In February 2023, the Codex Alimentarius Commission reported the adoption of the revised General Principles of Food Hygiene (CXC 1-1969) during CAC45. One of the key outcomes was the finalisation of the revised CCP Decision Tree by the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene.
An example of a decision tree to identify CCPs (commonly known as the Codex CCP Decision Tree) documented in the previous 2003 version was not included in the September 2020 release. However, Codex HACCP 2020 still made reference to using a decision tree or other approach to identify critical control points (CCPs).
Keep reading to discover how the decision tree works and its importance in identifying critical control points (CCPs) to minimise food safety risks.
Revising the CCP Decision Tree
The revised decision tree was developed by the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH). This committee is made up of 188 members countries and 1 Member Organisation (The European Union).
Discussion by the CCFH highlighted that a decision tree was a very useful tool for both competent authorities and food business operators, in particular small and less developed businesses, in identifying CCPs. It was also noted that the decision tree in the former version of CXC 1-1969 had been globally used and understood by all users.
The Codex CCP Decision Tree
The Codex CCP decision tree involves answering a series of questions in order to identify critical control points (CCPs). This tool that helps to systematically determine which steps in a process are most critical for food safety. By answering a series of questions, businesses can identify areas where food safety risks are highest and implement appropriate controls to minimise those risks.
The Codex CCP decision tree is one example of a decision tree that can be used to identify CCPs. Food businesses are not obligated to use this tool as part of CCP determination. Other tools can also be used as long as they meet the general requirements of Principle 2 – Determine the critical control points (CCPs).
A 4-Step process
The Codex CCP decision tree involves answering four (4) questions. These questions must be answered in order. The answer to each question will either be ‘YES’ or ‘NO’.
Keep in mind that as part of completing a hazard analysis (HACCP Principle 1) you are required to identify ‘significant hazards’. You would therefore use the decision tree to answer the questions about the significant hazards you have identified during that process.
Let’s take a look a the four questions now.
Question 1: Can the significant hazard be controlled to an acceptable level at this step by prerequisite programs (e.g., GHPs)?*
Question 2: Do specific control measures for the identified significant hazard exist at this step?
Question 3: Will a subsequent step prevent or eliminate the identified significant hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level?
Question 4: Can this step specifically prevent or eliminate the identified significant hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level?
There are some provisos included which are annotated with the asterisk symbol(s). These are:
*Consider the significance of the hazard (i.e., the likelihood of occurrence in the absence of control and the severity of impact of the hazard) and whether it could be sufficiently controlled by prerequisite programs such as GHPs. GHPs could be routine GHPs or GHPs that require greater attention to control the hazard (e.g. monitoring and recording).
** If a CCP is not identified at questions 2-4, the process or product should be modified to implement a control measure and a new hazard analysis should be conducted.
***Consider whether the control measure at this step works in combination with a control measure at another step to control the same hazard, in which case both steps should be considered as CCPs.
****Return to the beginning of the decision tree after a new hazard analysis.
When you use the decision tree, make sure to consider the provisos at each step and response where indicated.
Documenting the Codex decision tree process
Like anything HACCP you are required to document your use of the CCP decision tree. The Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) have proposed a example of a CCP determination worksheet that can be used for this purpose. You can see this below.
I have included my take on this example and included it in my Food Safety Plan – HACCP template.
Get up to speed
If you would like to learn how to use this tool to correctly identify your CCPs, register below to be notified of my upcoming free training.
Have your say
What do you think of the revised CCP decision tree compared to the previous version? I personally like the use of prerequisite programs to control significant hazards allocated in question 1. This will work well for those food businesses that have 3rd party GFSI recognised certification. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.