Tag Archives: data

Keep It Simple: New Software Tool Cuts through Data Clutter

By Maria Fontanazza
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As companies are hit with a massive amount of information as a result of new technology, proper management of data intelligence can be difficult. The key is to be able to translate the data into useable information to drive improvements in processes, products and business operations. A new tool aims to do just that—help companies boost operational margins using real-time data intelligence, from supplier performance to trends to safety and quality processes, across an organization.

Launched earlier this week, SafetyChain Analytics can also help companies spot problems before they balloon into larger issues that affect product quality. Barry Maxon, CEO of SafetyChain, explains why the company developed the tool and how it can help food companies save money by being more efficient.

Food Safety Tech: What was the impetus behind developing this tool?

Barry Maxon, SafetyChain
Barry Maxon, CEO of SafetyChain

Barry Maxon: The food and beverage industry historically is a business that has tight operating margins. At the same time, companies spend a tremendous amount of money every year collecting compliance data. If you walk through any food and beverage facility, you’ll see people writing down data on paper and putting it in filing cabinets or a spreadsheet. There’s already a tremendous amount of data being collected. We wanted to help companies go beyond collecting compliance data to satisfy their records for their auditors; we wanted to harness that data so they can begin to use it to drive operational excellence. That’s what’s going to make the difference in moving the needle on a company’s bottom line and their operating margins—the ability to leverage all the data they’re collecting to gain insights into how their business is operating and use it to improve their processes, products and operations.

FST: How does it address challenges that food businesses experience? How does it streamline their workflow?

Maxon: Companies are being squeezed from all directions—they need to do more with less, perform at the speed of business today, and remain up to date with all the different compliance standards—be it regulatory, industry standards from GFSI, and even down to customer specific compliance level. There’s a tremendous amount of demand being put on food companies. Yet at the same time, all of these demands typically require greater cost, and they’re being challenged to do more with less and achieve greater economy with their businesses to actually improve their bottom line. It’s a double whammy—improve your bottom while also having greater demand placed on your business—competitively, and from a regulatory and compliance perspective.

There are a lot of processes that have been fundamentally manual in the past, on paper and spreadsheets and in filing cabinets. We’ve talked to companies that say they have people spending hours a day just billing out paperwork and putting numbers into spreadsheets. And we have multi-billion-dollar industries still running on spreadsheets. As nice as a spreadsheet is, it’s a 40-year old software technology that came out in 70s. We’re trying to use new and innovative tools so companies can perform in this new era of technology and use it to benefit their business in multiple ways.

Food Safety Tech: Who are the main product users?

Maxon: Your user base is anyone in the organization who touches safety, quality or compliance from an operational standpoint.

Often the front-end users are collecting and reviewing the sets of data. One of the key elements of the tool is to deliver the right data to the right user in real time. In the past, one of biggest challenges for food companies is that they may run for many hours before realizing they are out of compliance. The idea is to give front-line users have an immediate access to data that prompts them when they’re trending into a direction where they need to take preventive action.

At the same time, managers and executives have access to the tool so they can mine the data, run the reports, and see process control charts.

Screenshot of SafetyChain Analytics tool. “One of the key elements of the tool is to deliver the right data to the right user in real time.” – Barry Maxon

FST: Are there different security controls for this software?

Maxon: Absolutely. You can organize it so users only see what matters to them. That’s really the key to keeping it simple. Data can very quickly become overwhelming. We’re trying to deliver prebuilt dashboards and reports, and organize the data to make it intuitive. We’re also trying to leverage data on an exception-based management principle. It used to be, in more manual paper-based processes, that a supervisor had to review every single record and sign off on it. Here, with automation in software, everything that passes compliance goes through the system; you don’t need to look at it—it will immediately highlight where you have exceptions in your process so you can quickly take corrective action and make sure everything is resolved before it gets further downstream.

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Judy Black, Rentokil
FST Soapbox

What Is the Internet of Things and How Does It Impact Food Safety?

By Judy Black
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Judy Black, Rentokil

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a category of objects or devices—things—equipped with electronics and online capabilities that let them communicate data to computers and other networked devices. In the home, this may take the form of smart locks that can be controlled via the homeowner’s work computer or a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, allowing the user to monitor and control the temperature of their home from a smartphone app. While the in-home applications of IoT may get more consumer attention, many of its most interesting applications are happening in the business and industrial world.

