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Conducting a hazard analysis


A hazard is a biological, chemical or physical agent in a food, that, when not controlled, has the potential to cause illness or injury to a person who consumes it. Food businesses need to determine the biological, chemical and physical hazards that present a risk of contamination of the food and prevent, eliminate or reduce to an acceptable level those hazards using control measures.

Conducting a hazard analysis is the first principle of a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. This approach is effective in identifying, for each food you prepare or import, the food safety hazards at each step of your activities.


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) created this document as guidance to help regulated parties comply with the requirements of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.

It's your choice

You may use other guidance developed by provincial governments, industry associations, international partners or academic bodies as long as they can achieve the same outcome. Always ensure that your hazard analysis is relevant for your particular business, product or products, and market requirements.

What is included

This document provides information on:

Refer to the Tell me more! section for additional sources of information that may help you with your hazard analysis.

What is not included

There are different approaches to analyzing hazards which are not discussed. The method for hazard analysis depends on the size and complexity of the food business. The examples provided are therefore not exhaustive. The actual hazards will be unique for each business.

Roles and responsibilities

Food businesses are responsible for complying with the law. They demonstrate compliance by ensuring that the commodities and processes for which they are responsible meet regulatory requirements. If a written Preventive Control Plan (PCP) is required, the food business develops a PCP with supporting documents, monitors and maintains evidence of its implementation, and verifies that all control measures are effective.

The CFIA verifies the compliance of a food business by conducting activities that include inspection, and surveillance. When non-compliance is identified, the CFIA takes appropriate compliance and enforcement actions.

Conducting a hazard analysis

When conducting a hazard analysis, you identify and evaluate all hazards that present a risk of contamination of the food, and you determine how you control these hazards.

Types of hazards

To identify hazards, you need to understand the types of hazards that your food business needs to control:

Biological hazards include microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and moulds. Some microorganisms, such as Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus, E. coli O157:H7 and Campylobacter jejuni are pathogenic and able to cause foodborne illnesses. Other microorganisms, such as Clostridium botulinum and Staphylococcus aureus, produce harmful toxins. Botulism in particular can have severe health consequences.

Examples of sources of biological hazards include:

Chemical hazards may occur naturally or may be introduced during any stage of food processing. For example, allergens may be introduced either by being present in an ingredient or a component of an ingredient, or through cross-contamination during processing.

Examples of chemical hazards include:

Physical hazards in food include many types of unwanted materials that may be introduced anywhere along the food chain, from primary production up to and including the consumer. Unwanted materials can be introduced by anything or anyone coming in contact with the food, such as people who handle the food, or during processing, transportation or storage. The unwanted materials are considered to be hazards if they can result in illness or injury to anyone who consumes the food.

Examples of physical hazards include:

Step 1. Identify all hazards

To properly identify a hazard, you need to be fully familiar with the food and processing steps, be knowledgeable about food hazards and have a good understanding of how they can be controlled. One approach to identifying potential hazards is to use a multidisciplinary team of people from within or outside the company. In some cases, you may want to hire an outside consultant and/or resource centre for this step.

If you're an importer, your hazard analysis includes the hazards associated with your foreign supplier's manufacturing processes and the hazards associated with the shipping, handling and storage conditions of the imported foods.

Preparing a list of hazards

To identify all potential hazards for a food, prepare a list of biological, chemical and physical hazards that may reasonably be expected or likely to occur from:

Be thorough and methodical

If you miss, at this step, hazards likely to occur, you will not be evaluating them in Step 2, placing the entire food safety control system in jeopardy.

Base your hazard identification on:

In your list of identified hazards, include the name of the pathogen (for example, Listeria monocytogenes) or the type of physical hazard (for example, glass fragments), the conditions that are associated with it (for example, presence, survival, growth, contamination), and the reason for the hazard. For example:

Step 2. Evaluate each hazard

Determine whether the hazards identified in Step 1 are reasonably likely to occur and how severely they could affect the health of consumers.

In evaluating the likelihood that a hazard will occur:

Base your evaluation of the severity of a hazard on:

Determining whether a hazard is significant is important! This helps you identify the critical control points (CCPs). If you miss a significant hazard, it will not be controlled appropriately. On the other hand, if you put unnecessary CCPs in place for hazards that are not significant, you're diverting your business' efforts from activities that have a real impact on food safety.

The Preventive control plan templates – for domestic food businesses provide examples of ways you can document the identification and evaluation of potential hazards.


Step 3. Determine the control measures

After you have identified all potential hazards that are reasonably likely to occur for your specific operation, the next steps are to determine how you would control each of those hazards:

Refer to the Preventive control plan templates – for domestic food businesses for an example of a Control measure template that you can use to capture the information.

When there is no control measure for a significant hazard

When you identify a hazard as significant, a control measure is necessary for food safety. If you do not have a control measure for a significant hazard at the step it was identified, or any other step, then you need to modify the product or process, at that step or at an earlier or later stage, to include a control measure.

Keep in mind

Your hazard analysis should be reviewed and updated periodically to ensure any new hazards are identified and evaluated.

Document your hazard analysis

If your food business is required to document the hazard analysis, you keep on file and have readily available any information used to identify and evaluate the hazards associated with your operations, as well as the results of the hazard analysis.

Tell me more! Further reading

The following references contain information that helps explain food safety controls, demonstrates how to develop them, and provides examples. The CFIA is not responsible for the content of documents that are created by other government agencies or international sources.

CFIA references

Other references

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