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What is a HACCP Certification Plan And Process

What is a HACCP Certification Plan And Process

Ensuring food safety is of utmost importance for restaurants, as it directly impacts the well-being and satisfaction of their customers. The consequences of serving unsafe food can range from mild discomfort to severe illness, damaging the restaurant’s reputation and potentially leading to legal ramifications. Therefore, restaurants must implement strict measures to maintain food safety standards.

Most restaurants use a food safety management system known as HACCP, or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, to protect restaurant-goers from food safety risks. HACCP is like a team of microscopic protectors working behind the scenes to identify and eliminate any potential foodborne hazards before the food reaches the customer’s plate.

In this article, we’ll start by answering the basic question: what is HACCP? We will then dive deeper into the details to discuss the importance of HACCP implementation in restaurants and the food industry as a whole

What is HACCP certification?

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, a required food safety certification for many food businesses. HACCP certification must be obtained when opening a restaurant business to ensure proper food handling procedures and prevent food contamination in restaurants. 

HACCP certification confirms that a business has developed and implemented an effective HACCP food safety plan, assuring regulators, customers, and consumers that hazards potentially affecting food safety have been identified and controlled.

Who needs a HACCP certification?

haccp certificate

Any restaurant serving food needs a formal safety management system based on HACCP principles and guidelines. This includes:

  • Full-service restaurants that prepare and cook meals on-site from raw ingredients
  • Fast casual restaurants that do some level of on-site food preparation in addition to cooking popular menu items
  • Cafeterias and food courts that serve a larger number of customers regularly
  • Catering companies that prepare and deliver meals for events. HACCP is especially important for off-site food preparation, where storage control and transportation conditions are critical
  • Bakeries and food manufacturers that supply restaurants as HACCP demonstrates the implementation of proper safety measures across the entire supply chain

 How to obtain a HACCP certification?

Restaurants must develop and implement a complete HACCP plan and pass an audit by a certification body to obtain HACCP certification.

  • Familiarize yourself with the HACCP system and requirements. Read guidance documents from the FDA and FAO on developing a HACCP plan.
  • Assemble a team from different departments like cooking staff, servers, and cleaning crew to identify potential risks and solutions.
  • Map out all food handling steps, from receiving ingredients to serving customers. This will work as a process flowchart.
  • Identify potential biological, chemical, and physical risks like bacteria, allergens, and foreign objects for each step. Use a chart to determine which risks need the most control.
  • Implement controls for major risks like cooking temperatures, cleaning practices, and allergen controls; Include them in the HACCP plan.
  • Monitor controls using items like thermometers, surface swabs, and visual checks. Establish corrective actions to take if critical limits are not met.
  • Set up record-keeping for monitoring and corrections and save records for later inspections and reviews.
  • Schedule and pass an audit by an accredited HACCP certification body. They will review the HACCP plan and records to confirm effective implementation.
  • Make any needed corrections or improvements identified during the audit. The certification body will issue HACCP certification once all requirements are met.
  • Periodic recertification is required. So, review and update the HACCP plan regularly based on monitoring and any ingredient, equipment, or process changes.

How long does a HACCP Audit take?

Generally, a basic HACCP audit for a small to medium-sized restaurant can take 2-4 hours. A full systems audit may require 8 hours or more spread over multiple days for larger facilities. Follow-up audits are typically shorter at 1-3 hours, depending on the scope. However, the duration of a HACCP audit can vary widely based on specific factors, including:

  • Size of facility and complexity of operations: Larger restaurants and facilities with more complex processes involving multiple cooking, cooling, and holding steps will generally require more time for a thorough audit.
  • Scope of audit: Whether the audit covers the entire restaurant or just specific processes. A full system audit takes more time.
  • Preparedness: How well the restaurant is prepared regarding having correct and complete documentation, staff training records, and following existing procedures.
  • The number of non-conformances: More issues or areas of improvement identified by the auditor will require additional verification time.
  • Follow-up audit requirements: First-time audits take longer than subsequent follow-up or surveillance audits.

haccp audit

The key thing is ensuring the audit is comprehensive enough to assess the restaurant’s food safety practices and compliance accurately. During the audit, the auditor will generally follow certain steps, including:

  • Opening meeting: Discuss the scope and objectives of the audit with key staff. Review the HACCP plan.
  • Facility inspection: Tour the facility to observe processes and controls in place compared to what is documented in the HACCP plan.
  • Document review: Review the HACCP plan, process flows, hazard analyses, monitoring, and verification records.
  • Staff interviews: Interview key staff involved in developing and implementing the HACCP plan to assess their knowledge and competence.
  • Closing meeting: Discuss audit findings with management and identify any non-conformities or observations that need to be addressed. Auditors will also discuss timelines for corrections and the certification decision.
  • Audit report: The certification body will issue an official report summarizing findings and the certification decision. However, any major non-conformities must be resolved before certification is granted.

Do Food Safety Certificates Expire: How Long Do They Last?

HACCP certifications are temporary and must be renewed periodically, typically after 1 to 3 years. This can change according to several factors, including:

  • Regulatory requirements: Some jurisdictions require food safety certificates to be renewed periodically, usually every 1 to 3 years. This ensures facilities continue to comply with the latest food safety standards.
  • Changes: A restaurant’s processes, equipment, menus, and suppliers can change over time, affecting its food safety risks and controls. Hence, recertification ensures the HACCP plan is still appropriate.
  • Refreshing training: Staff training on HACCP principles and food and kitchen should be refreshed periodically. Recertification also requires demonstrating updated training records.
  • System improvements: Over time, opportunities for improving the food safety system may become necessary.

