCP plan

Create a HACCP plan tailored to your specific food business. This plan should identify and assess potential hazards, establish critical control points, set critical limits, define monitoring procedures, establish corrective actions, verification procedures, and record keeping.

3. Implement the plan

Put your HACCP plan into action by training your staff, implementing procedures, and establishing documentation and record-keeping systems. Ensure that all staff members understand their roles and responsibilities in maintaining food safety. 

4. Conduct internal audits

Regularly review and assess your HACCP plan to ensure it is being followed correctly. Internal kitchen audit checklists help you run through the essential checks to identify any gaps or areas for improvement.

5. Hire a HACCP consultant

If needed, consider hiring a food safety consultant who can provide expertise and guidance throughout the certification process. They can assist with plan development, training, and audits.

6. HACCP certification audit

Contact a recognised and accredited certification body.

Key principles of HACCP 

The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles include 7 steps to help establishments systematically recognise, assess, and manage hazards that present a significant threat to the safety of food safety.

7 HACCP principles:

  • Conducting a hazard analysis. 
  • Determine the critical control points (CCP).
  • Establishing critical limits. 
  • Monitoring the CCPs.
  • Establishing corrective actions if a CCP is out of control.
  • Establishing verification procedures.
  • Keep accurate documentation and records of each stage

What to expect during the HACCP audit process?

In the domain of food safety and quality assurance, auditing plays a key role in ensuring the integrity of food production processes. Two key components of this auditing process are internal and external audits. 

Internal auditing involves a comprehensive self-assessment of the foundational prerequisite programs and the HACCP system within an establishment. 

On the other hand, external auditing is carried out by accredited external bodies such as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and is designed to provide an objective evaluation of an establishment’s adherence to standards and regulations.

What happens during a HACCP external audit?

External auditing is carried out by a representative of a regulated body. The external auditor's responsibility is to ensure the completeness, effectiveness, and maintenance of the programs and system, ultimately determining whether certification is warranted.

During an external audit, a comprehensive examination and assessment of the HACCP system and all related procedures take place. Objective evidence is collected to demonstrate the proper implementation and effective operation of the establishment’s HACCP system. 

How to do a self-assessed HACCP Audit 

Internal auditing involves a comprehensive self-assessment of both the prerequisite programs and the HACCP system. This process entails a thorough critical evaluation and is often led by the HACCP team leader. 

The initial internal audit typically takes place a few months after the HACCP system's implementation and before certification.

Before you are ready to conduct your own HACCP audit, you will need to assemble an HACCP team who are knowledgeable and experienced in food hygiene and safety. They will need to consider the following individuals in their plan, such as:

  • Maintenance
  • Production
  • Quality assurance
  • Purchasing 
  • Food handlers
  • Supervisors

The audit should be spread out throughout the year, not at once. Also, we recommend creating a schedule for when these audit tasks should be executed. You can use TrailApp to schedule a recurring reminder to carry out the self-assessment!

Based on the 7 principles, the following HACCP process steps should be taken:

1. Conduct a hazard analysis

This involves identifying and evaluating potential hazards that can occur at various stages of food production. Hazards can be biological (e.g., bacteria), chemical (e.g., contaminants), or physical (e.g., foreign objects).

2. Determine the critical control points (CCPs)

CCPs are specific points in the production process where control measures can be applied to prevent, eliminate, or reduce identified hazards to an acceptable level. Identifying CCPs is crucial for effective food safety management.

Examples of this can be: 

  • Cooking temperature: Ensuring that raw meat products reach the recommended internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria, like Salmonella or E. Coli.
  • Chemical use: Controlling the concentration and application of food additives or preservatives to prevent overuse or contamination of the final product.
  • Fridge temperature: Maintaining the proper temperature in refrigeration units to prevent the growth of pathogenic microorganisms in perishable foods.

3. Establish critical limits

Principle 3 involves critical limits. These are the defined criteria or boundaries that indicate whether a CCP is under control. These ensure that the food product is safe for consumption.

In order to set critical limits, it's essential to define specific criteria that indicate when a product transitions from a safe to an unsafe state. These criteria may encompass physical, chemical, or procedural aspects, such as:

  • Salt concentration 
  • Water activity (aw)
  • Temperature 
  • Time

4. Monitor the CCPs

Continuous monitoring of CCPs involves regularly measuring and observing the critical control points to ensure they remain within the established critical limits. This real-time monitoring helps detect anomalies.

5. Establish corrective actions if a CCP is out of control

When monitoring reveals that a CCP is not within the critical limits, specific corrective actions must be implemented immediately. These actions are designed to bring the process back under control and prevent unsafe food from reaching consumers.

Three levels of corrective action must be implemented:

  • Immediate measures to restore process control quickly.
  • Short-term actions aimed at identifying and managing affected products by subjecting them to control measures.
  • Long-term actions focused on investigating the root causes and implementing preventive measures to prevent future occurrences.

With Trail, you are able to schedule reminders for yourself and your team to carry out corrective actions. 

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6. Establish verification procedures

Verification is an essential step to confirm that the HACCP system is working effectively. It involves periodic reviews, audits, and checks to ensure that the critical control points and corrective actions are functioning as intended.

7. Keep accurate documentation and records of each stage

Detailed and accurate records are maintained to provide evidence that the HACCP system is being followed and that food safety measures are in place. Documentation is essential for compliance, accountability, and continuous improvement.

What documentation examples can support my HACCP plan?

  • Hazard analysis records: Document the identification of potential hazards in your food production process, including biological, chemical, and physical hazards.
  • Records of equipment maintenance: Ensure that equipment used in the production process is properly maintained and calibrated, and keep records of these events.
  • Incident reports: Record any incidents related to food safety, such as product recalls or contamination issues, along with the actions taken to address them.

How will HACCP impact my establishment?

Implementing a HACCP system can have a significant impact on your establishment in several ways, including its reputation, contamination prevention, and costs:

Factor Positive impact Negative impact
Reputation Your establishment demonstrates a strong commitment to food safety and quality. This can enhance your reputation and build trust with customers, suppliers, and regulatory authorities. A strong food safety record can attract more customers and improve brand loyalty Failing to implement HACCP or experiencing repeated food safety issues can harm your reputation. Cases of foodborne illness or product recalls can damage your brand's image and result in a loss of customer confidence.
Contamination Prevention Implementing HACCP significantly reduces the risk of food contamination, including biological, chemical, and physical hazards. It helps ensure that the food you serve is safe, high-quality, and compliant with regulatory standards. Not implementing HACCP can leave your establishment vulnerable to food safety risks. This increases the likelihood of contamination incidents, foodborne illnesses, and recalls, which can be costly and damaging.
Cost Control HACCP can lead to cost savings in the long run. By preventing food safety issues, you can avoid expenses associated with recalls, lawsuits and a damaged reputation. This can improve operational efficiency and expenses. The initial implementation of HACCP may require an investment in training, resources, and documentation. However, the long-term benefits in terms of cost avoidance and risk reduction often outweigh the upfront expenses.
Regulatory Compliance HACCP and regulatory food laws go hand in hand. Compliance with HACCP principles can help your establishment meet legal obligations and avoid penalties or sanctions from regulatory authorities. Non-compliance with food safety regulations can result in fines, legal action, or even closure of your establishment, causing significant financial and reputational damage.
Employee Training and Engagement Implementing HACCP involves training employees in food safety procedures and hazard control. This can enhance employee knowledge, engagement, and overall performance, contributing to the consistent delivery of safe and quality food. Neglecting employee training in HACCP can lead to lapses in food safety practices and increase the likelihood of contamination incidents.

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