The Critical Control Point (CCP) in food safety is a part of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles, which is a preventative approach to food safety. The CCP is a point in the food production journey where control can be applied to prevent a particular hazard from occurring. A CCP could be found during the processes used for cooking, re-heating, cooling and holding food. Therefore, knowing what a CCP is and how to effectively manage them is of the utmost importance.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK expect food businesses to comply with the HACCP principles, and to base food safety management procedures on the HACCP principles. Therefore, it is important for food businesses to understand the HACCP principles.
What does CCP stand for?
CCP stands for Critical Control Point. A CCP is a point where control can be applied to food handling processes, to reduce and prevent hazards from occurring. This control point will apply to biological, chemical, physical and allergenic hazards which have been identified.
A CCP refers to any step where there is potential to prevent hazards from occurring. If a CCP is not carried out effectively, food poisoning or foodborne illnesses could occur as a result.
CCPs can be found within the following:
- The process of cooking food
- The process of re-heating food
- The process of cooling food
- The process of holding food
How to identify a CCP
If you are trying to identify a CCP, a HACCP decision tree can help you to do so. You can also consider the following questions:
- Could food become contaminated during this point of the food production journey?
- Could the identified hazard be prevented through corrective actions?
- Could the identified hazard be eliminated later on?
- Can the CCP be measured?
- Can you document the CCP?
What is a Critical Limit?
A critical limit can be used to identify whether a CCP can effectively control a biological, chemical, physical or allergenic hazard.
Examples of a critical limit include:
- pH Conditions
- Salt Level
- Chlorine Level
- Water Activity
Critical limits should be monitored either by measurement or observation. For example, measuring the temperature which food is held at to ensure it does not enter the 'Danger Zone', which is the temperatures between 8°C and 60°C. The temperatures between 8°C and 60°C allow bacteria to grow rapidly. Below the temperature of 8°C, the growth of bacteria is slowed down and paused, and when food is above the temperature of 60°C bacteria dies. Therefore, a CCP needs to be implemented here to reduce the risk of food entering the 'Danger Zone'.
A food safety team should be designated within the workplace and be responsible for identifying CCPs and critical limits. The food safety team will also be responsible for documenting the procedures which took place to comply with the HACCP principles, which can be shown to the FSA if they investigate.
Therefore, food businesses must ensure that HACCP principles are implemented effectively, and all food handlers must understand how important these principles are.