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Why are Corrective Actions so Important?

February 20, 2020

By Tammie Van Buren, Manager, Compliance

Simply put, a correction is an immediate action taken to fix an issue identified during an audit or while monitoring and corrective action works to resolve the root cause of the issue. Preventative action is one taken to prevent a food safety problem in the future. Often the terms are used interchangeably,
but each has its place in addressing food safety issues.

Corrective and preventative action is a mandatory element of the SQF Code. Outlined in 2.5.3, this element is impacted by several other elements. Nonconformities requiring corrective actions can be initiated through internal and external audits, management reviews, complaint management, and food defense tests to name a few. This process has the potential to impact almost all other elements of the code.

Keep Key Words in Mind

In order to effectively meet the requirements in 2.5.3.1, we must keep several keywords in mind. They are responsibility, methods, documentation, implementation, corrections, and corrective actions.

The words responsibility and methods are vital throughout the entire system and can be found in several elements.  Auditors are looking for a documented process on the “who” and the “how”. Evidence must be available to support the effective implementation of this process.

Correction Action Defined

Corrections and corrective actions are defined in Appendix 2: Glossary of the code.

A correction is “action to eliminate a detected non-conformity.”  Corrective action is an action to eliminate the cause of a detected nonconformity. The key difference between a correction and a corrective action is that one focuses on non-conformity itself, whereas the other focuses on the cause of the non-conformity. An example of correction might be a site identifying that there is peeling paint at their site and removing the peeling paint. They have made a correction. Corrective action would eliminate peeling paint in that area in the future through a change in the type of paint used or eliminating paint in that area altogether.  A correction fixes the immediate problem.  A corrective action focuses on preventing it from reoccurring by addressing the root cause. 

Manage Your Corrective Action Problem Solving Toolbox

Each site’s problem-solving process could be compared to a toolbox.  There are numerous ways to get to the root cause of a problem.  It is a matter of selecting the right tool.  It is suggested that you stock your toolbox with a variety of tools to match the array of nonconformities that you will encounter. Cause and effect diagrams and “5 Whys” are two different tools that are commonly used but we encourage you to consider other types.

See Tip Sheet 11: CORRECTION, CORRECTIVE ACTION AND PREVENTATIVE ACTION

SQFI provides guidance documents to assist with the implementation of all elements of the code.  If additional information is needed, please contact compliance@sqfi.com for assistance.

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