Critical Limit

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: April 22, 2022

What Does Critical Limit Mean?

A critical limit is the value to which a biological, chemical, or physical factor must be controlled to prevent food safety hazards.

Critical limits are based on factors such as:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Moisture level
  • pH
  • Water activity (Aw)
  • Time
  • Salt concentration
  • Preservatives

Production processes that fail to stay within the bounds of the critical limits must be stopped or the products must be discarded.

Safeopedia Explains Critical Limit

The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) is a system for ensuring food safety, from harves to consumption. its seven steps are:

  1. Hazard Analysis: Listing the steps in the process and identifying where food safety hazards could occur
  2. Identifying Critical Control Points (CCPs): CCPs are points in the process where controls should be applied to eliminate or minimize hazards
  3. Establishing Critical Limits: The maximum or minimum value to which a biological, chemical, or physical parameter must be controlled at a critical control point
  4. Monitoring CCPs: A continuous or regular measuring of critical limits to ensure that they are not exceeded
  5. Establishing Corrective Action: Drafting a set of procedures to be followed when a deviation from the critical limit is observed
  6. Verification: Activities that determine the validity of the HACCP plan and that the system is operating according to plan
  7. Recordkeeping: Recording information to document that the food was produced safely and in accordance with the other steps in the HACCP system

One of the primary concerns throughout these steps is identifying critical limits and ensuring that they are never exceeded.

The Role of Critical Limits

Critical limits are the conditions under which potential hazards can be controlled, reduced, or eliminated. They are monitored by observation or measurement, such as measuring the temperature of food storage to avoid spoilage.

In the case of E. coli in chicken, for instance, a specified minimum cooking time and temperature to eliminate potential contamination can act as a critical limit. This cooking time and temperature would be two of the critical limits that must be met in order to ensure that the food is safe for consumption.

Records should be mtained to ensure that critical limits have been met. Deviations should be taken seriously, with corrective measures implemented swiftly.

The HACCP system and, by extension, critical limits are not about inspecting finished consumables. Rather, their purpose is to prevent contaminated or otherwise unsafe food from making it to market and being sold to consumers.


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