Tag Archives: data

Steven Sklare, Food Safety Academy
FST Soapbox

What Is Your Company’s Level of Digital Risk Maturity?

By Steven Sklare
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Steven Sklare, Food Safety Academy

The digital transformation of food safety management programs is a common topic of discussion today, across the full range of media including print, blogs, websites and conferences. It has also been generally acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated the adoption of various digital technologies. However, let’s be clear, COVID-19 may have accelerated the process, but the process was under way as the only way for food companies to efficiently cope with the increase of required compliance documentation for regulatory bodies, such as FDA, USDA, etc., non-regulatory organizations such as GFSI, and customer specific requirements. COVID-19 has added a sense of urgency, as the fragility of both domestic and international supply chains has been exposed with long-term sources of ingredients or equipment being cut off overnight. We must also overlay the need to manage food safety risk and food fraud vulnerability in real time (or even predict the future, which will be discussed further in a future article). The food industry has also had to adjust to dealing with many aspects of work and production without typical face-to-face interaction—a norm of operating within the environment of a global pandemic over the past two years.

What is not clear, however, is the meaning of “digital transformation” or the “digitization” of a food safety management program. What is not clear is what these terms mean to individual organizations. The frenzy of buzzwords, “urgent” presentations, blogs and webinars help to create an improved level of awareness but rarely result in concrete actions that lead to improved results. I admit to being guilty of this very hyperbole—in a previous article discussing “Chocolate and Big Data”, I said, “If a food organization is going to effectively protect the public’s health, protect their brand and comply with various governmental regulations and non-governmental standards such as GFSI, horizon scanning, along with the use of food safety intelligent digital tools, needs to be incorporated into food company’s core FSQA program.” Sounds great, but it presupposes a high level of awareness of those “digital tools”. What is not clear to many organizations is how to get started and how to create a road map that leads to improved results, more efficient operations and importantly, to ongoing improvement in the production of safe food.

Addressing a new concept can be intimidating and paralyzing. Think back to the beginning days of HACCP, then TACCP, then VACCP, and post FSMA, preventive controls! So, where do we start?

Nikos Manouselis, CEO of Agroknow, a food safety data and intelligence company with a cloud-based risk intelligence platform, Foodakai, believes the place to start is for food companies to perform an honest, self-assessment of their digital risk maturity. Think of it as a digital risk maturity gap analysis. While there are certainly different approaches to performing this self-assessment, Agroknow has developed a simple, straightforward series of questions that focus on three critical areas: Risk monitoring practices and tools; risk assessment practices and tools; and risk prevention practices and tools. The questions within each of these areas lead to a ranking of 1–5 with 1 being a low level of maturity and 5 being a high level of maturity. One of the goals of the self-assessment is to determine where your company stands, right now, compared to where you want to be or should be.

While this is not a complete nor exhaustive process, it helps to break the inertia that could be holding a company back from starting the process of digitizing their food protection and quality systems, which will allow them to take advantage of the benefits available from continuous monitoring of food safety risks and food fraud vulnerabilities, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.

FDA

FDA Seeks $57 Million in Investments in Food Safety Modernization and Funding to Reduce Chemicals in Food

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

Today the FDA announced its budget request as part of the President’s 2023 fiscal year budget. Within the food sector, the agency is asking for $43 million for food safety modernization (including animal food safety) oversight—which includes efforts in continued implementation of the New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative. The funding will also go towards improving preventative food safety practices, data sharing, predictive analytics and traceability, which will help the agency respond to outbreaks and recalls faster. “In partnership with states, the FDA will expand efforts to modernize, harmonize and transform the U.S. animal food inspection system to become more comprehensive and prevention oriented,” the FDA stated in an email release.

The FDA also requested $14 million in funding to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins in food. Last year the agency came under fire following a report released by Congress that stated there was an alarming amount of toxic heavy metals found in baby food. In response, the FDA devised a “Closer to Zero” action plan with a goal of reducing the presence of dangerous metals in foods commonly consumed by babies and young children. “Additional funding and legislative proposals will focus specifically on better protecting mothers, infants and young children through contamination limits in food, product testing requirements, notification of anticipated significant interruptions in the supply of infant formula or essential medical foods, as well as modernization of dietary supplement regulation,” the FDA stated.

