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PCR or LAMP: Food Safety Considerations when Choosing Molecular Detection Methods

By Joy Dell’Aringa, Vikrant Dutta, Ph.D.
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Food microbiology pathogen detection technology is constantly evolving and improving for fast, efficient and accurate analysis. Thanks to the wide commercialization of easy-to-use diagnostic kits, the end-user no longer needs a deep understanding of the intricacies of diagnostic chemistries to perform the analysis. However, when navigating the selection process in search of the technology that is best fit-for-purpose, it is critical to understand the key differences in principle of detection and how they can impact both operations and risk. Here, we will explore the difference between two broad categories of molecular pathogen detection: PCR and isothermal technologies such as LAMP.

PCR & LAMP Detection Chemistries: An Overview

PCR detection chemistries have come a long way from non-specific DNA-binding dyes like SYBR Green, to highly precise sequence-specific molecular probes. The efficiency of the real-time PCR reaction today allows for the use of a variety of detection probes, the most popular being Dual-Labeled Fluorescent Probes such as FRET, TaqMan probes, and Molecular Beacon probes.1 The precision of these probes is showcased in their ability to distinguish allelic single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).2,3 The most prevalent isothermal chemistry, Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP), typically does not use molecular probes due to the lack of structure and formation consistency in its amplified products. As a result, LAMP mostly relies on detection through non-specific signal generation like ATP bioluminescence or non-specific dyes. In theory, this could come from specific and non-specific amplification events. This also makes LAMP inept to detect the allelic polymorphisms, which in some cases are critical to detecting crucial variations, like between close species, and within serotypes. In the end, the detection chemistries are only as good as the amplified products.

Key Takeaways:

  • PCR technology has improved greatly in detection efficiencies via target specific probes
  • LAMP technology typically does not utilize specific molecular probes, but instead relies on indirect signal generation
  • Target specific probes ensures signal from specific amplification events only
  • Indirect signal can come from specific and non-specific amplification events, which can lead to a reduced specificity and inability to detect in certain cases

PCR & LAMP: Amplification Strategies

Food safety pathogen detection protocols aim to find the single cell of a target organism lurking in a relatively large sample. In order to achieve detection, molecular technologies utilize amplification strategies to increase the concentration of target DNA to a detectable level. Nucleic acid amplifications in both PCR and isothermal technologies start by making a variety of amplified products. These products include non-specific amplifications (NSA), and specific (target) amplifications.4,5,6,7 Ideally, the concentration of the desired target amplified product increases over time to levels above NSA where the detection chemistries are able to provide a detectable signal from the desired amplified product (target). Various reaction components such as: Target DNA concentration, polymerase, buffers and primers play a defining role in maintaining the progressive amplification dynamics, and thereby act as core contributors to the robustness of the reaction. However, none play a more crucial contribution to the success of a reaction than temperature. Herein lies a key difference between the fundamentals of PCR and Isothermal amplification technologies.

Key Takeaways:

  • PCR and LAMP both make a variety of amplification products: Non-Specific (NSA) and Specific (target)
  • Ideally, target products increase above the levels of NSA to reach a reliable detectable signal
  • A variety of factors contribute to the overall robustness of the reaction

What Is the Difference between PCR and Isothermal Detection Technologies?

A key foundational difference between the two technologies lies in the utilization of the thermal profiles. PCR utilizes thermocycling, while isothermal does not. This difference is the tether around how the different amplification chemistries work. In PCR, the cyclical denaturation of DNA during thermocycling separates all dimers (specific and non-specific). As the reaction progresses, this leads to frequent correction of the amplification dynamics away from the NSA and favors amplification of the desired target amplifications. Isothermal chemistries do not have the ability to correct the NSA through thermocycling, so it must rely on alternate mechanisms to achieve the same result. For example, LAMP utilizes “nested” primers where the primer sequences outside the target region are used to create early amplification products. These are subsequently used as a template for the desired target amplifications. The presence of these extra primers, along with the diverse amplified structures formed during the LAMP reaction, creates many more opportunities for NSA production.5,8,9 This causes a less controlled and inefficient amplification, and is perhaps why the preheating of the DNA prior to the LAMP has shown to increase the LAMP sensitivity.10, 11 To the end user, this inefficiency can manifest itself in various ways such as restricted multiplexing, lack of internal amplification control, complex assay design, tedious sample prep methods, and increased chance for inaccurate results (i.e., false positives and false negatives).12 Scientific literature does provide a fair amount of evidence that, under controlled conditions, the isothermal amplification reaction can provide equivalent results to PCR. Isothermal chemistries also usually require simplified instruments and thereby can present interesting opportunities in non-conventional test environments with simple and predictable matrices. This likely explains the early footing of isothermal technologies in the clinical test environment as a “point of care test” (POCT) alternative. However, it must also be noted that recently PCR has also been adapted and successfully commercialized for the POCT format.13,14

Key Takeaways:

  • PCR utilizes thermocycling, Isothermal does not
  • In PCR, thermocycling allows for the reaction to favor the target amplification over the NSA
  • LAMP must rely on alternate mechanisms to correct for NSA and these mechanisms lead to a less controlled and therefore inefficient amplification
  • Under controlled conditions, isothermal technology can provide equivalent results to PCR
  • Low instrumentation requirements make isothermal technologies interesting for non-conventional test environments (i.e. POCT); however, PCR has also been recently adapted as a POCT

Internal Amplification Controls in Molecular Pathogen Detection Technologies: The Value & The Challenges

The purpose of an internal amplification control (IAC) is to provide an indication of the efficacy of the test reaction chemistry. The closer the IAC is to the target DNA sequence, the better view into the inner workings of each reaction. For food microbiology testing, the role of the IAC is more important now than ever. Driven by regulations, industry self-accountability and brand protection initiatives, more food laboratories are testing diverse product types with novel and innovative formulations and ingredients. IAC capability not only helps with troubleshooting, but it also allows for a more confident adoption of the technology for new and diverse food and environmental matrices.

Over the years, PCR has progressively developed into a robust and efficient technology that can provide a dynamic IAC, giving the end user a direct look into the compatibility of the test matrix within the PCR reaction. From a single reaction, we can now make a qualitative assessment of whether the crude DNA prep from a matrix undergoing testing is working with this PCR or if it is inhibiting the reaction. With legacy technologies, including the older generation PCR’s, we were limited to an “it-did-not-work” scenario, leaving the end user blind to any insights into the reason. Since isothermal chemistries typically do not have an IAC, the end user is vulnerable to false results. Even when isothermal chemistries such as nicking enzyme amplification reaction (NEAR) can provide IAC, they typically do not mimic the target reaction and, therefore, are not a direct indicator of the reaction dynamics. This limits the end user back to the “it-did-not-work” scenario. LAMP technology attempts to mitigate the absence of IAC by performing a separate and external reaction with each test matrix. This strategy leaves the final result vulnerable to a number of factors that are otherwise non-existent for IAC: Sampling variations, reagent and machine anomalies, and user error. External control approaches also have a notable impact to the end user, as the burden to demonstrate fit-for-purpose of the method for even the smallest matrix composition change increases both validation and verification activities, which can have a notable financial impact to the laboratory.