You may have seen TV ads from General Electric or IBM promoting their work on networks of connected trains, semi-trucks and warehouses that communicate precise tracking of cargo and packages in shipping. As more industries begin to see how big data and instant communication can improve their efficiency, IoT is quickly catching on in many fields, including the food business. Indeed, those involved in shipping raw materials or finished food products are likely familiar with the IoT’s impact on the supply chain. The rest of the food industry isn’t far behind, as more than 57% of respondents to a recent survey of food professionals conducted by Quocirca indicated IoT has already impacted their organization.

Judy Black will be hosting a webinar on the applications of IoT in the food supply chain on Wednesday, May 24 at 1 pm ET/10 am PT. Register now

From farm to fork, connected devices are collecting data and sharing it through centralized networks that help the industry better manage supplies and finished food products. Sensors in the ground can measure moisture levels and regulate irrigation systems to ensure no crops receive too much or too little water and keep farmers informed on soil conditions in real time. At the warehouse level, incoming and outgoing food products can be tagged and scanned to automatically track data like the farm of origin or any other information required by law. In any phase of the supply chain, IoT may take the form of smart pest control devices specifying when they need service or when something has been captured in a trap.

We’re still in the early stages of IoT’s deployment throughout the food industry, but its benefits are already showing up in better food safety practices and a more efficient supply chain, both of which help to cut down on waste and reduce risk. This network of connected devices and centralized hubs for data analysis will only grow in importance as the technology develops and drives innovation in how we can use this data to improve every aspect of the business.

Risk, food safety

Does Your Risk Control Program Meet FSMA’s Demands?

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Risk, food safety

Identifying, prioritizing and managing supply chain risks is critical to maintaining FSMA compliance. Under the Preventive Controls rules, food companies must implement a hazard identification system for any known or foreseeable hazards. During an upcoming webinar, David Acheson, Ph.D. and Miles Thomas will discuss how data can help companies manage supply chain risk, methods for analyzing and prioritizing hazards, and mitigating risk to achieve FSMA compliance. They will also shine a spotlight on global trends in food safety and authenticity threats.

Learn more during the webinar, Don’t Get Blindsided by FSMA! April 27, 2017, 1 pm ET.

barcode

How Digital Technology Streamlines Supply Chain Management

By Alex Bromage
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barcode

Today’s food and beverage producers must deliver to exact requirements and provide safe products of the highest quality. In an increasingly global and connected world, the emergence of new business models, such as Amazon Food and the offer of direct deliveries to consumers, is creating ever more complex supply chains for manufacturers. The number of steps between the raw ingredients and the consumer is increasing, creating new and more numerous challenges inside the production process for food and beverage manufacturers. Thus it is important to remain committed to constantly innovating and developing new services and technologies to support customers with increasing supply chain complexities. This includes systems to help track products as they enter the factory environment, when they leave the factory, and when they enter the retail distribution chain. The digitalization of management processes and services, alongside basic management processes, is playing an important role in helping food and beverage manufacturers to manage these complexities.

Learn more about keeping track of your suppliers at the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference | June 5–6, 2017 | Rockville, MD | Attend in-person or virtuallySupplier Base

The first step to keeping food safe starts before the raw ingredients enter the processing facility. The safety of raw material is so important because it impacts the end quality of the product. Pasteurization and heat treatment can only improve the product so much, and therefore the higher quality the raw ingredients, the better the final product.

Basic management processes must be in place at this stage of the supply chain, ensuring the good management of the supplier base. Working closely with customers to implement supplier framework audits that allow them to benchmark their suppliers’ performance is crucial. Through this supplier framework customers to collaborate transparently with their suppliers, encouraging the open sharing of information and traceability in the supply chain.

Production Process and Entering the Retail Distribution Chain

Increased sophistication of tools in the industry is also enabling high-level traceability at the packaging stage. This means that food and beverage manufacturers are tracking and tracing products right the way through to the consumer. One such available tool can enable food and beverage manufacturers to program their entire plant through a single data management system, and improve product traceability internally. Specifically designed for the food and beverage industry, specific software provides a user-friendly interface through which customers can control their entire operations—from raw material reception to finished packaged and palletized products. Streamlines data collection facilitates accurate data analysis to ensure that safety standards are maintained throughout the production process.