Under the FDA’s funding requests that serve its core operations, the agency asked for $68 million for data modernization and enhanced technologies, which includes improving infrastructure aligned to the food programs; and $24 million to optimize inspections, including increasing support for recruiting and training new FDA investigators.

The FY budget covers October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023.

Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine
Retail Food Safety Forum

How Does Inventory Management Technology Improve Restaurants?

By Emily Newton
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Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

Inventory management can be a challenge for restaurants. Stock often moves quickly, many ingredients have short shelf lives and limited storage space can make it easy to overlook some items. Manual tracking methods fall short of modern establishments’ needs, but technology offers an answer.

Inventory management software has made waves in warehousing and logistics, but the food and beverage industry can capitalize on it, too. Restaurants already recognize the need for tech adoption, with 100% of surveyed establishments increasing their urgency to adopt transformational technologies. Inventory tracking solutions should be part of that trend.

This article reviews how inventory management technology can improve restaurants.

Preventing Food Waste

One of the most important parts of inventory management is reducing waste. Up to 10% of food restaurants buy is thrown out before it ever reaches the consumer. Part of this comes from wasteful preparation practices, but much of it results from improper storage.

Inventory tracking technology addresses this issue by increasing stock visibility. In a traditional setup, restaurant employees may not be able to see what they have on hand, causing them to overlook items and leave them until they expire. Tracking technologies provide real-time data about everything in storage and consolidate it into a single, easily accessible window.

Many inventory software solutions include expiration date tracking, alerting workers when something is about to expire. They can use these technologies to find the product in question and use it before it goes bad. Trends over time can reveal if restaurants order too much of one item, driving managers to buy less to prevent waste-causing surpluses.

Avoiding Stock Shortages

Similarly, inventory management solutions can help avoid product shortages. Since the items restaurants order typically don’t go directly to the consumer, it can be difficult to understand stock levels in real-time. The visibility inventory tracking systems provide counteracts that.

Inventory software solutions can maintain real-time inventory data and alert managers when levels get low. They can then order more of a product before they run out, maintaining higher customer satisfaction. Perhaps more importantly, as restaurants use these systems over time, they can highlight seasonal trends to create more accurate forecasts.

Inventory trends will reveal how items grow and shrink in demand at various times of the year. Restaurants can then plan to order more or less of those products at different times according to those trends, avoiding shortages from under-ordering in-demand items.

Consolidating Multiple Sales Channels

Selling through multiple channels can make it more difficult to track inventory levels. Restaurants may use separate systems to manage online and in-person sales, which can lead to confusion and miscommunication.

Inventory management solutions can track online and retail sales together through a single platform. That way, restaurants have a consolidated view of all sales and history, eliminating the miscommunication that arises with traditional methods. Establishments that use a single system for all channels won’t accidentally sell out-of-stock items.

This consolidation also helps refine seasonal adjustments. Online sales trends fluctuate just as they do in person, but there may be some differences. Managers that look at seasonal trends across both channels can adjust their ordering schedules more accurately, further preventing stock shortages.

Highlighting Potential Issues

Restaurants can also use these technologies to review trends over time and highlight persistent issues. Inventory software may reveal that an establishment consistently loses one product because it passes its expiration date. This suggests that it orders too much of it at once, so it can start buying less to adapt.

Similarly, trends can reveal if something is wrong with the restaurant’s storage solution itself. Data could show if ingredients in one refrigerator consistently expire despite accurate ordering figures, suggesting the fridge fails to maintain a safe temperature. These situations are likely and deserve attention, considering that foodborne diseases cause 48 million illnesses a year, according to CDC estimates.

The longer restaurants use these technologies, the more data they’ll have, generating a growing information pool can then inform increasingly precise and reliable forecasts and mitigation strategies.

Calculating Accurate Profit Margins

Another overlooked benefit of inventory management technology is its utility as a financial planning tool. As much as 75% of restaurants struggle financially due to food costs. They may not be able to control ingredient prices, but they can manage them better with accurate inventory data.

