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Guide for preparing a preventive control plan for domestic food businesses

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This guide is intended for domestic food businesses that are required to have a preventive control plan (PCP) under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). You can consult the Would you need a preventive control plan? tool to determine if you need a preventive control.

A PCP is a written plan outlining how you ensure that food is safe and fit for consumption and conforms to consumer protection and animal welfare requirements, as applicable. Using preventive controls to prevent, eliminate or reduce to an acceptable (safe) level hazards associated with food products is an internationally accepted approach based on the Codex Alimentarius General Principles of Food Hygiene CAC/RCP 1-1969 – PDF (549 kb).

Preventive control plans are not a new concept for many food businesses. For example, federal meat and fish processors already have in place food safety systems such as the Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) and the Quality Management Program (QMP). These programs are examples of a PCP.

This document provides guidance for domestic food businesses on how to prepare the food safety and consumer protection components of a PCP. Information on the animal welfare component can be found in the Guidelines for the humane care and handling of food animals during slaughter activities. Businesses that import or export food can refer to the documents A Guide for Preparing a Preventive Control Plan – For Importers and Step by Step Guide to Food Export for guidance on how to prepare their PCP.

It's your choice

You may use other PCP approaches that have been developed by other food safety authorities, industry associations, international partners, or academia. Always ensure that the information in your PCP is tailored for your particular business, foods, and market requirements. You are responsible for ensuring that your written PCP meets the requirements of the SFCR.

A) Developing your preventive control plan

Under section 89(1)(c) of the SFCR, a written PCP includes the following:

In addition, the written PCP includes the following:

Your written PCP may also need to include additional content related to food for import or export and for post-mortem programs referred to in sections 89(4), (5) and (6) of the SFCR.

Keep in mind

The Would you need a preventive control plan? tool can help you determine if you need to prepare a written PCP.

The infographics on food hazards and preventive controls provides a basic overview of the key elements of a PCP.

The examples of templates available in the Preventive control plan templates – for domestic food businesses further illustrate what's in a PCP.

The following steps will guide you through the process of developing the food safety and consumer protection aspects of a written PCP for your domestic food operation.

Step 1: Assemble your team

Developing, implementing and maintaining an effective PCP depends on knowledgeable and experienced management and employees working together to identify food safety hazards and how to control them.

Include key people on your team to cover all aspects of your food operation for developing the PCP. Consider using people that:

Some ways of enabling your team to develop your PCP are to:

Step 2: Ensure the establishment is operated and maintained as required

The first task is to make sure that how you operate and maintain your establishment meets the requirements applicable to your operation in sections 50 to 81 of the SFCR.

The requirements covered in sections 50 to 81 are the basic practices a food business must follow to reduce the risk of introducing hazards to the food through the processing environment.

For more information on these requirements, refer to the Regulatory requirements: Preventive controls web page

Step 3: Perform a hazard analysis and establish procedures

The next step is to perform a hazard analysis on your food, determine control measures and document it all by applying the following process.

Step 3.1 Hazard analysis

For each food product, identify and describe any hazards (biological, chemical and physical) that may be reasonably expected to contaminate the food through:

Keep in mind

You may choose to use the expertise of a trade or professional association or a consultant to help you analyze potential biological, chemical and physical hazards, and develop your PCP. The references listed at the end of this guide may also be useful.

The Reference Database for Hazard Identification (RDHI) is also available to help you identify potential hazards in food processing.

Step 3.2 Control measures

Identify and describe the control measure(s) that control each hazard in your hazard analysis. Include the following details in the description of your control measures:

Document the evidence that shows that your control measures are capable of controlling the hazard. More information on how to demonstrate the effectiveness of your control measures can be found in the model system Evidence showing a control measure is effective.

Step 3.3 Critical control points

Determine if there are any critical control points in your process. Critical control points (CCP) are the steps in your process where a control measure is applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.

Keep in mind

If the identification of CCPs is new to you, the Preventive control plan templates – for domestic food businesses contains a series of questions that will guide you through the process.

If you identify any CCPs, describe the critical limits for each of them. Critical limits are the maximum and/or minimum set values that control a hazard at a critical control point.

For every CCP, develop and document:


Step 3.4 Verification

Establish verification procedures to demonstrate that the control measures in your PCP are implemented as written and are effective in preventing food safety hazards, resulting in compliance with the SFCR.


Refer to the document Verification procedures for additional information.

Step 4: Establish measures for consumer protection requirements

Describe the measures you have in place to meet the applicable consumer protection provisions (such as labelling, packaging, grading, standards of identity and net quantity) referred to in sections 89(1)(a) and (b) of the SFCR.

Step 5: Assemble your documents

Compile your:

You have now developed the food safety and consumer protection components of your written PCP.

B) Implementing your preventive control plan

Once you have developed your written PCP, you need to implement it into your day-to-day operations. This involves:


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will verify during inspections that your PCP is complete, implemented and effective.

C) Maintaining your preventive control plan

Once you have developed and implemented your PCP, maintain it by reassessing it at a frequency appropriate to your food business, for example annually, and revising it as necessary.

The PCP also needs to be reassessed and revised when:

Reassessing your plan includes reviewing records and conducting on-site assessments of all preventive controls.

Keep in mind

You also need to meet the investigation, notification, complaints, and recall requirements referred to in sections 82 to 85 of the SFCR.

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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