There are a few reasons why IAC incorporation is not always plausible for isothermal technologies such as LAMP. First, inefficient, less-controlled amplification reactions leave little room for reliable and meaningful supplementary reactions, like the ones required for IAC. Second, the lack of consistent amplified products make it much more difficult to pinpoint a DNA structure that can be dependably used as an IAC. Third, lack of specific detection mechanisms makes it hard to distinguish signal from the target versus the IAC reaction.

Key Takeaways:

  • Internal amplification controls (IAC) are critical for the food industry due to complex and ever-changing matrix formulations
  • IAC is useful for troubleshooting, optimizing assay performance, and adapting test for novel matrices
  • PCR has evolved to provide dynamic IAC, leading to increased confidence in results
  • LAMP is not able to utilize IAC due to the nature of the amplification products, reaction efficiency, and lack of specific detection mechanisms

Follow the link to page 2 below.

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How Workflow Advances Raise the Bar in LC-MS/MS Veterinary Drug Quantitation

By Ed George
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In the modern world, it’s often taken for granted that consumers can head to their local grocery store and fill their baskets with a broad range of meat, poultry, fish and dairy produce. Yet the plentiful availability of these products is possible, to a large extent, thanks to modern farming methods that rely on veterinary drugs to promote healthy animal growth, protect livestock from contracting diseases, and in some cases provide aesthetic qualities to food.

Despite the important role veterinary drugs play in farming and food production, usage must be carefully controlled, as their inappropriate administration can have adverse effects on animals, the environment and human health. A particular concern is the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance, which can be promoted in the environment by the overuse of some of these veterinary drugs.

As a result, the analysis of veterinary drugs forms an important part of routine food safety and quality control testing. However, the wide range of residue concentrations required to be quantified, along with the diverse sample matrices and chemical properties of multiple classes of veterinary drugs placed in a single analytical method, pose significant analytical challenges. The latest multi-residue, multi-class analytical workflow solutions using a generic sample preparation method and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) are overcoming these issues to provide a robust, sensitive method for the extraction, detection, confirmation, and quantitation of veterinary drugs below their required maximum residue limits (MRLs).

Meeting the Needs of Veterinary Drug Analysis Workflows

Given the need to accurately and reliably quantify veterinary drugs in food, testing workflows must be both sensitive and operationally robust. Importantly, workflows must be amenable to a variety of different matrices, including meat, fish and dairy, and should be capable of screening for drug molecules with a broad range of physicochemical properties. The sample preparation protocols that are employed must minimize the loss of analytes and be sufficiently simple and cost effective to enable routine laboratory use. Additionally, the separation steps that are employed must be sufficiently rugged and should ideally be able to handle any analyte and matrix. Finally, the methods used to identify and quantify samples must be sufficiently selective and sensitive to detect and confirm drug molecules and their metabolites at trace levels.

Developing methods that can meet all of these criteria for a wide range of drug molecules and food matrices, while minimizing the potential for false positive and negative results, is not straightforward and has proven challenging for the industry. As a result, many analytical methodologies have emerged that are typically limited in scope to a limited number of residues or specific chemical classes, are labor intensive, and require extensive sample preparation and clean-up. Fortunately, ongoing advances in veterinary drug analysis workflows are helping to drive the adoption of standardized protocols that have universal applicability.

QuEChERS: Making Sample Preparation Quick, Easy and Reliable

Sample preparation is a key first step in veterinary drug analysis workflows, but its importance is often overlooked. Even with the most advanced downstream separation and detection technologies, workflows are liable to generate poor quantitative results without reliable residue extraction methods.Having robust sample preparation protocols is especially important given the heterogeneous nature of the sample matrix and the different physicochemical properties of the residues that must be extracted.

Traditional approaches, based on sample homogenization and multi-step solvent extraction procedures, were time-consuming and did not always produce consistent results. The loss of residues during sample grinding or through the formation of insoluble drug-matrix complexes would often impact the accuracy of measurements. Moreover, the need for labor-intensive sample cleanup steps, based on separation methods such as gel permeation chromatography, added additional complexity to workflows.

The widespread adoption of universal sample preparation protocols based on QuEChERS (Quick, Easy, Cheap, Effective, Rugged and Safe) methods has simplified the process of extracting veterinary drugs from matrix samples. These approaches have been specifically designed to be quick and easy to implement, and enable high extraction efficiency with a very broad range of chemical properties from a variety of matrices. As a result, QuEChERS has proven to be a very reliable means of preparing samples for veterinary drug analysis.

The universal suitability of the QuEChERS approach has reduced the complexity of sample preparation workflows to such an extent that many suppliers now offer kits containing pre-weighed reagents that can be used straight from the box. Moreover, because they only require small amounts of sample and solvent, and little in the way of equipment, these easy-to-use methods are helping laboratories minimize waste and make workflows more cost-effective.

Triple Quadrupole MS: Design Improvements Driving Exceptional Sensitivity

LC-MS/MS has rapidly established itself as the go-to technique for sensitive and reliable veterinary drug analysis, with set-ups based on ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) systems and triple quadrupole mass spectrometers proving to be particularly effective. With drug residues typically on the parts per billion scale, these systems have proven to be more than capable of delivering the level of performance that’s required when working with analytes that require low detection limits.

What’s more, recent advances in triple quadrupole mass spectrometer technologies are pushing the limits of quantitation even further. Improved instrument designs based on segmented quadrupoles, more powerful electron multipliers and enhanced ion transmission optics are enabling food analysis laboratories to achieve even greater levels of experimental sensitivity, mass accuracy, selectivity and precision. These performance improvements are allowing analysts to make more confident decisions around every sample.

ion chromatogram, salmon extract sample
Figure 1. Total extracted ion chromatogram of salmon extract sample at 1× STC. Results obtained using a Thermo Scientific Vanquish Flex Binary UHPLC system and a Thermo Scientific TSQ Altis triple quadrupole mass spectrometer. (Click to enlarge)

The capabilities of the latest generation of triple quadrupole LC-MS/MS systems for quantitative veterinary drug analysis were put to the test in a recent study. More than 170 veterinary drugs were added directly to a variety of homogenized matrices, including bovine muscle, milk, and salmon fillet using a QuEChERS sample preparation protocol to create a series of matrix extracted spikes (MES). The concentration of residues in the MES samples referenced a chosen screening target concentration (STC), which was typically one-third to one-quarter of the defined European Union MRL for each residue/matrix combination. Figure 1 presents the total extracted ion chromatogram for an MES sample of salmon fillet at the STC, obtained with a binary UHPLC system and a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer.

