Developing your HACCP Plan: Critical Limits
The first two principles of HACCP are Identification of hazards, and Determination of Critical Control Points. Let’s look at the next step to creating your HACCP plan, establishing critical limits.
After the hazard analysis has been completed and your team has identified each of the critical control points, (CCPs – the points in the process where the identified hazards must be controlled to prevent a food safety hazard) limits must be identified for each of the CCPs.
Establish a maximum or minimum limit for temperature, time, pH, salt level, chlorine level or other processing characteristic that will control the hazard. This is the critical limit for the CCP. If this limit is ever exceeded corrective action must be taken, and all affected product controlled. This will be covered in more detail when we discuss corrective action.
The determination of the critical limit must be based on scientific information or data. It is important to make sure that if you do not have sufficient experience in your company to make this determination you involve outside expertise or use external sources of information to make the decision.
Each CCP and its critical limit will be documented in the HACCP plan. Operational limits for your process can then be planned and documented taking the critical limits into account. Operational limits would be set tighter than the critical limits to ensure that the critical limits are not exceeded.
Remember, if a critical limit is exceeded there is a potential safety hazard and affected product will need to be controlled. This could mean rework or disposal of product. By setting operational limits tighter than control limits you will have a chance to bring the process under control before a critical limit is exceeded.
The team uses information on the process and the hazard to identify each step in the process that is a critical control point.