HACCP - Frequently Asked Questions

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What is HACCP?
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) is an internationally recognized, science-based food safety system based on preventing, eliminating and reducing hazards. It is fundamentally different from an inspection-based system because it identifies and addresses hazards before they emerge.

What is a HACCP system?
A HACCP system includes prerequisite programs and HACCP plans. It is developed and implemented by the operator, who is also responsible to ensure it is maintained and remains effective in controlling all identified hazards. The operator must take full ownership of the system.

What are prerequisite programs?
Procedures and practices that provide the basic environmental and operational conditions necessary for the production of safe foods. They are the foundation of a HACCP system. Some examples are sanitation, recall, pest control, premises, transportation and storage, equipment, personnel training, supplier approval, and allergens.

What are HACCP plans?
A written document that outlines the hazards associated with a product, incoming materials, ingredients and process steps and how they are controlled. It also identifies the processes that are critical to ensuring food safety. The HACCP plans determine critical control points in a specific operation, such as cooking to appropriate internal temperature.

Can HACCP be applied to any size or type of facility?
Yes. HACCP can be applied throughout the food chain to any type of food and process. The principles of HACCP are the same; the nature of the operation will determine the particular hazards and related procedures to address them.

What is HACCP certification?
Formal recognition that a facility complies to specified HACCP requirements. Certification is provided by a licensed, third party certifying agency.

Which HACCP system do I use?
There are several HACCP systems currently being used by processors in Alberta and Canada. Selecting the appropriate system can be a difficult decision. Consider the following when making a decision:

  • What are your customers asking you for?
  • Where are your customers located? Some systems are more common in certain countries or regions.
  • Which system is most suitable for your operation?
  • What are the costs, including audit costs, associated with the system?
  • Are auditors readily available and located locally?
  • What type of support is provided by the standard owner?
What is GFSI?
The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) was launched in 2000 to achieve harmonization of food safety standards to reduce audit duplication throughout the supply chain. GFSI benchmarks food standards against food safety criteria. Current standards benchmarked by GFSI and commonly used by processors in Canada are: BRC (British Retail Consortium), SQF (Safe Quality Food), and FSSC 22000 (Food Safety System Certification). GFSI standards require development and implementation of a HACCP system and have additional requirements beyond the HACCP system.

For more information visit the Global Food Safety Initiative website or refer to a brief overview of the GFSI program.

How is a HACCP system implemented?
Effective implementation of HACCP involves a proactive food safety culture, management commitment, team work, personnel training, and a thorough understanding of the HACCP concepts. Depending on the complexity of the operation, implementing a HACCP system involves time, people and resources. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) can provide you with information, advice and support.

What are the benefits of implementing a HACCP system?

  • Increased food safety
  • Meet customer/retailer requirements
  • Maintained or improved market access
  • It drives continuous improvement
  • Best practices by staff constantly reinforced
  • Ongoing efficient oversight
  • In some cases, HACCP is required by legislation
  • Once implemented, reduced operational costs
  • Reduced waste
  • Reduced recalls
  • Reduced liability, possibly reduced liability premiums
  • Improved product quality and consistency
  • Increased consumer confidence in food safety
How much will it cost to implement a HACCP system?
Costs vary greatly among facilities. Start-up costs are usually those associated with the planning, development and implementation of the HACCP system and do not recur. Generally, the more products and processes involved in an operation, the more complex the HACCP system will have to be. Consider:
  • Number of allergens in your product
  • Current state of your equipment/cleanable surfaces
  • Required facility upgrades
  • Current inventory of monitoring equipment
  • Current level of employee food safety training
  • The number of risks introduced during your processing
  • The resources available to develop and maintain the system (i.e. HACCP Coordinator) or how much you can afford to spend on a consultant
  • Whether your facility is eligible for funding
Recurring costs are those incurred from maintenance activities such as annual validation, training, record keeping, monitoring and updating. To keep the system effective and maintain certification recurring costs cannot be avoided.

Is there support for implementing a HACCP system in Alberta?
Yes. AF provides funding through the Growing Forward 2 initiative. To check your eligibility visit Growing Forward 2 - Programs.

We have a team of food safety specialists available to assist you in developing and implementing a HACCP System. Contact a Food Safety Specialist in your area by emailing the Food Safety Team.

The Food Safety Guidebook has online templates and sample forms that can help you develop a HACCP system. For a free hardcopy of the Food Safety Guidebook, email foodsafety@gov.ab.ca

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Kelly Sawka.
This document is maintained by Amrit Matharu.
This information published to the web on April 29, 2008.
Last Reviewed/Revised on December 20, 2018.