For each analyte, calibration curves were constructed using replicate measurements of each of the MES samples at seven concentrations ranging from one-fifth to five times that of the STC. Figure 2 highlights the calibration curve constructed for ethyl violet, a therapeutic dye used in aquaculture, in

Calibration curve, salmon extract
Figure 2. Calibration curve generated for ethyl violet in salmon extract (0.2–5.0 ng/g). (Click to enlarge)

the range 0.2 to 5.0 ng/g (STC = 1 ng/g). The calculated method detection limit of 0.03 ng/g for this compound in salmon fillet demonstrates confidence in the results well below the minimum required performance limit (MRPL).

LC-MS/MS: Leading the Way in Workflow Robustness

With potentially hundreds of samples to analyze every week, veterinary drug analysis workflows not only demand the highest levels of sensitivity, but also exceptional speed and robustness.
One way in which greater throughput can be achieved is by using shorter instrument dwell times, an experimental optimization that allows more compounds to be analyzed within a given timeframe during a chromatographic separation. Traditionally, the use of shorter dwell times would typically require sacrificing some measurement sensitivity. However, the latest advances in triple quadrupole instrument design are ensuring short dwell times no longer come at the expense of analytical performance.

Timed selected dreaction monitoring (SRM) is an effective strategy that allows analysts to overcome this challenge to achieve sensitivity with high throughput. Using timed SRM, data acquisition occurs within a short retention time window. This reduces the number of transitions that are monitored in parallel for each residue peak, while ensuring consistent quantitation even at low concentrations. Instrument control system software can automatically optimize the SRM conditions across the chromatographic run, maximizing operational efficiency with minimal need for manual input.

Instrument uptime is another factor that is of paramount importance for veterinary analysis workflows. With large workloads and tight turnaround times, regular instrument recalibration and frequent maintenance can be a major frustration for busy food testing laboratories. UHPLC is renowned for its operational robustness and suitability for fast-paced routine screening workflows, and the latest instruments are taking this reputation to an even higher level.

Comparison of injections of bovine muscle extract
Figure 3. Comparison of injections of bovine muscle extract MES at 3× STC over 500 injections (A: injection #20; B: injection #260; C: injection #500). Analytes shown: cyromazine (black), ciprofloxacin (red), sulfamethoxazole (green) and flunixin (blue). (Click to enlarge)

Figure 3 compares injections of bovine muscle extract at 3× STC over a 500-injection run that took place over a period of one week, obtained using the experimental set-up described earlier. Despite continuous operation over this extended period, the peak shape, intensity and retention time stability are maintained. These results further highlight the robustness of the LC-MS/MS system for routine veterinary drug testing.

Conclusion

Enforcing the responsible use of veterinary drugs in farming and food production depends upon comprehensive, sensitive, robust and reliable workflows capable of delivering quantitative results. Advances in sample preparation techniques and LC-MS/MS technologies are setting new standards when it comes to confident multi-residue veterinary drug analysis. From the development of reliable easy-to-use QuEChERS protocols, through to robust UHPLC separation methods and sensitive triple quadrupole mass spectrometers, improvements across the workflow are driving exceptional performance—whatever the matrix, whatever the residue.

Melanie Bradley, Partech

Tech Spotlight: Using Technology to Improve Processes in the Supply Chain

By Melanie Bradley
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Melanie Bradley, Partech

Whether driven by regulatory factors or brand protection, the food industry has adopted advanced monitoring and management technologies to maintain and support modern day food safety cultures and operations within companies. This type of technology utilizes checklists and sensors designed to monitor and gather data. Typically, these are built into handheld devices that store collected information in the cloud. The stored data is instantly accessible for management to monitor. Additionally, the FDA demands that two years worth of records be on hand during an inspection. Instead of sorting through copious piles and file drawers of paper, the information can be pulled directly from the database and presented to the inspectors.

In an effort to improve the operation, food companies should adopt new processes to be proactive and ditch the old days of manually tracking and recording temperature data. Utilizing this type of technology ensures consistency, transparency and quality. Not to mention the increase in efficiency and savings over time.

Perhaps the most powerful technological methodology to implement is using the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve processes in the supply chain. How is IoT relevant for a food safety strategy? In an integrated approach to food safety, IoT temperature sensors dispersed throughout the cold and hot food chain, coupled with a food safety/task management system for taking HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) required food safety temperature measurements, provides unprecedented visibility and traceability, for an end-to-end food safety strategy for grocery stores or restaurants. It’s worth noting that customers are not necessarily looking for an IoT solution when they start the process for acquiring a solution for monitoring coolers/freezers or grills, but for an automated temperature monitoring system whose data is cloud-based and just so happens to be available via the internet.

Data from IoT sensors dispersed through the food chain is continually collected and analyzed to ensure temperatures do not exceed pre-defined limits. These limits are based upon HACCP guidelines. The collected data is then subsequently stored electronically for a period specified by the user, typically up to two years from the collection date per FSMA regulations. If a temperature measurement falls outside pre-defined limits, an alert via text or SMS can be sent to the end-user for corrective actions. Recent developments in IoT have also coupled active monitoring with predictive analytics to determine appliance health.

Should an issue occur in the food chain, food safety data would then be correlated with transactional data to not only define when a limit was exceeded, but to potentially trace the impact to the consumer or in- store sales/profitability. Additionally, high or low sales of a specific item could also be equated to how the item is prepared.

Utilizing checklists that guide operational efficiency, powered by IoT technologies is not only limited to food safety. The capabilities of IoT can be deployed for task management or facilities maintenance practices such as entry/exit applications, facility maintenance/sweep logs, CO2 sensing (beverage and condiment), customer queue length for ordering or check out and incident reporting—when the documentation of an incident is required should a customer or employee incur an injury within the facility.

The implementation of comprehensive end-to-end food safety and task management strategy utilizing remote monitoring based upon IoT promises to provide businesses with a new cornerstone for building a comprehensive and preemptive food safety and facilities plan. By meeting the strict requirements of HACCP regulations, companies can continually reduce operational expenses, decrease waste and potentially predict events that could affect the food chain and subsequently the consumer. An integrated approach to food safety utilizing a food safety/task management system with IoT can positively influence all consumers within the restaurant, grocery and food chain realms.

