Insight on Non-Conformity in Food Industry

The importance of quality and food safety cannot be neglected in the present business scenario due to extreme competition in the open market. Many food industrialists have understood the importance of implementation of a system that can eliminate non-conformance products, as these may help the company in preventing negative consequences like economical losses and helps to protect the reputation of the brand. The design of a food safety management system for managing non-conformance in the industry may either support or hinder the effectiveness of a continuous improvement policy.

A non-conformance is involved when a process or a system fails to comply with the rules or meet the required specifications of an audit standard(ISO 22000, IRC, BRC, SQC, etc.). A requirement is a need, expectation, or obligation. It can be stated or implied by an organization, its customers, or other interested parties. There are many types of requirements. Some of these include food safety requirements, quality requirements, process requirements, product requirements, customer requirements, management systems requirements, and legal requirements. Whenever your organization fails to meet one of these requirements, a nonconformity occurs, and it mostly occurs in the production and manufacturing processes like Supply chain management, inventory, and material management process, etc. It mainly asks for a rework that requires the involvement of various personnel from the respective departments.

Benefits of Addressing Non-Conformance

There are two reasons why a food business will record non-conformances.

  1. Compliance Requirements – to meet the specific requirements of a customer, standard or regulatory obligation.
  2. Process Improvement – recording non-conformance data can facilitate analysis leading to incremental and continuous improvement in business and operational processes.

Types of Non-Conformities

  1. Product Nonconformances: These non-conformances relate to specific final product issues and defects including food safety issues. They will typically be identified from:
  2. Customer complaints
  3. Product non-conformances arising from operations, production, processing, and handling.
  4. Other third-party sources
  5. Process Nonconformances: Process non-conformances usually relate to issues arising from operations, processing, equipment, and handling. They differ from most other non-conformance types in that they may not relate directly to the effect displayed. Process non-conformances may also relate to downtime, machine problems, hygiene program failures, and so on.
  6. System Nonconformance: These non-conformances relate usually to those detects arising from internal audits of processes and systems. The internal audit system will identify failings which in turn will generate corrective actions. At this point the non-conformance will be categorized for more effective analysis, trending, and reporting.
  7. Material Nonconformances: This category relates to non-conformances of materials and ingredients, as well as non-conformances regarding the quality of service from specific suppliers such as pest control contractors. Specifically, they are non-conformances against the defined specification of the material or service. For example, a delivered ingredient that is over the specified temperature or damaged could cause a material nonconformance. Similarly, if issues such as foreign matter contamination are detected in the material during utilization, these could be a cause for logging a material nonconformance.

Process Flow for Handling Non-Conformance Product

Companies may have many different procedures in place to deal with non-conforming products, but the basic process distills down to six main steps. You need to properly identify the problem, segregate it, disposition the product or service, carry out the decided disposition, and finally, decide if corrective action is needed to prevent a recurrence. Below is an explanation of the five main steps in the Non-conforming Products process.

  1. Identification of Non-Conformance Product

Addressing the non-conformance may rely on knowing not only what is found, but what was expected. It is often equally important to know what the problem isn’t, such as identifying if it has already been determined that this is not a repeat of a similar problem that has previously been found. Properly identifying the problem upfront can prevent wasting time and resources looking at the wrong thing.

  1. Marking with tags, signs, or stickers

There is no universal standard for identifying non-conforming material. A green tag would suffice just the same as a red tag. It is more important that everyone in the organization recognize non-conforming material with the marking identified in your quality assurance manual.

  1. Segregation

Securing the material in a holding cage or designated cabinet specially marked for non-conforming material.

  1. Containment

Whether the corrective action plan requires it to be documented or not, any non-conformance should have containment action. This is a quick response to “stop the bleeding” and is generally taken within 7 days or sooner if a product is about to be shipped out the door. This may also include alerting a customer depending on the nature of the non-conformance, quarantining an item, or an immediate review of a procedure.

  1. Disposition of Non-Conformance Product

The organization may deal with non-conforming products in one or more of the following ways:

EliminationThe non-conforming item can be scrapped or returned to the vendor. It can also include reworking the item to bring it into conformance. If correct, the item shall be re-verified to demonstrate conformity to requirements.

ReleasingBy authorizing its use, release, or acceptance under concession by an authorized representative of the customer. A customer could authorize the use of the non-conforming part as is.

Reprocessingthis disposition would be to change the item to be used for something entirely different from what was intended.


  1. Corrective Action

Finally, after deciding how to fix the product or service, look at why the non-conformance happened, and try to find and fix the cause so that it doesn’t happen again. If this is a recurring problem, then maybe switching the investigation over to the Corrective Action process would allow for greater improvements. Often, the Non-conforming Product process is the biggest input to the Corrective Action process.

Dealing with non-conformity in products and process is one of the most important processes in the food safety management system, therefore Non-conforming Products/processes must be well planned and followed to ensure customer satisfaction. In many ways, customer satisfaction does not just depend on what is expected at first, but also on what is done when the expectations are not met.


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