HACCP consists of the following seven principles:
- Identification of all the potential hazards and their control measures (CM);
- Determination of the critical control points (CCP) where the identified CM should be applied to prevent the identified hazards;
- Establishment of the critical limits for each CM at each CCP;
- Establishment of a monitoring system to ensure proper implementation of the CM at each CCP;
- Establishment of the corrective actions to undertake when monitoring reveals that a particular CCP is not under control;
- Establishment of verification procedures to confirm that the HACCP system is working effectively;
- Establishment of documentation concerning all procedures and records appropriate to these principles and to their application
Since its launching in the USA in the late 1960s, HACCP has gained worldwide recognition and is presently considered the most cost effective and reliable system for food safety and quality assurance. In addition, it is flexible enough to accommodate the most sophisticated food processing systems as well as the simplest ones. For instance, it was found feasible to ensure safety and quality of street vended foods.
Also, HACCP emphasizes control of the process as far upstream in the processing system as possible by utilizing operator control and monitoring at critical control points. As such, HACCP enhances the responsibility of producers and processors in quality and safety assurance.
Recognizing the importance of the HACCP to food control, the twentieth session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted guidelines for the application of the HACCP system (ALINORM 93/13A, Appendix II). These guidelines are now included as an annex to the Revised International Code of practice-General Principles of Food Hygiene (CAC/RCP 1-1969, Rev.3, 1997, Second edition 2001) which was adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 1997 and in 1999.
Although, most countries have adopted HACCP as the basic approach to achieve food quality and safety, its practical implementation in the food industry is still in its infancy in many parts of the world. The fish industry is at the forefront of the food industry in this respect, especially in relation to international trade.
The successful application of HACCP requires the commitment and involvement of the industry (management and workforce), the regulatory food control bodies and the support institutions (technical support, research and training institutions).
Some countries apply HACCP to control only safety issues while others recommend its use to control both safety and quality issues. The Codex Committee on fish and fishery products (CCFFP) has advised that HACCP shall be mandatory to control safety CCPs and voluntary for the monitoring of quality issues. In the latter cases, the Code of Practice of the CCFFP refers to defect action points (DAPs) as compared to CCPs for safety.