Food prices fluctuate rapidly, leading to uneven profit margins. Restaurants that don’t have a granular picture of how their inventory moves won’t be able to calculate their profit margins accurately. Inventory management solutions provide a more granular look into stock levels and offer the context managers need for these calculations.

Inventory tracking technology allows restaurants to view stock movements weekly or even daily to compare with fluctuating prices. This specificity will help get a more accurate picture of expenses and profits.

Inventory Management Tech is Essential

Restaurants must become more financially agile to stay afloat amid widespread disruptions. Inventory management systems offer the insight and control they need to refine their processes, enabling that flexibility, and helping them adapt to incoming changes to ensure future success.

Eric Weisbrod, InfinityQS
FST Soapbox

Quality in the Cloud: 5 Tools to Remedy Food Safety Fears

By Eric Weisbrod
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Eric Weisbrod, InfinityQS

The food and beverage industry has seen a big push for digital transformation over the past several years. Consumers and regulators alike are demanding increasingly high levels of safety and traceability across the global supply chain—driving food manufacturers to modernize their approach to quality control.

Now, many are looking to retire outdated software or inefficient paper-based systems that limit visibility across their production lines, plants and supply chains. They are exploring modern tools that enable proactive quality and safety monitoring. And fortunately, cloud technology is making this shift easier than ever.

Cloud-based quality management solutions offer simple deployment, rapid scalability and low up-front costs—breaking down many of the barriers to digital transformation. Food manufacturers gain anytime, anywhere access to critical resources needed to maintain product quality, ensure compliance and drive continuous improvement across their organizations.

To make it all possible, food manufacturers should select a cloud-based solution that offers the following features and tools.

1. A centralized data repository for improved visibility, compliance and collaboration

In a traditional manufacturing environment, quality and process data are locked away in paper files, Excel spreadsheets, or on-premises software. These data silos prevent manufacturers from monitoring enterprise-wide quality performance, and inhibit data sharing with external parties across the supply chain.

But the cloud can break down those silos. Cloud solutions provide a single, unified data repository where food manufacturers can standardize and centralize quality data—from all processes, production lines, and sites in their enterprise, as well as from suppliers, co-packers and third-party producers.

The resulting “big picture” view of quality enables food companies to:

  • Perform enterprise-wide analyses to pinpoint problem areas, identify best practices, and prioritize resources—ultimately improving quality and compliance across the entire organization.
  • Verify ongoing regulatory compliance and enforce accountability for all required checks and tests.
  • View supplier data in real time to prevent food safety issues and ensure incoming ingredients meet quality standards before they are ever shipped. Only the highest-quality ingredients get accepted and incorporated into products.
  • Monitor supplier performance to better manage suppliers and prevent supply chain disruptions.
  • Collaborate with contract manufacturers and packers to make sure they uphold quality standards and protect the brand.

2. Real-time SPC for proactive response on the plant floor

A preventative approach to quality and safety just isn’t possible when using manual methods for data collection and analysis. Operators spend valuable time recording data with a pencil and paper, then sift through page after page of control charts—on top of all their other daily responsibilities. It’s easy to see how mistakes could be made and production issues could be missed.

Quality teams are also at a disadvantage, reviewing old data about products that have already come off the production line. Overall, everyone operates in “firefighting” mode. They try to fix one issue after another, but it’s often already too late. Some problems may not be spotted until final inspection, if even caught at all. Manufacturers end up dealing with defective products, wasted resources, and damaging recalls.

The cloud transforms how food manufacturers collect and analyze quality data. Cloud-based statistical process control (SPC) software can automatically collect measurement values from a variety of data sources, then monitor processes in real time. When the software detects specification or statistical violations, automated alarms instantly alert key personnel. The appropriate teams can take immediate action to correct any issue before it gets out of hand.

In addition, food manufacturers can put up further safeguards on the plant floor with “workflows.” Essentially, these are prescriptive guides for responding to quality issues, predefined in the cloud-based quality solution. They help all employees respond consistently and effectively to specific problems, and then document the corrective actions taken. These responses can then be analyzed across an entire company, allowing manufacturers to spot trends and prevent reoccurring issues.

