Edited by Jeremy Russell

March 9, 1998

HACCP -- How to Start

By Kerri Harris, Executive Director, International Meat & Poultry HACCP Alliance

One of the most commonly asked questions relating to HACCP is, "How do I get started?" This document will provide some tips on how you can get started developing and implementing your HACCP plan.

The first step involves identifying the individual(s) who will serve as the lead HACCP person(s) for your establishment. According to the USDA’s Pathogen Reduction; Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Systems regulation, the individual who is developing the HACCP plan must have "successfully completed a course of instruction in the application of the seven HACCP principles to meat or poultry product processing..." Therefore, the second step is to make sure the individual(s) completes the required training. You can obtain a list of introductory HACCP courses from the National Meat Association offices.

After the completion of the HACCP training, the individual(s) should have a working knowledge of the process required to develop and implement a HACCP program. They should also have a HACCP reference book and handouts from the training course that should help them move forward. The HACCP trained individual should then identify the people that he/she needs on the HACCP team.

After identifying the HACCP team members, the next steps involve gathering documents and materials that will be needed to adequately develop the HACCP plan. One of the first documents that is needed is a copy of the actual Pathogen Reduction/HACCP regulation, as well as the technical amendments and issue papers related to the regulation. If you do not already have these documents, then you may obtain them using any of the following methods — contacting the National Meat Association office, downloading it from the internet, or contacting USDA. The following web sites also provide information that may be useful:

http://www.hooked.net/users/html (National Meat Association)

http://ifse.tamu.edu/haccpall.html (International HACCP Alliance)

http://www.usda.gov/agency/fsis/homepage.htm (USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service)

It is understood that each establishment operates slightly different from the next, even if they are producing the same products. Therefore, every HACCP team may not need to use the same type of information. However, the following list of items are fairly basic and each team can add or delete material from the list as needed. The main thing is that the identified material should be available to the HACCP team members as they begin to develop the HACCP plan. Here’s the basic list:

After as much information as possible has been identified and gathered, the HACCP team should review and use the information as it develops the HACCP plan. The HACCP team should also keep a copy of all of the supporting documents that they used to make their decisions. This will help with future revisions of the HACCP plan.

Identifying the lead individual(s), participating in a training program, appointing the HACCP team, and gathering the necessary information are the basic steps to getting started. Then the HACCP team can begin using its knowledge and information to develop a flow chart, provide the product description and design a HACCP plan that can be successfully implemented to help your establishment continue to produce the safest food supply possible. As you can see, developing a HACCP plan isn’t something that occurs overnight, but it is something that you can accomplish. All you have to do is just get started.