What is a HACCP Decision Tree?

April 17, 2015
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Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) decision trees are tools that can be used to help you decide whether a hazard control point is a critical control point (CCP) or not. A CCP is a step at which control can be applied. However, it is not always possible to eliminate or prevent a food safety hazard, so this allows you to reduce it to an acceptable level.

What Are HACCP Decision Trees Used For?

The purpose of a decision tree is to support the judgement of the team and help you to confirm whether the hazard needs more food safety controls. Decision trees are not mandatory elements of HACCP but they can be useful in helping you determine whether a particular step is a CCP.

It is vital that you determine the correct CCPs to ensure that food is managed effectively and safely. The number of CCPs in a process will depend on how complex the process is and how many hazards are present.


The Basics of the HACCP Decision Tree

In order to use to HACCP Decision Tree effectively, you must apply the tree to EACH hazard at EACH process step. This simple decision tree has three main questions for which you can answer YES or NO. There may be a few additional questions in between.

Keeping a log on the decision tree you use and the judgements you make including justifications for answers to each of questions asked is vital. It will allow you to analyse and repeat the flowchart should problems arise.

The Codex Decision Tree

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, developed to harmonise international food standards, guidance and codes of practice, provides the following example of a CCP decision tree:

This has 5 questions and is fairly straightforward to use.

Establish the Critical Limits

According to the FSA, a critical limit is the “maximum or minimum value for the control measure at a CCP to prevent, eliminate, or reduce the hazard to an acceptable level.” These critical limits should be for the CONTROL MEASURE, and should be:

  • measurable
  • observable
  • able to be monitored quickly

Some critical limits may be already be determined by legislation or industry guidelines.

Keep Reviewing

You should make sure that the HACCP Decision Tree is reviewed and repeated if there are changes within the company. This could be

  • a change to the process used
  • ingredients
  • products
  • technology

Further Resources:

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