Data management, food manufacturing

FSMA and the Importance of Data Visibility and Management in Food Manufacturing

By Jeff Budge
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Data management, food manufacturing

Implementation of FSMA has prompted many organizations to take a closer look at sanitation practices, documentation of food safety plans and the traceability of materials and ingredients used to create food products.

Meanwhile, shifts in technology, such as cloud migration as well as the rise of big data and analytics platforms, present both opportunities and challenges in food manufacturing.

In many cases, digital transformation, including the adoption of a multi-cloud strategy, occurs as part of a roadmap set forth by a food company’s software vendors. Tech giants, including Microsoft, Oracle and SAP, are driving digital transformation through the modernization of ERP systems and dictating how food companies should utilize applications, data and software.

In those situations, digital transformation is not a choice, it’s a requirement. CIOs and IT professionals are seeking help. They are looking to understand the dynamics and characteristics of these new environments because they are compelled to change.

Yet, there are also organizations that would rather do more than simply follow the lead of their software vendors. Instead, they choose their own destiny in terms of IT modernization. They’re looking for opportunities by leveraging data to make better business decisions.

Before a food manufacturer can get to that point, however, there must be a strategy for gathering, storing, connecting and presenting different types of data across an organization as well as to external customers and business partners.

Managing the data required for FSMA compliance is an ideal example of the importance of pursuing digital transformation.

Food Safety Data and FSMA Compliance

A major component of FSMA involves having detailed documentation of a food safety plan and the ability to produce data proving adherence to that plan when the FDA shows up for a plant inspection. Food manufacturers need to show best practices are being followed, and that corrections are being made when concerns emerge. Otherwise, the FDA may impose fines or temporarily shut down production, which cuts into the bottom line.

Because of FSMA mandates such as the Sanitary Transportation Rule, your documented food safety plan needs to be communicated to key participants throughout the supply chain as responsibility for food safety problems typically falls back to the manufacturer.

For that reason, food processors need solutions allowing them to track and trace their product from the farm field to store shelves, or to any other final customer.

Imagine being a food manufacturer trying to document sanitation in a basic spreadsheet or even on paper. The extra work involved with specifying food safety tests, collecting and archiving results, and validating sanitation procedures would be overwhelming. Yet, just as perplexing of an issue is being a digitized food manufacturer with poor visibility and management of all the information that various IT systems and platforms provide.

Most companies acknowledge that the cloud is a necessity in today’s world. Organizations often need multiple cloud solutions to accomplish business objectives, from regulatory compliance to finances, inventory control and distribution.

CIOs, technology professionals and food safety/sanitation leaders should work with existing IT solutions partners or find consultants and experts who can ensure the following questions can be answered:

1. Is the location of your data known?

Data visibility in the cloud is the first step in the process, and it is a challenge for many organizations. You need to know where your data lives, that the right people have access to it and that it is secure. When you know where your data lives, you’ll better understand how to use and protect it.

2. Is your data in a location that allows for integration?

Can the different applications your company uses talk with each other, or is all the information siloed across different cloud providers and departments in the organization? Is it integrated? Can certain information, such as food safety plans, be communicated with partners including suppliers, distributors and your carrier network?

3. Can your data be put into a framework allowing it to be extracted, visualized and leveraged?

Data doesn’t help anyone if you’re unable to take that information and use it to make better business decisions. Whether it’s food safety, operational efficiency, forecasting needs or developing new ideas, the most successful food manufacturers will leverage integrated data to move the organization forward.

Data management, food manufacturing
Managing the data required for FSMA compliance is an ideal example of the importance of pursuing digital transformation in food manufacturing facilities. (Image courtesy of One Neck IT Solutions, LLC

The Advantages of Pursuing Digital Transformation

If you were to go back about a decade and observed a small- to mid-sized food manufacturer using Microsoft as its data platform, that manufacturer would likely have been running applications for the business that created data while receiving little guidance pertaining to how the information should be interpreted and used. Fortunately, that has changed.

Today, companies like Microsoft, Oracle and SAP actively focus on the use of data rather than only data collection. The right IT solution, coupled with expert partners, allows you to eliminate the guesswork and leverage data to your advantage.

FSMA mandates are complicated, and compliance is crucial, but the pursuit of digital transformation supports the efforts of food manufacturers who are prepared to improve transparency and responsibility surrounding food safety.

Digital transformation represents change, which is never easy, but it will be worth the effort. Start by evaluating your organization’s technology needs as they relate to FSMA compliance as well as additional business objectives. Then, identify areas of internal strength and areas where improvements are needed.

Some food manufacturers partner with an IT solutions provider for support developing a cloud migration plan and a subsequent strategy for operating in multi-cloud environments. Others need managed services, helping them handle day-to-day IT needs through outsourcing so in-house resources can develop high-value solutions. Still, others are looking for consultative guidance to help them understand what changes in technology truly mean to their organization.

You want your people to focus on what they do best. Many food manufacturers are in locations where there’s a lack of technical resources for hire. That’s why they turn to IT consultants and service providers who understand their business, can provide expertise that fills the talent gap and are able to interpret business needs into technology solutions.

Digital transformation isn’t one big project, it’s an ongoing journey, a series of waves of new technologies and new ways to use applications and data. Make sure you find trustworthy allies to give you the guidance and solutions you need, not only for regulatory compliance but for growth and continued success.

Y-strainer, water filtration

Food Safety: Why Water Filtration is Important

By Tim McFall
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Y-strainer, water filtration

Food and beverage processing requires a lot of water. Whether it’s steam in the preparation or cleaning of dishes and flatware, or as an ingredient in food or beverages, water comes into contact with just about every edible or drinkable item in the food industry. That means the quality of the water used in food preparation or service must be monitored and managed to ensure not only that it tastes good, but also that it is safe for employees and customers.

Making sure water is safe to consume often requires the installation of a water filtration system. The quality of tap water greatly varies depending on where you are located. In some areas, there are higher levels of sediment, chemicals or organic matter in the water, which means that there is a likelihood that not only is the water not ideal for consumption, but it’s also damaging to equipment. Filtration systems will improve the lifespan of equipment that uses water.

How is Filtration Used in the Food Processing Industry?

Water filtration systems are typically used on any type of food processing equipment that uses water. This can include everything from the machinery in large food processing plants to smaller equipment in restaurants and school cafeterias.

When equipment or machinery that use water is run, over time it will develop a build up of scale (mineral deposits), which can lead to equipment breakdowns, malfunctions or even contamination of the food or beverage that is being processed. Using water filtration systems on food processing equipment will help prevent the scale build-up as it filters the water that is used in the equipment.

