The impetus behind modern HACCP programs first began as a natural extension of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) that food companies had been using as a part of their normal operations. A system was needed that enabled the production of safe, nutritional products for use by NASA starting in the late 1950's to feed future astronauts who would be separated from medical care for extended periods of time. Without medical intervention, an astronaut sickened by foodborne illness would prove a very large liability and could possibly result in the failure of entire missions. Food products could not be recalled or replaced while in space.

Beginning in 1959, the Pillsbury company embarked on work with NASA to further develop a process stemming from ideas employed in engineering systems development know as Failure Mode & Effect Analysis (FMEA). Through the thorough analysis of production processes and identification of microbial hazards that were known to occur in the production establishment, Pillsbury and NASA identified the critical points in the process at which these hazards were likely introduced into product and therefore should be controlled.

The establishment of critical limits of specific mechanical or test parameters for control at those points, the validation of these prescribed steps by scientifically verifiable results, and the development of record keeping by which the processing establishment and the regulatory authority could monitor how well process control was working all culminated in what today is known as HACCP. In this way, an expensive or time consuming testing procedure is not required to guarantee the safety of each piece of food leaving an assembly line, but rather the entire process has been seamlessly integrated as a series of validated steps.

In 1971 the HACCP approach was presented at the first American National Conference for Food Protection. 1973 saw the US FDA apply HACCP to Low Acid Canned Foods Regulations, although if you read those regulations carefully, you will note that they never actually mention HACCP. From 1988 to the present day, HACCP principles have been promoted and incorporated into food safety legislation in many countries around the world.