Where Can I Get a HACCP Certificate?

There are many different channels to obtain HACCP certification in the United States. The options vary in cost, scope, comprehensiveness, and recognition, and some require an initial HACCP plan development and approval before issuing the certification.

First, carefully evaluate the different options based on needs and budget and choose a certification program that is credible and recognized by regulators and customers. Some options include:

  • Government organizations: The FDA and state health departments offer HACCP training.
  • Private training companies: Many companies, such as NSF International, provide HACCP training courses and third-party auditing for certification.
  • Food safety consultants: Independent food safety consultants and auditors can provide HACCP training, develop HACCP plans for clients, and issue certification upon approval.
  • Industry groups: Certain industry associations offer HACCP certification programs for their members. For example, the Restaurant Association offers the ServSafe Certification for restaurant personnel.
  • Global certification bodies: Companies like BRCGS and other international certification organizations provide HACCP certification in the US.
  • Online HACCP training: Various providers offer many options for online HACCP training courses. Some offer digital certifications upon completion.
  • College or university programs: Some universities and culinary schools offer HACCP training and certification. Their programs are usually more comprehensive.

How Much Does HACCP Certification Cost?

HACCP Certification Cost

Understanding the basics around HACCP certification costs can help restaurants make informed decisions and budget appropriately for this important investment in food safety. The cost for HACCP certification depends on several factors, including: 

  • Training vs. certification: The cost of HACCP training can range from $100 to $500 per person, while actual certification will cost extra.
  • Type of certifying body: Government programs are more affordable, around $500 to $1,500 for certification. Private companies and consultants can charge $1,500 to $5,000 or more.
  • The complexity of facility and operations: Larger facilities and those with more complex processes typically pay higher certification fees.
  • Frequency of audits: Annual certification costs will be higher than ones that are every 2-3 years. Follow-up audit fees also apply.
  • Additional services: Certification bodies that develop actual HACCP plans charge more.
  • Geographic region: Costs are slightly higher in metropolitan areas than in rural locations.

However, these numbers are ballpark estimates. Remember that prices vary significantly based on the specific certification program, services included, geographic location, and other factors.

What Is HACCP Training?

HACCP training equips personnel with the knowledge, skills, and mindset needed to develop and sustain an effective restaurant hazard prevention system. The main goals of HACCP training include:

  • Educate staff about food safety hazards and how to prevent them, covering microbial, chemical, and physical hazards as well as routes of contamination.
  • Provide an understanding of the core HACCP principles and how to apply them. This involves critical control points, monitoring, corrective actions, and record keeping.
  • Develop the skills to conduct a hazard analysis and create a customized HACCP plan. Personnel learns to identify hazards, set critical limits and select control measures.
  • Ensure personnel can implement and maintain the HACCP plan properly. This includes calibrating equipment, reviewing records, and taking corrective actions.
  • Meet regulatory requirements for trained staff, as many jurisdictions require at least one manager or employee to complete formal HACCP training.
  • Improve food safety culture in the restaurant and establish best practices.

To Wrap Up!

HACCP certification shows commitment to reducing risks, improving processes, and always following best practices. Developing and implementing an effective HACCP plan and adequately training staff will prepare for the certification process and ensure the business’s success. After all, nothing is more important for a restaurant than serving nutritious, enjoyable meals without compromising people’s health.


When was HACCP formed?

The HACCP system was first developed in the 1960s by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and later adopted by the food industry in the 1970s.

What is a HACCP plan?

A HACCP plan identifies food safety hazards and establishes controls to prevent, eliminate or reduce those hazards to safe levels.

Where did HACCP come from?

HACCP originated with the space program to ensure a safe food supply for NASA astronauts. However, it was later adapted for use in the commercial food industry.

What are the HACCP procedures?

The key procedures are hazard analysis, identifying critical control points, establishing critical limits, and monitoring procedures.

What are the HACCP prerequisites?

Establishing good manufacturing practices for hygiene and sanitation, developing detailed standard operating procedures for each process step, providing comprehensive training for all personnel on food safety, and implementing any additional prerequisite programs for controlling specific hazards.

When is a HACCP plan required?

A HACCP plan is required by regulatory agencies for restaurants to ensure they have proper systems in place to identify and control food safety hazards. Compliance with HACCP is necessary to meet the legal requirements for producing safe food and maintaining health certifications and food permits.

Is HACCP mandatory?

Although HACCP is currently not legally mandatory in all jurisdictions, many regulatory agencies strongly recommend or will soon require facilities to implement HACCP.

How often should HACCP be reviewed?

A HACCP plan should be reviewed annually or whenever changes are made to raw materials, processes, or equipment.

How long should HACCP records be kept?

HACCP records should typically be kept on file for at least two years to demonstrate inspection compliance.

What is a HACCP control point?

It is any step in food handling where food safety risks can be managed to safe levels through measures that minimize, remove or mitigate those hazards. Control points typically involve measurable critical limits that distinguish safe from unsafe conditions.

What is a critical limit in HACCP?

This refers to a designated threshold value that separates safety from danger for a particular control measure. Exceeding the critical limit indicates a loss of control and likely the presence of hazards requiring corrective actions.

What are examples of HACCP control measures?

Control measures include cooking time, temperature, chilling limits, cleaning frequencies, and visual inspection procedures.