Using unique package identification technology, such as a 2-D barcode on packages, information can be processed this information and the product(s) tracked throughout the supply chain. For example, if a manufacturer were to experience a food safety issue in a certain production batch, the tool would be able to track all products in that batch and support making a recall. In addition to improving functions on a reactive basis, a reporting function, is designed to provide data to help prevent issues from happening again in the future, mitigating against food safety risks.

As new business models continue to emerge and more parties become involved in the production process, the complexity of the supply chain will only increase. Digital strategies alongside basic management processes have an increasingly important role to play in helping food and beverage manufacturers manage these complexities to ensure that their food is safe for the end consumer.

Jeff Rieger, Digi International
Retail Food Safety Forum

IoT a Key Ingredient for Food Safety

By Jeff Rieger
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Jeff Rieger, Digi International

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept that everything will one day be connected, similar to when computers became networked and connected with the internet. A sensor in a walk-in freezer is now smart enough to communicate directly with the smartphone in your pocket and a computer at the office, all in real-time. This is what IoT is all about, bringing more information to our fingertips in order to make faster, more informed decisions.

These new technologies are beginning to intersect and create new solutions to old problems, such as periodically monitoring the temperature of equipment in a restaurant or the trailer of a refrigerated truck. Savvy operators who understand changing food safety regulatory demands are driving the adoption of these technologies that ease the transition towards ongoing compliance. Food safety technology is changing, and what follows are a few of the driving forces.

Smartphones, Tablets and Cloud Computing Create Ready-made Environment

Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007 and within six years, 50% of the U.S. population was using a smartphone and/or tablet. Another market event that helped create the foundation for IoT was the growth of the “cloud” model where organizations could “rent” hardware, software and data storage. When coupled with new affordable wireless networking capabilities (WiFi, Bluetooth) and expanded cellular coverage at decreased cost rates for data, it became economically viable for nearly any size company operating in the foodservice industry to collect, store and access data.

Over the course of the last decade, we’ve become more comfortable living in a connected world and, as the technology has matured, businesses started to look at how smart devices could be used to improve operational efficiency and outdated food safety protocols. Instead of manually checking equipment temperatures, wireless sensors are now connecting refrigerators and other temperature controlled environments to the cloud. Any operator with a smartphone is now able to view these temperatures (or receive alerts) in real-time to ensure equipment and product temperatures meet company standards and local regulatory requirements.

Heightened Diligence by Oversight Agencies, Increased Consumer Activism and Brand Protection Concern

The responsibility for food safety spans both national (FDA/USDA/CDC) and local (state and county health department) organizations. FSMA has widened these responsibilities across the cold chain. With limited resources, operators are being asked to adopt new regulations and do their part to ensure the integrity of the product that is being stored and/or transported.

In addition, consumers have become increasingly self-aware regarding various food-related issues, including oversight and traceability (i.e.  labeling, processing, etc.). This same general trend can be seen where consumers are now expecting ongoing food safety inspections and access to inspection results online. This puts more pressure on operators to ensure guidelines are met and inspections are passed.

Finally, restaurants are becoming more proactive in protecting their brand. The idea of keeping any incidents limited to the awareness of only the few that were involved is a thing of the past. Forward-thinking restaurants realize that social media has changed the landscape, and what was once a single-store minor infraction can now cause franchise-wide problems. Additionally, food safety is just good business. Restaurants have moved beyond following procedures as a necessary hurdle to now actively following and implementing best practices and policies in order to achieve operational efficiency and elevate their brand reputation.

IoT the Enabler of a Data-driven Business

Simply put, the internet has reshaped all businesses, so why not restaurants and the cold chain? With the availability of “ready-made tech”, sensors can connect to front-of-house and back-of-house environments to monitor temperature (frozen, refrigerated, ambient, hot-holding) in all types of equipment (walk-in refrigerators and freezers, under-counter coolers, showcase units and sandwich lines)  to continuously and wirelessly monitor temperature and send alerts if the proper temperature is not maintained.

Data gathering can also be extended to incorporate digital task management capabilities to replace traditional Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) manual logbooks and simplify daily restaurant tasks. Organizations can streamline manual operational checklists and provide insight to managers on how well their teams are adhering to restaurant guidelines.

Restaurants now have an important tool to address the two sides of food safety—prevention and traceability. Additionally, through capturing larger data sets, restaurants can move from anecdotal guesswork to implementing data-based best practices. The ingredients are now in place for restaurants to offer the highest levels of food safety and quality that the industry has ever enjoyed.

