What are Critical Control Points?

Critical control points (CCP) seem like a complicated food safety topic. However, if you can understand how critical control points fit into your HACCP program and how to identify them, you can use them to eliminate and reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses at your restaurant. Before we dive into critical control points, let’s back up just a second to talk about HACCP.

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What are Critical Control Points?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a critical control point is, “a step at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.” What that means is that critical control points are places you identify where you can change the outcome of the situation to make sure no one gets sick. So, how do you identify CCPs?

How to Identify Critical Control Points

While there isn’t a mandated way to identify CCPs, many people use a decision tree. You can find a ton of examples online, but the basic steps are generally all the same. Here is a good example of what a decision tree looks like.

4 Questions to Uncover Critical Control Points

Overall, there are 4 main questions from the decision tree that you need to ask and answer to identify CCPs.

1. Do preventative measures exist?

The first question of the CCP decision tree is to figure out if any preventative measures already exist for a hazard that you’ve identified.

2. Are hazards eliminated or reduced?

The second question is to help you determine if that preventative measure works to eliminate or reduce the hazard.

3. What is the level of risk?

The third question should help you understand how likely it is that the hazard or risk will happen in real-world situations.

4. Will another step eliminate/reduce the hazard?

The final step is to decide if a step later in the process can control the hazard. While going through the decision tree, you should write down your answers and the reasons why you answered the way you did. This will become part of your HACCP plan and help you—or anyone else reading the plan—understand why and how you identified each CCP.

Examples of Common Critical Control Points

When it comes to your restaurants CCPs, many are fairly obvious, as pointed out by the University of Rhode Island:

  • Cooking
  • Cooling
  • Re-heating
  • Holding

More detailed examples of common CCPs according to the International HACCP Alliance include:

  • Chilling when appropriate.
  • Cooking that must occur for a specific time and temperature in order to destroy
  • microbiological pathogens.
  • Product formulation controls, such as the addition of culture or adjustment of pH or water
  • Certain processing procedures, such as filling and sealing cans.

Learn More About Critical Control Points with HACCP Training

As you can see, identifying and documenting critical control points is an essential step for creating your HACCP plan. And if you are a Food Service Manager, it’s critical that you have a HACCP plan in place for food safety at your restaurant. To learn more about critical control points, check out our HACCP training course.

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