Back to top

Preliminary Steps

Prior to developing your Food Safety Plan, it is necessary to complete five preliminary steps that provide the basis of you plan. These steps are listed in detail below:

Assemble the Team

Pasteurized Milk Ordinance defines a HACCP Team as the group of people who are responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining the HACCP system.  The team approach minimizes the risk in developing a plan as items are less likely to be excluded or poorly explained.

Determine Team Members

  • Team members dependent on specific food operation
    • Size of operation
    • Type of operation
    • Location(s) of operation(s)
    • Knowledge and background
    • Commitment Quotient
  • Team members should be multi-disciplinary
    • Quality Assurance/Laboratory
    • Production/Sanitation
    • Engineering/Maintenance
    • Upper Management
    • Outside experts/Consultants
  • Team Members should be trained in Food Safety Systems/HACCP


As a team:

  • Develop and update all written documentation
  • Implement and maintain Food Safety/HACCP plan and supporting programs
  • Verify and validate Food Safety/HACCP system as required
  • Provide training options for operational staff
  • Maintain effective communication with management
  • Interact with outside auditors and inspections
  • Interact with regulatory authority where applicable


  • Each member should know their role in development

    • Assigned roles and responsibilities

    • One person often responsible for the written plan and other documents
  • Each member should review all written materials
    • Provide comments and revisions prior to implementation
  • Each member should know their role in implementation
    • Oversight of monitoring, documentation, verification, and corrective actions
  • Team should meet frequently on a scheduled basis
    • Minutes should be taken with action items, goals, and target dates
  • Communication is the key!




Describe the Food and its Distribution

The next step is to completely describe each food product that your facility produces. This should include a brief description of the process to help identify potential hazards.

The USDA’s Guidebook for the Preparation of HACCP Plans recommends asking the following questions about the product:

  1. Common name?
  2. How is it to be used?
    1. Categories may include: Ready-to-Eat (RTE), to be heated prior to consumption, or further processing
  3. Type of packaging?
  4. Length of shelf life?
  5. Where will it be sold?
    1. Will it be sold wholesale or retail?
  6. Labeling instructions?
    1. “Keep refrigerated” or “Best if kept frozen” may be some common instructions.
  7. How is the product distributed?
    1. Should product be shipped/distributed at a certain temperature?

In addition to a general description of each product, important factors to consider include:

  • Potential microbial hazards
    • pH
    • Water activity
    • Degree of processing
    • Product protection
  • Chemical and physical hazards
    • Ingredients used
    • Potential allergens
    • Equipment used
    • Packaging used


Describe to Intended Use and Consumers

  • Describe the normal expected use of the food
    • Ready-to-eat
    • Requires further cooking
    • To be used with other ingredients
  • Describe the target audience for the product
    • General public
    • Particular institutions
      • Home use
      • School
      • Healthcare
      • Restaurant use
    • Particular users
      • Infants
      • Immunocompromised individuals
      • Elderly

Develop a Flow Diagram

A flow diagram is a general diagram that describes the process step-by-step. It should include all steps in the process, in sequence, directly under control of the facility from raw material receipt through processing, packaging, storage and distribution. NACMCF 1997

Processes that require a flow diagram include:

  • Receiving and Storage
    • Raw materials
    • Ingredients
    • Packaging
  • Processing and Handling
    • Blending, batching, addition of  ingredients
    • Heating, cooking, cooling
    • Use of air and other gases
    • Filters, screens, metal/magnet detectors
  • Packaging
    • Pre/post treatment
    • Metal detection
  • Storage and Distribution
    • Refrigeration

Full-sized examples of flow diagrams available for download here.

Verify the Flow Diagram

After the flow diagrams are created, it is necessary to verify the processes.

  • Verify accuracy
    • Ensure that the steps and sequence are correct
  • Verify completeness
    • Ensure that all critical steps are included
  • Modify
    • Update as needed
    • Document verification and changes
      • HACCP Team List
      • HACCP Team Meeting Minutes
      • Product description for each product
      • Flow diagrams for each product