FSC 2016

FSMA, Listeria, Fraud and Food Safety Culture Among Top Topics at Food Safety Consortium

By Maria Fontanazza
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FSC 2016

The 2016 Food Safety Consortium was a big success, from the preconference events that included the STOP Foodborne Illness fundraiser honoring heroes in food safety and the education workshops (SQF Information Day and preventive controls courses) to the record-breaking attendance we saw during the main program (with keynotes from FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Stephen Ostroff, M.D., Walmart’s Vice President of Food Safety Frank Yiannas, and FBI’s Special Agent Scott Mahloch).

As the event winded down, the leaders of each session track shared their insights on lessons learned during the Consortium.

Understanding biofilm and how it forms.  If you’re seeing peaks and valleys in the positives and negatives in your environmental swabbing program, you may have resident Listeria that has formed a biofilm, which requires a deep clean. Focus on biofilm, not just mitigation of the Listeria bacteria itself. – Gina Kramer, Savour Food Safety International. Read Gina’s column, Food Safety Think Tank, where she talks about the latest technology and innovations.

This is the first conference I’ve been to you where food fraud is being more widely acknowledged as a serious, important concern that is distinctly separate from food safety. One of the more significant takeaways is the number of tools that are now available for people to mitigate their risk to food fraud in the supply chain. – Steve Sklare, USP

Warren Hojnacki, SGS
Warren Hojnacki, SGS

A while back food safety was a nice-to-have but not a need-to-have. It’s certainly an absolute need-to-have now. There are three groups of individuals out there: The third that has picked up the baton and is proactive, the other third that are in the middle of it right now, and the other third have their heads in the sand. I come across a sizable portion that is in the bottom third, and it’s slightly scary… It’s the documentation that a lot of companies are having the biggest challenge in dealing with—the death by paper. The resources out there are immense. It’s a necessity to have right now in order to be effective and compliant.  – Warren Hojnacki, SGS

FSMA regulations require us to be risk based, scientifically based and systematic in our approach to our concerns and issues. – Barb Hunt, Savour Food Safety International

There’s potential for greater data and actions: i.e., the microbiome study or particulate contamination analysis, PLM, IR spectroscopy, SEM EDS, [and] raman spectroscopy…Lab customers may need to depend more greatly on contract labs as FSMA develops and in return, labs need to work more closely with the customers to get dependable, defensive data results. – Eric Putnam, Wixon, Inc.

Trish Wester, PA Wester Consulting
Trish Wester, PA Wester Consulting

We need to do a better job of messaging upstream to our corporate senior officials so we get the money and resources we need—there’s still a gap there. We need to find ways to communicate to them.  – Trish Wester, PA Wester Consulting

Pathogen

IBM Research Uses Data to Accelerate Source of Contamination During Outbreaks

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Pathogen

Using electronic retail scanner data from grocery stores, IBM Research scientists may have found a faster way to narrow down the potential source food contamination during an outbreak. Researchers from the firm conducted a study in which they were able to show that, using just 10 medical exam reports of foodborne illness, it is possible to pinpoint an investigation to 12 food products of interest in a only a few hours. A typically investigation ranges from weeks to months.

The study, “From Farm to Fork: How Spatial-Temporal Data can Accelerate Foodborne Illness Investigation in a Global Food Supply Chain”, demonstrated a new way to accelerate an outbreak investigation. Researchers reviewed the spatio-temporal data (i.e., geographic location and potential time of consumption) of hundreds of grocery products, and analyzed each product for shelf life, consumption location and the probability that the product harbored a pathogen. This information was then mapped to the known location of outbreaks.

“When there’s an outbreak of foodborne illness, the biggest challenge facing public health officials is the speed at which they can identify the contaminated food source and alert the public,” said Kun Hu, public health research scientist, IBM Research – Almaden in a press release. Rsearchers created a system to devise a list that ranked products based on likelihood of contamination, which would allow health officials to test the top 12 suspected foods. “While traditional methods like interviews and surveys are still necessary, analyzing big data from retail grocery scanners can significantly narrow down the list of contaminants in hours for further lab testing. Our study shows that big data and analytics can profoundly reduce investigation time and human error and have a huge impact on public health,” said Hu.