Ultimately, operators and quality personnel can stay on top of potential problems and prevent unsafe or defective goods from reaching customers—without having to manually monitor every line, in every plant, around the clock.

3. Timed data collections to keep everyone on the same page

Routine sampling and quality checks are critical for food safety and compliance with regulatory and industry-specific standards. But how can manufacturers ensure required checks are completed according to schedule? After all, the plant floor is a busy place and where it’s easy for operators to get sidetracked tackling other issues.

Here, cloud-based quality systems can help. These solutions enable manufacturers to set up timed data collections, which send automated notifications to remind operators when it’s time to perform HACCP, CCP, and other critical quality and safety checks. Operators can stay focused on production, without having to watch the clock or worry about missing a check. Plant supervisors also get alerts if a data collection is missed—no matter where they are working—so they can keep everyone on top of compliance.

4. Digital reporting to make audits a breeze

Every manufacturer dreads the auditing process. It is time consuming and resource intensive, adding another layer of stress and complexity to the already complex nature of food production. Those that rely on paper records and spreadsheets usually struggle to piece together and produce auditor-requested information. And failed audits can have major consequences.

Instead, quality records and other compliance documentation can be digitized, stored and made quickly accessible via the cloud. This makes it easy for food companies to pull historical data for specific timeframes. Reports can be produced in just minutes to complete regulatory, third-party certification, or internal audits—rather than the days or weeks it would typically take to put together a report from a complicated trail of paper.

5. Lot genealogy for improved traceability and recall response

Recalls are another big source of stress for food manufacturers. After all, food quality or safety incidents that result in a recall not only hurt profits and brand reputation, but also put the health and lives of consumers at risk. Fortunately, recalls can be mitigated or avoided through better traceability.

Cloud-based quality solutions can help food companies trace raw ingredient lot codes through the manufacturing process and supply chain. With all quality data stored in that centralized cloud repository mentioned earlier, manufacturers can generate genealogical “trees” showing the relationship between incoming ingredients and outgoing products.

This information in critical for preventing and responding to product recalls. If a safety issue is found within a specific ingredient lot, for example, manufacturers can quickly identify output lots where those ingredients were used. They can prevent those finished lots from being released, or in the worst-case scenario, remove those lots from store shelves in a swift, targeted recall.

A Tactical Approach to Digital Transformation

Looking at the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint, it’s clear to see that the industry at large is heading towards a new digital age. Food manufacturers shouldn’t wait to take the first steps, and cloud-based quality can get them on the right path.

While any big change comes with hesitancy, a tactical approach can help ease any fears. Some food manufacturers have started with small-scale projects, deploying cloud-based quality solution to monitor a single process or production line. Leadership teams and employees alike can see how quality in the cloud benefits everyone at all levels of their organization—and then deploy the solution on a wider scale. It is a great way to successfully introduce new digital technology and lay the foundation for future transformation.

CDC, FDA, USDA logos

IFSAC to Continue Focus on Finding Sources of Foodborne Illnesses

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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CDC, FDA, USDA logos

The Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) has published its 2022–2023 Interim Strategic Plan, placing continued emphasis on foodborne illness source attribution for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter. Over the next year, IFSAC will address several short-term goals surrounding improvement of methods to evaluate and identify foodborne illness source attribution through the use of outbreak and non-outbreak-associated disease data, and continued collaboration with external partners in an effort to boost data access and capabilities. The group will be targeting several efforts in the coming year, including:

  • Analysis of trends related to foodborne disease outbreak-associated illnesses over the past two decades, with a subsequent peer-reviewed journal article that reveals results.
  • Development and improvement of machine-learning methods used to predict food sources of illnesses that have an unknown source. WGS will be used to compare Salmonella isolates of known and unknown sources.
  • Collaboration with FoodNet when assessing key food sources for sporadic Salmonella Enteritidis and Campylobacter illnesses. The group will develop case-control studies using specific FoodNet data.

