Food Safety and Corrective Actions

Taking corrective action when a food safety hazard exceeds acceptable limits is a critical part of food safety.
Food Safety and Corrective Actions
September 25, 2019

What are corrective actions?

Corrective actions are the actions that must be taken if a critical limit is exceeded at any step of food production in a food business (e.g. delivery, storage, preparation).

Critical limits mark the minimum or maximum acceptable level of an identified food safety hazard at each critical control point (CCP). The 2 hour / 4 hour rule, for example, identifies the maximum acceptable amount of time that food can be in the Temperature Danger Zone (5°C – 60°C) before it must be thrown out.

There are two types of corrective action: immediate and preventative. Immediate corrective actions are reactive, whereas preventative corrective actions are proactive.


An immediate corrective action fixes an existing problem or deviation from a critical limit. It stops a food safety breach that is happening now.

Some examples of immediate corrective actions are:

  • throwing out food items that show signs of spoilage (e.g. bad smell, slimy skin)
  • rejecting a food delivery with bite marks on the packaging (or other signs of pest infestation)
  • transferring unrefrigerated perishable food items into cold storage (5°C or below)
  • disposing of food items that have been in the Temperature Danger Zone for more than four hours
  • sending an employee home if they are experiencing symptoms of food-borne illness (e.g. fever, nausea, diarrhoea)


A preventative corrective action prevents a potential problem from happening. It stops a breach from occurring in the future.

Some examples of preventative corrective actions are:

  • repairing broken, cracked or chipped equipment, dishware or glassware
  • replacing food preparation surfaces (e.g. chopping boards, countertops) with cracks or deep scratches
  • changing work procedures to improve food safety and / or quality
  • appointing a Food Safety Supervisor to manage food safety risks in the business
  • ensuring that all staff receive comprehensive food safety training

Recording corrective actions

Corrective actions must be recorded and communicated to the appropriate person(s) in the business. The record should include details of the food safety breach (e.g. what critical limit was exceeded at what critical control point), details about the corrective action that was taken and why it was taken.

Recording corrective actions makes it possible to identify recurring problems and trends that could be putting customers at risk — and sending operational costs through the roof.

For example, if there is a very high number of immediate corrective actions related to spoiled food, it could mean that there are underlying issues related to:

  • ineffective inventory management (e.g. ordering too much)
  • poor stock control (e.g. not practising First In, First Out)
  • gaps in employee food safety knowledge or skills (e.g. poor understanding of food safety risks and how to prevent food safety hazards)

Food safety in Australia

Corrective actions is principle five of the seven principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), a food safety and risk assessment system that forms the basis of Food Safety Plans worldwide.

To protect the public from food poisoning, food allergens and other health risks, Australian food businesses are required to:

Food businesses in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) are also required to appoint a Food Safety Supervisor who has completed a nationally recognised Food Safety Supervisor course.

Want more information about food safety and business requirements in Australia? Contact us. We’re here to help.