Water filtration removes sediment, chemicals, minerals and organic matter from water, improving the taste and smell, and safely eliminating contaminants that may be dangerous for the people who will consume the products being processed.

Which Areas are At Risk in Food Processing?

There is a presumption of both quality and safety in the American food and beverage industry by consumers. That is due to, in large part, the fact that there are standards and regulations by which food and beverage processes must abide. The quality burden often rests on the machinery or equipment that are used in processes. Thus, the need for water filtration systems is more than simply wanting to provide consumers with quality products—it is also crucial for the continued operation of manufacturers.

Improved water quality has highlighted filtration in recent years, and rightfully so. Water is a prevalent ingredient, cooking method and means of cleaning. Additionally, air power is used to operate pneumatic machinery, move food products, and sometimes add texture to those products. Water (liquid or steam) and air can easily transfer microbials or other contaminants into the food products, packaging or surfaces on which food comes into contact.

While every process is different depending on the equipment being used, there are generally three areas in the food and beverage process where filtration is critical:

  1. Prefiltration: In areas of the facility where water, air or steam sources are first brought in or are generated.
  2. Intermediate filtration: During the process when water, air and steam move through piping or other equipment prior to making direct contact with food or a surface in which food comes into contact.
  3. Final filtration: At the end of processing, where there is a last opportunity to manage surviving contaminants.

How Strainers Help Water Filtration Systems

One of the most common ways food and beverage processers ensure that there are no unwanted solids in the water or equipment they use is by installing sanitary strainers in the water piping in the above-mentioned areas. One such type of strainer is the y-strainer.

Click on page 2 to read the rest of this article.

HPP, high-pressure processing

HPP Keeps Food Safe, While Extending Shelf Life

By Mark Duffy
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HPP, high-pressure processing

Research shows the global high pressure processing (HPP) food market to be worth $14 billion in 2018. By 2023, the market will reach an estimated $27.4 billion and will grow to $51.1 billion by 2027, according to Visiongain, a UK-based business intelligence company. This growth is a result of many factors, including consumer trends, food safety and food industry demand.

One of the biggest consumer food trends is the clean label movement. Consumers are more attentive to what they eat and drink than ever before, requesting more information about the products they buy and consume. For instance, 73% of U.S. consumers agree it is important that ingredients on a food label are familiar and would be used at home, according to Innova Market Insights, a market research firm for the food and beverage industry.

Consumers want fresh, convenient and less processed foods and beverages. Shoppers, especially millennials, are willing to spend more money to receive better-for-you products, and they are also more willing to research production methods before making purchases.

HPP, high-pressure processing
An employee loads meat, sealed in its package, into the HPP canister where it will be subjected to isostatic water pressure (300 to 600 Mpa or 43,500 to 87,000 psi – five times stronger than that found at the bottom of the ocean – for typically one to six minutes. Pressures above 400 MPa / 58,000 psi at cold (+ 4ºC to 10ºC) or ambient temperature inactivate the vegetative flora (bacteria, virus, yeasts, molds and parasites) present in food, extending shelf life and ensuring food safety. All images courtesy of Universal Pure

On the industry side, due to an increasing concern over food safety and the rise in foodborne illness, food producers and retailers are seeking reliable food safety and preservation methods that will help ensure the best product quality. Not only do they want to keep their customers safe, they also want to ensure their brand is protected.

Food waste and sustainability is also important to consumers and industry. In the 2017 Nielsen Global Sustainability Survey, 68% of Americans said that it is important that companies implement programs to improve the environment; 67% will be prioritizing healthy or socially-conscious food purchases in 2018; and 48% will change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact.

Companies want to be responsible and make sure good food does not go to waste. Longer shelf life decreases a product’s chance of ending up in a landfill. Additionally, the longer a product lasts, the further it can be safely distributed and sold.

What is HPP?

High pressure processing (HPP) ironically isn’t really processing at all. HPP is a unique food preservation method that utilizes cold water and extreme pressure (up to 87,000 psi) to inactivate foodborne pathogens and spoilage organisms.

The effectiveness of the HPP process depends on the amount of pressure applied, vessel holding time, temperature, product type and targeted pathogens and spoilage organisms.

Unlike chemical and thermal treatments that can compromise flavor, vitamins and nutrients, HPP is a non-thermal, non-chemical process. Without the use of heat, the product’s original qualities remain intact. Also, because water pressure is applied uniformly in all directions, HPP foods retain their original shape.

HPP, high pressure processing
HPP equipment on a plant floor. Food, already sealed in its package, is loaded into these gray and yellow canisters and sent through the HPP vessel behind them where water and high pressure are applied to inactivate foodborne pathogens.

Current and New Applications for HPP

One of the most popular uses for HPP is for proteins, including roast beef, chicken, pork and ground meats like turkey, chicken and beef. Other uses include premium juices, dips, wet salads, dairy and seafood, as well as pet food.
Some of its newer applications are in the preservation of baby food, premium juices, plant-based protein drinks, cocktail mixers, nutrient dense shots, coffee and tea selections and bone broth. HPP is widely used for ready-to-eat meats, dips, guacamole, salsa and hummus. Raw pet food, which has been affected by Salmonella and other pathogenic outbreaks in recent months, is also a growing market for HPP. Just like for their own food, pet owners are demanding fresh, non-processed foods for their pets. HPP is a proven means of creating a safe, clean-label raw pet food.

While food safety is still the number one reason for HPP, many manufacturers and retailers also cite shelf-life extension as a major benefit. Table I is a breakdown on the type of food, shelf-life extension and key benefits of HPP.

Food Type Applications Shelf-Life Extension Key Benefits
RTE (Ready-to-Eat) Meats Sliced, cooked meats: chicken, turkey, ham and beef; uncured ham and sausage Greater than 2X Extends shelf life while addressing common vegetative bacterial concerns. Allows manufacturers and retailers to offer reduced sodium products.
RTC (Ready-to-Cook) Meats Ground meats such as turkey, chicken and perhaps beef. 1.5X to 2.5X Increase food safety while extending product shelf life.
Guacamole, Wet Salads, Salsas, Dressings & Dips Guacamole, salsa, chicken salad, seafood salad, dressings 2X–6X Extends product shelf-life and reduces vegetative bacteria issues.
Juices and Smoothies Super premium juices, juice blends & smoothies 20–60 days HPP is a natural way to deal with microorganisms and extend shelf life without the use of heat ,which can negatively affect color and flavor.
Dairy Yogurt & yogurt-based dressings, cream, sour cream, cream cheese and milk. 2X–10X In yogurt-based products and milk, HPP is believed to give a creamier product consistency.
Seafood Oysters, lobster, crab, shrimp, mussels 2X–4X Meat extraction (yield) is better than by hand shucking or steam methods. Labor savings in this manner makes the HPP’ing of shellfish a great application. The shelf-life extension is also significant.
Table I. A breakdown on the type of food, shelf-life extension and key benefits of HPP.