Formed in 2011, IFSAC is a partnership between FDA, FSIS and the CDC that seeks to strengthen federal interagency efforts and maximize use of food safety data collection, analysis and use. During 2022–2023, IFSAC will publish its yearly reports on foodborne illness source attribution for the previously mentioned priority pathogens.

FDA

FDA Publishes Public Dashboard from Reportable Food Registry for Easier Analysis of Agency Data

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

FDA has published an interactive Reportable Food Registry (RFR) Data Dashboard to provide faster access to better data about hazards and dangerous food products. Called FDA-TRACK, the new RFR will be published annually, and contains 10 years of data (from September 2009–2019), encompassing 28 commodities and 20 food safety hazards. Users can interact with data points in an effort to obtain customized information. They can also change the graphs and charts, and view trends based on commodities, hazards and time frames.

The interactive dashboard provides more “access and transparency with state and local partners who use the data to better [their] workplan and determine how to target their own sampling assignments to concerns that are more common in their area, allows industry to educate themselves on trends and identify areas were additional good manufacturing practices and preventive controls could better prevent future outbreaks or contamination in their products; and offers a robust data set to researchers and others who are interested in studying the safety of our food system,” according to a CFSAN update.

The RFR was established by Congress to help FDA more effectively track patterns of food and feed adulteration. “Overall, this will be a more efficient, less resource-intensive process for FDA to provide data,” the agency stated.

When a company uncovers a food product that is hazardous, it must submit an RFR to the FDA using the electronic portal. This year the agency will launch a project that allows companies to export RFR data from their own business systems or from third party applications directly into the portal.

Neogen, 3M

3M Combines Food Safety Business with Neogen, Creates $9.3 Billion Company

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Neogen, 3M

Today 3M and Neogen announced a definitive agreement that will combine 3M’s food safety business with Neogen to create a company worth $9.3 billion. “This combination will enhance Neogen’s position in this new era of food security, equipping us with an expanded product line that enables us to capitalize on our growing footprint, reaching more customers, more often, while continuing our track record of strong and consistent growth,” said John Adent, president and CEO of Neogen in a press release. “The heightened global focus on food security, sustainability and supply chain solutions around the world presents exciting opportunities for Neogen to be positioned as an innovative leader at the forefront of the growth and digitization of the industry. We’re excited to welcome 3M’s Food Safety employees to the Neogen team, and we’re looking forward to demonstrating the immense benefits of this combination to our customers, employees and shareholders.” Its financial strength will also give the company the ability to further invest in R&D capabilities, innovation and data-driven analytics.

The combined company will be led by Adent and Neogen’s current management team. The company’s board will increase by two independent members as designated by 3M at closing. Subject to approval by Neogen shareholders and regulatory approvals, the transaction is anticipated to close by the end of Q3 2022.

Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine
FST Soapbox

Using Artificial Intelligence May Add More Transparency to the Food Supply Chain

By Emily Newton
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Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

Food industry professionals know how supply chain transparency plays a major role in keeping everything running smoothly. Brand representatives want confirmation that their agricultural partners can fill upcoming orders. If things go wrong and people get sick from what they eat, better visibility is vital in addressing and curbing such issues.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a critical part of better food supply chain awareness among all applicable parties. This article briefly discusses some interesting examples.

Applying AI to Crop Management

Even the most experienced agricultural professionals know farming is far from an exact science. Everything from pests to droughts can negatively impact a growing season, even if a farmer does anything they can to influence production in their favor.

However, AI can help predict yields, enabling farmers to maintain transparency and set accurate expectations for parties further down the supply chain. That’s especially important in the increasingly popular farm-to-table movement, which shortens how far produce travels and may entail using it on the same day someone picks it.

One newly developed machine-learning tool relies on computer vision and ultra-scale images taken from the air to categorize lettuce crops. More specifically, it captures details about the size, quality, and quantity of the heads. Combining that with GPS allows more efficient harvesting.

Tracing Foodborne Illness

CDC Statistics indicate foodborne illnesses sicken one in six people every year in the United States. FSMA contains rules and actions for food processing facilities to prevent such instances, but outbreaks still happen. AI could be yet another useful mitigation measure.

