This article is written to meet the following sections of the Standards:

BRCGS Food Safety Issue 83.7 Corrective and preventive actions
BRCGS Packaging Issue 63.6 Corrective and preventive action
BRCGS Agents & Brokers Issue 33.9 Corrective and preventive actions
BRCGS Storage & Distribution Issue 43.3 Corrective and preventive action
FSSC22000 Version 5.1ISO 22000: 10.1 Nonconformity and corrective action
IFS Food Version 75.11 Corrective actions
SQF Edition 92.5.3 Corrective and preventative action

Root cause analysis

Root cause analysis is a process of investigating an identified problem to understand the fundamental cause of a non-conformance.

The method of root cause analysis must identify appropriate preventive actions, to prevent the recurrence of the non-conformance.

Completing root cause analysis


A root cause analysis procedure must be in place which details:

  • Who’s authorised to complete the root cause analysis.
  • That staff carrying out root cause analysis must be trained.
  • The method that must be used to conduct the root cause analysis.
  • How the root cause analysis is recorded.
  • That identified preventive actions must be recorded.


Root cause analysis must be carried out when:

  • There’s a trend in non‑conformances, complaints or non-conforming products.
  • There’s a significant increase in a particular type of non-conformance.
  • A non-conformance which places the safety, legality, authenticity or quality of a material at risk.
  • Non-conformances occur on external audits.
  • There’s a failure of in-line testing equipment.
  • Non-conforming product is unsafe.
  • A withdrawal or recall occurs.


Five whys

This is where you define what the problem was and then, you ask why it occurred. When you have the first why, you ask why again and so on, until you get to the root cause of the problem. Typically, it’s supposed to take asking why, five times, before you get to the root cause of the problem.

In some cases, depending on what questions are asked, it may take more or less than five whys to get to the root cause.

The fishbone

Another method is the fishbone. This is also known as the cause-and-effect tool. Using this method, you draw a fishbone diagram and add the six headings, which typically are: material, measurement, machine, method, environment and people.

Then under each bone, you brainstorm the effects that each of the causes had.

The affinity diagram

Using the affinity diagram method, you describe the problem, then a team brainstorms the possible causes for the problem. All of the ideas are recorded, without discussion on their validity. Once this is done, the ideas are grouped together under headings.

The is, is not method

In this method you define the problem, then you ask questions about the problem. The questions can be based on the six causes we discussed earlier, of material, measurement, machine, method, environment and people. For example, you might ask: Is the method at fault? Then, you list what ‘is’ at fault with the method. Then you list what ‘is not’ at fault with the method, and so on.

Smart analysis

This is a method developed by Techni-K which takes the beneficial aspects from the current methods and fills the gaps, to provide you with a comprehensive step-by-step method to use.

We teach this method and how to apply it, step-by-step as part of our ‘completing root cause analysis’ mini training. This methodology is also included in Pack 3: Continuous improvement eDocs.

Continuous Improvement eDocs

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