Cost

The cost of HPP varies depending on the size of production runs, fill efficiency of the product within the HPP vessel and the HPP process parameters. The good news is the cost may be offset by other price reductions that HPP enables such as eliminating food additives. While HPP can be performed in-house, many companies outsource their HPP needs so they do not have to allocate significant capital expenses or disrupt production efficiency with an HPP batch process, allowing them to focus on their core competencies.

A Bright Future for HPP

HPP’s future is bright, with new uses on the horizon. These new uses have already resulted in new market opportunities that increase revenue. As its awareness grows among manufacturers, retailers and food service companies, and with additional education about its benefits, more companies will embrace HPP as part of their food safety program and for its shelf-life benefits. With consumer demand for fresh foods and beverages showing no signs of stopping, HPP will lead the way in helping to produce fresh, safe food and beverage products for all to enjoy.

HPP: Achieve High Standards of Food Safety Without Compromising Food Quality

Challenge

Three of the Most Common Maintenance Challenges In the Food And Beverage Industry

By Bryan Christiansen
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Challenge

Food and beverage professionals will agree that food manufacturing is a sector with conditions like no other. The industry is highly regulated because its products are for human consumption. Any deviation from strict control can lead to contaminated products with the possibility of outbreaks, illnesses and lawsuits.

Thus, maintenance managers in food manufacturing must contend with several unique challenges that come with multiple regulatory bodies, keeping highly automated and complex equipment running, and ensuring workers’ safety, all while producing hygienic goods.

This article will review three of the most common maintenance challenges being experienced in the food and beverage industry and some recommendations on how to deal with them.

1. Maintaining Complex Equipment

A typical food and drink processing plant today would be fitted with an array of complicated and highly sensitive equipment. From peeling machines to refrigeration plants and very complex packing machinery, every component demands constant attention.

Each one of these assets is part of a fast-moving production line that require specialized skills to monitor and keep in peak operating condition. In addition, this industry is under constant pressure to both improve and modify existing machinery, while also adopting new technology (especially automation).

Many food processors need to run their production 24/7 to stay competitive. It is apparent that the maintenance team has a lot to handle under such conditions,

To maintain the highly automated systems and keep equipment running optimally, food production and maintenance managers must stay on top of new techniques. They need to research, provide ideas and adopt newer and better maintenance strategies. Although it’s expected that there would already be some maintenance schedule in place, just any old routine will not work.

Imagine trying to run such a sensitive system on reactive maintenance alone where components are left to fail before repairs are carried out. Downtime would be disproportionately high and the enterprise runs the risk of shortening the lifespan of their assets. Instead, it is advisable to switch from reactive to preventive maintenance or look to implement any of the other proactive maintenance strategies like predictive maintenance or reliability-centered maintenance.

A proactive maintenance strategy is the most straightforward way to improve overall maintenance operations that will keep downtime and the associated stress of loss of revenue to the minimum.

2. Extremely Hygienic Workplace

Because they make products for human consumption, food and beverage manufacturers must enforce hygienic practices and maintain their equipment under the highest standards of food safety.

Failure to do this can lead to many serious problems like producing contaminated food, product recalls, foreign material complaints, lawsuits, outbreaks and infections (botulism, E. coli, Listeria, etc.).

To avoid the above, food and beverage manufacturers should pay attention to the following:

  • Pest control. Adopt pest detection, monitoring and control with or without the use of chemicals. Where chemicals are used, there should be extra care to avoid food and drink contamination.
  • Cleaning. Constant cleaning and disinfection is necessary to maintain high hygiene standards and reduce any risks of foreign materials complaints and foodborne illnesses outbreak. Cleaning also helps prevent injuries to workers particularly in the processing and packing areas where the risk of slips, trips and falls increases due to wet floors. Wet floors alone account for the second highest cause of injuries in the food industry, according to Health and Safety Executive.
  • Personal hygiene. Establish written and strict protocols for personal cleanliness of staff that include the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Waste management. Prompt removal of waste materials to control odor and deter pests and rodents.
  • Overall maintenance. Adopt proactive maintenance schedules for the entire plant and all food processing machinery.
  • Staff training. Employees should be educated and trained for their own safety and to preserve the integrity of the plant and its products. This is vital for success because procedures will only be as good as the team that will implement them.

3. Compliance With Regulatory Standard

Manufacturers of edible products are subject to the regulations imposed by the relevant authorities in every country in which they operate. This means food and beverage manufacturers must:

  • Deal with a wide range of regulations regarding food safety.
  • Ensure strict enforcement with policies and procedures that could vary from country to country.

For example, manufacturers in the United States are subject to USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulations and those of the FDA. Food and drink processors in the UK are regulated by the Food Standards Agency.

Officials from these agencies are authorized to carry out unannounced routine inspections or complaints-based inspections. There are some critical food safety non-compliance issues they typically look out for. Maintenance managers must be aware of them and they include:

  • General cleaning. To minimize the risk of food contamination.
  • Machine safety. Machinery must be safe to use, all electrical faults should be corrected quickly, and any safety guards must be in place. Safety breaches in this regard can lead to serious injuries. An example is this 2014 case involving food giant Henz and a maintenance engineer where the employee lost an arm in an unguarded potato peeling machine.
    Food Safety. Machinery must run efficiently, be clean, keep food and drinks at the right temperature, be free of rust, etc.
    Pest Control.

To thrive in this industry, organizations need to be fully aware of the regulations appropriate to their kind of business and the risks under which they operate. The risk of contamination is ever-present but unfortunately, the nature of the business means this risk can not be completely eliminated.

One route for managing these challenges is a proactive and well-implemented preventive maintenance strategy supported by a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) and properly trained staff. CMMS is designed to help you schedule, monitor, and automate your proactive maintenance work which enables you to stay in complete control of your maintenance operations at all times.

Such a well-maintained plant will be cleaner, last longer, run smoothly and generally perform more efficiently.

Food Fraud

Food Fraud: How Chemical Fingerprinting Adds Science to the Supply Chain

By Sam Lind, Ph.D.
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Food Fraud

You would be forgiven for thinking that food fraud is a sporadic issue but, with an estimated annual industry cost of $50 billion dollars, it is one currently plaguing the food and drink sector. In the UK alone, the food and drink industry could be losing up to £12 billion annually to fraud.

As the scale of food fraud becomes more and more apparent, a heightened sensitivity and awareness of the problem is leading to an increasing number of cases being uncovered.