Researchers at the University of Georgia determined that, since the 1960s, approximately a quarter of Salmonella outbreaks have been from the Typhimurium variation. They trained a machine-learning algorithm on more than 1,300 Typhimurium genomes with known origins. The model eventually achieved 83% accuracy in predicting certain animal sources that would have the Typhimurium genome. It showed the most accuracy with poultry and swine.

Reducing Food Waste

Waste is a tremendous problem for the food supply chain. In the United States, data shows that upwards of 40% of packaged consumables get discarded once they reach the use-by date. That happens whether or not the products are actually unsafe to eat.

However, better visibility into this issue has a positive impact on food distribution. For example, some restaurants give people discounted meals rather than throwing them away. In other cases, grocery stores partner with charities, helping people in need have enough to eat.

Scientists in Singapore have also created an electronic “nose” that uses AI to sniff out meat freshness. More specifically, it reacts to the gases produced during decay. When the team tested the system on chicken, fish and beef, it showed 98.5% accuracy in its task. Using AI in this manner could bring transparency that cuts food waste while assuring someone that a food product is still safe to eat despite the appearance of it being expired based on Best Before’ labeling.

Removing Guesswork From Dynamic Processes

People are particularly interested in how AI often detects signs that humans miss. Thus, it can often solve problems that previously proved challenging. For example, even the most conscientious farmers can’t watch all their animals every moment of the day and night, but AI could provide greater visibility. That’s valuable since animal health can directly impact the success of entire farming operations.

One European Union-funded AI project took into account how animal health is a primary factor in milk production. The tool compared cows’ behaviors to baseline levels and characteristics of the animals at the most successful farms. It then provided users with practical insights for improvement. Europe has at least 274 million dairy cows, and their milk makes up 11%-14% of Europeans’ dietary fat requirements. Those statistics show why keeping herds producing as expected is critical.

AI is also increasingly used in aquaculture. Until recently, fish farming professionals largely used intuition and experience to determine feeding amounts. However, that can lead to waste. One company uses artificial intelligence to sense fish and shrimp hunger levels and sends that information to smart dispensers that release food. The manufacturers say this approach causes up to a 21% reduction in feed costs. Other solutions track how much fish eat over time, helping farmers adjust their care protocols.

Fascinating Advancements in Supply Chain Transparency

These instances are only a sampling of what AI can do to support the food supply chain. Although most of them are most relevant to producers, consumers will likely reap the benefits, too. For example, some food labels already show the precise field associated with the potatoes used for a bag of chips. Once technology reaches a point where most consumers could have advanced AI apps on their phones, it could be a matter of aiming a smartphone’s camera at any food product and instantly seeing the path it took before reaching the consumer. It’s too early to know when that might happen. Nevertheless, what’s already possible with innovative technology is compelling in its own right and makes people rightfully eager to see what’s on the horizon.

USDA Logo

USDA Makes Stronger Moves to Reduce Salmonella Illnesses from Poultry Products

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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USDA Logo

Today the USDA announced an initiative to help reduce the incidence of Salmonella illnesses linked to poultry products. In an effort to reach the national target of a 25% reduction in these illnesses, the agency will be looking for feedback on strategies related to Salmonella control and management in poultry slaughter and processing facilities. This includes pilot projects, the data from which the agency will use to determine whether different methods could be implemented to reduce Salmonella illnesses.

“The effort will leverage USDA’s strong research capabilities and strengthen FSIS’ partnership with the Research, Education and Economics (REE) mission area to address data gaps and develop new laboratory methods to guide future Salmonella policy. Meanwhile, the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria in Foods, an independent federal advisory committee, will be asked to advise on how FSIS can build on the latest science to improve its approach to Salmonella control. Since it is not just the presence or absence of Salmonella, but the quantity of bacteria that can impact the likelihood of illness, FSIS will examine how quantification can be incorporated into this approach. Moreover, with emerging science suggesting that not all Salmonella are equally likely to cause human illness, FSIS will focus on the Salmonella serotypes and the virulence factors that pose the greatest public health risk.” – USDA Press Release

Watch On Demand

Food Safety Hazards Series: Salmonella Detection, Mitigation, Control and Regulation
Food safety experts will discuss challenges and tangible best practices in Salmonella detection, mitigation and control, along with critical issues that the food industry faces with regards to the pathogen. This includes the journey and progress of petition to USDA on reforming and modernizing poultry inspections to reduce the incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter; Salmonella detection, mitigation and control; and a case study on the pathogen involving crisis management.

