There is a considerable literature on microbiological hazards which cause food- borne diseases and illnesses, and factors which influence their occurrence and growth in foods. Similarly, stages in the food chain where foods may be mishandled, and practices which often lead to outbreaks of food-borne diseases are well documented. Although these hazards and practices can be controlled in order to prevent or minimise risks to health, food- borne diseases have continued to present a serious challenge to public health. Because the traditional approaches of inspection and end-product testing have proved inadequate in tack ling the problem of food-borne diseases, there is an urgent need to apply more rational and effective strategies. One such strategy is the Hazard Analysis, Critical Control Points (HACCP) system which is currently in international discussion. This paper examines the epidemio logical basis for the application of HACCP to food safety control and describes its advantages. It is concluded that to realise the objectives of HACCP, a flexible and simple approach is needed in its practical application across food businesses. Any argument that the system cannot be applied without fully developed and well structured food systems will ultimately reduce its potential usefulness in food safety control. © 1995, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.