Hazard Analysis

Food hazards are microorganisms, chemicals and physical objects that may cause food products to be unsafe; resulting in illness, injury or death. As a processor who produces safe food, you can prevent these hazards by identifying and preventing them. This is known as hazard analysis.

How does hazard analysis relate to Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)?

Hazard analysis is the first principle of HACCP. It affects the result of the other six HACCP principles and the entire HACCP plan. If you don't identify a significant hazard during your hazard analysis, you cannot control the risk associated with it and you could produce unsafe food.

To have an effective HACCP plan, you need to start with a complete, accurate hazard analysis.  

Conducting a hazard analysis

When conducting a hazard analysis, you need to identify and evaluate the potential hazards associated with:

  • raw materials
  • ingredients and additives
  • packaging materials
  • all processing steps, including receiving and storage
  • potential cross-contamination points (use your facility's blueprint)  

Hazard analysis involves two stages:

  1. hazard identification
  2. hazard evaluation

During the first stage, prepare a list of potential biological, chemical or physical hazards associated with raw materials, ingredients, packaging material and each step in the production process. In the second stage, decide what potential hazards are significant for the product and process. These hazards must be addressed in the HACCP plan.  

Hazard identification

The only way to control a hazard is by identifying it first. Note that if you do not identify all hazards at this stage, you will not be able to control them.

Hazard identification requires knowledge not only of the product and process, but also scientific knowledge and expertise on controlling hazards. The best approach for gathering all the information required is to assign a multidisciplinary HACCP team. It should include people from different areas of the company (ex: production, quality assurance, food safety, maintenance).

To identify hazards, the team must review all the factors associated with the product (ex: raw materials, ingredients, packaging materials and all the steps of the production process) and prepare a list of potential hazards that these factors may add to the product. When describing a hazard, include the specific hazard (ex: name of the pathogen, type of physical hazard) and the conditions that are associated with it (ex: presence, survival, growth). Table 1 shows examples of hazards.

Table 1. Hazard identification  

Biological hazard growth of Salmonella spp. due to inadequate temperature control during storage  
Chemical hazard presence of excess of nitrates due to inadequate calibration of scale  
Physical hazard presence of metal fragments in incoming ingredients  

Hazard evaluation

In this stage, the HACCP team identifies hazards that are significant and likely to occur. If you miss a significant hazard, it cannot be controlled. On the other hand, if you control a hazard that is not significant, you will waste your resources (ex: time, money) by implementing unnecessary control measures. Hazards are evaluated based on the severity and likelihood to determine which are significant.

Severity indicates that the hazard can cause illness if it is not controlled. Note that severity is evaluated based on two factors:

  • impact on public health (Evaluate the duration and magnitude of the illness that the hazard may cause.)
  • consumer susceptibility (It depends on the different population group or age such as, babies or adults.)

Likelihood predicts if a hazard is reasonably likely to occur. This is evaluated using a combination of experience, data from past outbreaks, scientific literature and the company's historical information on recalls and customer complaints.    

Where to start?

To start your hazard analysis, you need to collect information on hazards associated with the food you produce and the process steps.  Identify what potential hazards apply to your product and process. Finally, determine what potential hazards are significant and how to control them.    

For more information, email the Food Safety and Inspection Branch or call 204-795-8418 in Winnipeg.