Mike Holcomb, ActiveSense
Bug Bytes

Electronic Remote Pest Technology: The Next Big Thing in Pest Control, Or Is It?

By Mike Holcomb
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Mike Holcomb, ActiveSense

The immediate benefit for pest management professionals is clear: An electronic remote monitoring (ERM) system can increase service efficiency and save technicians time checking traps because they know exactly which traps have activity. But, how exactly does that benefit you?

The short answer: These technologies enable your service technician to receive real-time notifications of pest activity that is recorded with a time stamp. That means you receive a quicker response to resolve an active pest issue, allowing for more prompt corrective and preventive action. But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Shifting From Trap Checking to Always-on Pest Control

No one wants a service technician who simply checks traps. When tasked with checking 100 traps week after week, a technician tends to go into “checknician” mode – simply going through the motion of checking traps. It’s human nature; they have a road map to follow, and they’ll follow that road map, missing those trouble spots, such as new evidence of pest activity, along the way. It also means they are only reacting to what they find versus proactively looking for opportunities to prevent pests.

By using ERM technology to essentially enable the traps to check themselves, the technician can do the job they were hired and trained to do. By freeing up their time from trap checking, technicians can proactively seek out issues that leave you vulnerable to pest problems.

In addition to checking traps with activity alerts, service technicians can spend their time reviewing pest sighting logs, looking for signs of pest activity and seeking out its source, as well as identifying conditions favorable for pests. This proactive and strategic inspection ultimately results in more detailed documentation and reporting of their findings for further root cause analysis, corrective action and overall prevention.

Audit-Ready Elevated Documentation

Another benefit is the documentation that ERM systems can provide. For instance, pinpointed, time-stamped data some of these systems deliver fits right in with the trending and active hot spot data most auditors are looking for when they visit a plant.

Auditors understand that you’re going to have a mouse from time to time, but what they truly want to know is: What did you do about it, how did you protect your product and how will you prevent the problem from happening again. ERM systems make that data readily available.

Data Is Meaningless Without Expertise

There’s no point in collecting data if you aren’t going to put it to use and to do so, you need a strong partner in your pest control service provider. Your service provider’s expertise stretches far beyond killing pests. ERM systems allow your technician the time to apply that expertise while on-site, while also supplying the pinpointed data they need to get ahead of pest issues.

Without that strong partnership, it’s like hiring a heart doctor because you had a heart attack, but you do nothing else to help your heart condition. It’s no different when a food processor suffers a rodent infestation and an auditor finds a problem with their program or there’s a customer complaint. Often, the first reaction is to blame the pest control company. In actuality, pest management success is rooted in a strong partnership between the pest control provider and the facility management.

A pest management program with ERM technology is just one piece of the larger pest prevention puzzle. Knowing where pest activity is happening and identifying the root cause only goes so far in resolving the problem. The preventive steps, such as fixing a damaged door sweep or improving sanitation, is a shared responsibility with facility management.

Investing in Data-driven Pest Control

Everyone likes to save a little money, but your pest prevention program isn’t the place for penny-pinching. Like all new technologies, adopting an ERM system may mean additional costs, but it’s important to realize that no amount of cost cutting is worth it if there’s a recall or a disgruntled customer.

When you hire a pest control company, it’s an insurance policy for pests and an investment in your food protection program. By using ERM technology, you enable your service technician to monitor rodent activity in real time so they can provide a quicker response for corrective and preventive action. That data-driven approach to prevention aligns directly with FSMA and GFSI standards, ensuring not only your compliance, but also that your facility and your product is better-protected in the long-term.