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6 common mistakes in HACCP

Common mistakes in HACCP

What are the common HACCP mistakes?

Have you ever done our Level 3 HACCP quiz? It’s a simple 10 multiple-choice question test which has been completed a staggering 24,000 times since its launch in January 2019!

We’ve recently updated the quiz and done some analysis of the previous answers to identify the common HACCP errors. We asked Debbie Sullivan, our Lead Development Trainer, to walk us through some of these misconceptions.

Common HACCP Mistake No.1

Confusing the 12 Steps and 7 Principles

People often get confused with the requirement of the Codex 12 steps or 7 principles.  The requirement to apply the 12 steps depends on the size and nature of the business, legislation does not specify which businesses should follow the full 12 steps.  However, the 7 principles are what all food business operators must apply, as per regulation EC 852/2004.


Only 75% of respondents correctly said that there were 7 Codex HACCP Principles and 14% incorrectly said 12.

Common HACCP Mistake No.2

Definition of a CCP

The definition of a CCP is ‘a step where control is essential.’   If we don’t control a hazard at this step, then unsafe food could be produced as there is no later stage in the process that will sort the hazard, hence control is essential at this step.


Only 61% of respondents correctly said that a CCP is… ‘a step where control is essential’ and 27% incorrectly said it was ‘a step where control can be applied.’

Common HACCP Mistake No.3

Control measures can’t eliminate all hazards

How nice would it be to eliminate all food safety hazards? However, a control measure is put into place to prevent, eliminate, or reduce the hazard to an acceptable level.  Sometimes we can only reduce a hazard to an acceptable level (at which it will no longer cause harm or injury to the consumer).

Examples of this are:

  1. The specified log reduction for certain pathogens
  2. The capability of a metal detector to detect and reject the smallest size possible.


Only 62% of respondents correctly said that control measures at critical control points must ‘reduce hazards to acceptable levels’ and 29% incorrectly said ‘eliminate all food safety hazards.’

Common HACCP Mistake No.4

Confusing control measures & monitoring

Another common mistake is to confuse control measures and monitoring activities.  Control is doing something to the hazard i.e., preventing, eliminating, or reducing it to a safe level.  Monitoring activities are real-time checks e.g., measurements, such as temperature, to ensure the critical limit/target level is met.  Monitoring doesn’t control anything, it just tells you, for example, what the product core temperature is!

Top tip… if the question includes the word test, check, observation, or measurement, you know that this is referring to monitoring and not a control measure!


Only 55% of respondents correctly identified monitoring as the answer to ‘testing of chlorine levels during washing of salad by supervisor is an example of…’ and 28% incorrectly said it was an example of a control measure.

Common HACCP Mistake No.5

Mistaking corrective action and control measures

Corrective action includes 3 levels:

  1. Bringing the product and processes back under control
  2. Isolating and rectifying the potentially unsafe product produced during the loss of control
  3. Investigating the root cause to prevent recurrence

Whereas a control measure is an action/activity put in place to prevent, eliminate or reduce a hazard to an acceptable level – it is preventative, not reactive.


Only 62% of respondents correctly said that ‘rejecting delivery of over temperature raw materials, informing supplier and investigating the cause,’ is an example of ‘corrective action’. 23% incorrectly said it was a control measure and 14% said it was an example of monitoring!

Common HACCP Mistake No.6

Validation or verification?

This is another very common mistake in HACCP.  It was great to see that most respondents answered correctly.

Validation asks, ‘Will the control measure(s) be capable of controlling the specified hazard?’  Simply put, “If I followed this HACCP plan, would a safe product be produced?”

Verification asks, ‘Is safe food actually being produced?’ Verification is retrospective and includes challenging compliance with the HACCP plan (e.g., auditing) and product testing/data to prove the finished product is safe (e.g., finished product micro testing).  Prerequisite programmes also need thorough validation and verification to ensure they provide robust support for HACCP.


86% of respondents correctly said that a compliance audit of the calibration schedule is an example of verification.


Unpicking some of these common mistakes can help to ensure you and your team gain a good understanding of HACCP methodology and are successful in the Level 3 HACCP exam.

Let us help you on your HACCP journey to ensure you gain a good working knowledge of HACCP and become an effective member of your HACCP team. Our Level 3 HACCP training uses your own HACCP plans to bring HACCP to life and will help to improve understanding and competency.

We offer all levels of HACCP courses

We have all levels of HACCP training available as in-house courses: From HACCP awareness to Level 4 HACCP – have a look at all our in-house courses for groups: HACCP courses.

If you’d like individual places, our Level 3 HACCP, Level 4 HACCP and HACCP Refresher Level 4 are available for individuals.

As ever, get in touch if you need any more information.

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