Recently: Nine people contracted dangerous Vibrio infections in Maryland due to mislabeled crabmeat from Venezuela; food fraud raids have been conducted in Spain over fears of expired jamon re-entering the market; and authorities seize 1 ton of adulterated tea dust in India.

Spurred by the complexity of today’s global supply chains, food fraud continues to flourish; attractive commercial incentives, ineffective regulation and comparatively small penal repercussions all positively skew the risk-reward ratio in favor of those looking to make an extra dollar or two.

The 2013 horsemeat scandal in Europe was one such example, garnering significant media attention and public scrutiny. And, with consumers growing more astute, there is now more onus on brands to verify the origin of their products and ensure the integrity of their supply chains.

Forensic science is a key tool in this quest for certainty, with tests on the product itself proving the only truly reliable way of confirming its origin and rooting out malpractice.

Current traceability measures—additives, packaging, certification, user input—can fall short of this: Trace elements and isotopes are naturally occurring within the product and offer a reliable alternative.

Chemical Fingerprinting for Food Provenance

Like measuring the attributes of ridgelines on the skin of our fingertips as a unique personal identifier, chemical fingerprinting relies on differences in the geochemistry of the environment to determine the geographic origin of a product—most commonly measured in light-stable isotopes (carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, oxygen, hydrogen) and trace elements.

Which parameters to use (either isotopes, TEs or both) depends very much on the product and the resolution of provenance required (i.e. country, farm, factory): Isotope values vary more so across larger geographies (i.e., between continents), compared to smaller scales with TEs, and are less susceptible to change from processing further down the supply chain (i.e., minced beef).

The degree of uptake of both TEs and light isotopes in a particular produce depends on the environment, but to differing extents:

TEs are related to the underlying geochemistry of the local soil and water sources. The exact biological update of particular elements differs between agricultural commodities; some are present with a lot of elements that are quantifiable (“data rich” products) while others do not. We measure the presence and ratio of these elements with Inductively Coupled Plasma—Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) instrumentation.

Light Isotopes are measured as an abundance ratio between two different isotopes of the same element—again, impacted by environmental conditions.

Carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) elements are generally related to the inputs to a given product. For example, grass-fed versus grain-fed beef will have a differing C ratio based on the sugar input from either grass or grain, whereas conventionally farmed horticulture products will have an N ratio related to the synthetic fertilisers used compared to organically grown produce.

Oxygen (O) and hydrogen (H) are strongly tied to climatic conditions and follow patterns relating to prevailing weather systems and latitude. For ocean evaporation to form clouds, the O/H isotopes in water are partitioned so that droplets are “lighter” than the parent water source (the ocean). As this partitioning occurs, some droplets are invariably “lighter” than others. Then, when rainfall occurs, the “heavier” water will condense and fall to the ground first and so, as a weather front moves across a landmass, the rainfall coming from it will be progressively “lighter”. The O/H ratio is then reflected in rainfall-grown horticultural products and tap water, etc. Irrigated crops (particularly those fed from irrigation storage ponds) display different results due to the evaporation, which may occur over a water storage period.

Sulphur (S) has several sources (including anthropogenic) but is often related to distance from the sea (“the sea spray effect”).

Analysis of light isotopes is undertaken with specialist equipment (Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry, IRMS), with a variety of methods, depending on product and fraction of complex mixtures.

Regardless of the chemical parameter used, a fingerprinting test-and-audit approach requires a suitable reference database and a set of decision limits in order to determine the provenance of a product. The generation of sample libraries large enough to reference against is generally considered too cost prohibitive and so climatic models have been developed to establish a correlation between observed weather and predicted O/H values. However, this approach has two major limitations:

  1. The chemical parameters related to climate are restricted (to O and H) limiting resolving power
  2. Any model correlation brings error into further testing, as there is almost never 100% correlation between measured and observed values.
    As such, there is often still a heavy reliance on building suitable physical libraries to create a database that is statistically robust and comprehensive in available data.

To be able to read this data and establish decision limits that relate to origin (i.e., is this sample a pass or fail?), the parameters that are most heavily linked to origin need to be interpreted, using the statistics that provide the highest level of certainty.

One set of QC/diagnostic algorithms that use a number of statistical models have been developed to check and evaluate data. A tested sample will have its chemical fingerprint checked against the specific origin it is claimed to be (e.g, a country, region or farm), with a result provided as either “consistent” or “inconsistent” with this claim.

Auditing with Chemical Fingerprints

Chemical fingerprinting methods do not replace traditional traceability systems, which track a product’s journey throughout the supply chain: They are used alongside them to confirm the authenticity of products and ensure the product has not been adulterated, substituted or blended during that journey.

A product can be taken at any point in the supply chain or in-market and compared, using chemical fingerprinting, to the reference database. This enables brands to check the integrity of their supply chain, reducing the risk of counterfeit and fraud, and, in turn, reducing the chance of brand damage and forced product recalls.

Click on page 2 below Related Content to continue reading this article

Sanitizing Food Manufacturing Equipment a Big Responsibility

By Kathy Avdis
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How much work you have to do to clean up after you prepare a meal at home depends on how many people you served. The more people you served, the more dishes you have to wash, generally speaking. You may only need to load a couple of dishes into your dishwasher, or you may need to roll up your sleeves and spend some time scrubbing pots and pans at your sink. Now, consider how much work it takes to clean up for the average food manufacturing or packaging facility, which produces enough food to serve hundreds, if not thousands, of people every day. Cleaning up at the end of the day for these manufacturers and packagers is more involved than running a dishwasher or getting out the sponges and brushes.

Sanitizing food manufacturing equipment is a much bigger responsibility than washing up after preparing a meal at home, as well. That’s because manufacturers and packagers have an enormous responsibility to keep their equipment clean. The potential for foodborne illnesses is something that all manufacturers and packagers need to guard against at all times. Meaning, they must follow strict food safety protocols that include cleaning and sanitizing all equipment every night. This is essential not only because it keeps them compliant with food safety regulations, but also because consumers put their faith and trust in them. An outbreak of foodborne illnesses that originates at one of these manufacturers or packagers means that trust is violated, resulting in severe consequences beyond the legal repercussions they may suffer. For these companies, keeping their equipment clean is more than a matter of good hygiene — it’s also good business.

Food manufacturers and packagers must follow a detailed, complicated series of steps to ensure that every component and element of their equipment will be safe to use in the next day’s production cycle. However, because of the complexity of the process, it can be difficult for employees to adhere to the process every time. Sometimes, certain steps may be forgotten or overlooked, which is why it’s necessary to keep a reminder of the proper protocols around at all times.

The following checklist details all of the necessary steps food manufacturers and packagers should follow to stay in compliance with food safety requirements. The responsibility they have is immense, so there’s no margin for error.

The following infographic is courtesy of Meyer Industrial.

Augmented Reality

A New (Augmented) Reality

By Paul Ryznar
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Augmented Reality

At a time when advances in virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) have begun to move from the pages of science fiction onto the floors of factories, boardrooms and businesses—and even the hands of consumers—it is easy to see how and why innovative new technologies are being viewed as game-changing breakthroughs.

One of the most exciting technology frontiers is the field of augmented reality (AR) technology, not only for the intriguing potential that AR solutions represent, but for the practical applications that are already transforming the face of industries as diverse as automotive, healthcare and aerospace. AR is changing the way products are made and tested, the way personnel are trained, and even the way factories and facilities are designed and run. It seems clear that when it comes to AR, the future is now.

The same AR-based technology solutions that are streamlining and error-proofing manufacturing and assembly processes, and making workplaces safer, smarter and more efficient, have the potential for an equally transformative impact in food production and food service environments. From food production facilities to restaurants, AR technology can improve speed, quality and consistency in any operation. Taking a closer look at some existing examples of AR applications can provide a better sense of how AR tech can help brands and businesses in the food and beverage space effectively address persistent challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Nuts and Bolts

While the platform specifics vary from one application to the next, the basics of AR remain consistent: An emerging constellation of systems and technologies designed to provide real-time audio and visual guidance, offering hands-free functionality that is both interactive and adaptive. Regardless of the industry, the ultimate goal is to ensure tasks are completed safely, correctly and efficiently.

Augmented Reality
At National Restaurant Association Show, a “smart bar” concept allowed attendees to whip up a cocktail using their AR-guided technology.

Some AR technology solutions utilize a digital operating “canvas” as a kind of virtual overlay. This digital overlay can be projected directly into almost any workspace and onto almost any work surface. This allows AR solutions to provide prompts, pacing and direction with unprecedented clarity and specificity. It also allows AR platforms to be extremely flexible and customizable, capable of being deployed to meet the unique demands of a virtually unlimited range of scenarios, processes and work environments. The inherent flexibility of today’s rapidly expanding suite of AR tech solutions is hugely important for restaurant and food industry applications, where kitchens and workspaces vary from one facility to the next. That flexibility even extends to real-time adjustments. The best AR platforms are fully programmable, giving operators the ability to select preset sequences, programs or processes with the push of a button.

Quality and Efficiency

The promise of AR is not just the pursuit of perfection as an abstract ideal, but the potential to take substantive and meaningful steps that get far closer to an optimized, error-free operation than has ever previously been possible. AR technology can help build the perfect pizza; brew the perfect cup of coffee; cook, plate and serve extraordinary food with zero errors and higher productivity; and even ensure the right amounts of the right products are labeled, packaged and shipped correctly.

Something as simple as a lighted visual indicator projected directly onto a pizza showing exactly where every pepperoni should be placed can make a tremendous positive difference. This ensures that the right quantity is used, that every pizza looks great, and even allows those preparing each pie to move a little faster and more efficiently. Reducing waste, boosting efficiency and improving quality and presentation all in one.

Similar projection technology can ensure precise slicing and portions for a wide range of ingredients and prepared foods. In the process, workers can do away with a number of more cumbersome tools and intervening steps. Virtual solutions saving a few seconds at each step can add up to some significant time savings by the end of a shift.

The range of tools that can be integrated into an AR system is virtually unlimited. From laser tracking to precise scales, the possibilities are exciting. In the chaos, confusion and pressure of a working kitchen, anything that allows cooks, servers and other food service professionals to move faster and more efficiently is a welcome addition. Many AR systems feature integrated no-faults-forward functionality that will not allow the user to move forward to the next step if the previous steps have not been completed correctly. This virtually eliminates human error, and goes a long way toward boosting the quality and consistency of the finished product. In both a food production and a food service context, that is enormously significant.

A similarly substantive impact can be realized upstream in the food production process, as well. Part picking and sequencing technology can ensure the right products and ingredients are packed, stored and delivered correctly, allowing warehouse and delivery personnel to move faster and make fewer mistakes. Similarly, inspection and quality control processes can be more comprehensive and effective, all while taking less time.

Traceability

Traceability is a high priority in food production and preparation. Whatever the path from farm to table, knowing exactly where each ingredient was sourced is important not only in terms of food safety, but also loss control—ultimately making production and preparation processes more efficient.

AR solutions can not only help increase efficiency and facilitate error-free productivity, but they can also help identify, diagnose and correct procedural pain points. Detailed procedural records and digital imagery of each food item produced ensures that potential issues can be traced not just to individual food workers, but to the exact step in the process where things went awry. The “digital birth certificates” that can be generated through AR’s advanced and accessible tracking, monitoring and verification capabilities make it possible to quickly identify bottlenecks and other challenges, and ultimately implement improvements that streamline operations.

Training and Integration

AR technology is also extremely valuable as a training tool. In the food service industry, where relatively high turnover rates are a common challenge, systems and software that can deliver a training experience that is standardized, effective and fast, are a game-changer. Eliminating training variation and ensuring that every new employee learns the same information, in the same way, is something that can have a dramatic and sustained impact on consistency, productivity, and, ultimately, the bottom line.

The kitchen of the future will also need to interface more effectively with back office systems (BOS), and AR tech solutions show great promise here, as well. Connecting detailed data feeds with a BOS in real time allows managers and other decision-makers to make more informed and strategic decisions about everything from operations and logistics, to seating and food preparation.

Efficiency Boost (Productivity)

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of introducing AR tech platforms into the food production and service industries is that the technology has the potential to address all three major priorities that brands and businesses face: Quality, productivity and traceability. And at a time when many restaurants are addressing large-scale structural challenges like rising wages, the potential to significantly bring down costs by being more productive and having greater throughput is an appealing proposition.

To understand just how dramatic the efficiency improvements can be, we need not look further than industries where AR tech already has a substantial foothold. Studies have consistently shown that, even with experienced operators, AR platforms lead directly to significant—and in many cases dramatic—improvements in productivity. A 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review cited a Boeing study that showed AR improved productivity in assembly processes by 25%. GE Healthcare saw even more dramatic results, with workers completing tasks 46% faster. Factoring in additional examples, the “average productivity improvement” was 32%, with error rates approaching zero. Extrapolate those types of results in food production and food service environments, and it’s easy to see how and why AR technology is generating so much excitement. More than just a culinary trend or fad, AR tech has the potential to spark a fundamental restructuring of the operational backbone of food service and production facilities.