The researchers point of out their method isn’t a substitute for proven outbreak investigation tools but rather serves as a faster way to identify contaminated product(s). According to the study, researchers assert that their methodology could significantly reduce the costs associated with foodborne illness, outbreaks and recalls. Thus far IBM Research’s approach has been applied to a Norweigan E. coli outbreak in which there were 17 confirmed cases of infection. Public health officials used the method to devise a list of 10 potential contaminants from the grocery scanner data of more than 2600 products. From there, lab analysis traced the contamination source to batch and lot numbers of sausage.

The study was published in the Association for Computing Machinery’s Sigspatial Journal.

USDA Logo

FSIS to Share Food Safety Data from Slaughter and Processing Facilities

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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USDA Logo

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) has announced a plan to share more information about food safety at domestic slaughter and processing facilities. The Establishment-Specific Data Release Strategic Plan will serve to help consumers make more informed food choices, encourage facilities to improve performance, and provide more insights into the strengths and weaknesses of practices at the facilities.

“FSIS’ food safety inspectors collect vast amounts of data at food producing facilities every day, which we analyze on an ongoing basis to detect emerging public health risks and create better policies to prevent foodborne illness,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza in an agency release. “Consumers want more information about the foods they are purchasing, and sharing these details can give them better insight into food production and inspection, and help them make informed purchasing decisions.”

The datasets will be published quarterly on data.gov, beginning 90 days after they are published in the Federal Register. FSIS will provide information about processes used at each facility, along with facility codes to allow for the combination of future datasets by facility. The agency will also release results for Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella in ready-to-eat and processed egg products; Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia coli and Salmonella in raw, non-intact beef products; Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and turkeys, comminuted poultry and chicken parts; testing data of routine chemical residue in meat and poultry; and advanced meat recovery test data.

Palmer Orlandi, Food Labs Conference

Problem: Lab Systems for Data Don’t Talk to Each Other

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Palmer Orlandi, Food Labs Conference

FDA has standard templates and worksheets, along with an electronic submission form that can be used to pull data related to lab testing. However, within industry not all of these electronic systems speak to each other. During an FDA Town Hall at the Food Labs Conference last week, Palmer Orlandi, Ph.D., acting chief science officer and research director at FDA’s Office of Food and Veterinary Medicine, answers an audience question about the issue and discusses the challenges associated with standardized templates that are used by various federal and state labs and the compatibility issues.

 

The Future of Technology, Compliance and Food Safety

By Jason Dea
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There is no question that we are in the midst of a unique time period in history. Technology is continuing to innovate at an increasingly rapid rate, which has led to drastic changes that affect nearly every corner of day-to-day life. From the way we find information to our food choices, technology is influencing our lives in new ways.

The Rise of the Internet

Mary Meeker, the venture capitalist who was dubbed the “Queen of the Internet” more than 15 years ago, has described the current Internet age as a period of reimagining. At the heart of this reimagining has been the rapid growth, maturity and adoption of the Internet and Internet-enabled technologies.

In her most recent 2015 research, Meeker published some fascinating statistics. The number of people online has ballooned more 80 times, from a user base of a mere 35 million in 1995 to a staggering 2.8 billion users in less than 20 years. This figure translates into nearly 40% of the total global population.

InternetUsers_2014
A breakdown of the 2.8 billion Internet users in 2014. This figure (39% global penetration) exploded from the approximately 35 million users in 1995. Source: Internet Trends 2015 – Code Conference

It hasn’t just been the volume of usage that has evolved radically. The nature by which those billions of users are signing online has also changed. It’s hard to believe that the original iPhone was released in 2007, less than 10 years ago. In that time, the mobile Internet has gone from a novelty to a necessity for many of us in our daily lives. This smartphone adoption has fueled Internet use and has drastically increased the ease with which consumers can get online.

Reimagining Communication and Compliance

The result of our new “always-on,” globally connected world (to borrow Meeker’s term) is a complete reimagining of communication. Consumers expect a velocity and volume of communication that the world has never before experienced. We now take for granted that we can reach friends, family and acquaintances anywhere in the world—at any time—in an instant. This has also drastically changed our expectations of business relationships.

Consumers in an ever-connected world have an expectation of availability and transparency of information from the brands with which they interact and the establishments they frequent. What this means for businesses is that customers expect to have a degree of access to business data that they’ve never asked for previously.

A tangible side effect of this desire for data transparency can be seen within the regulatory environment that organizations operate. Governments and regulatory bodies have increased their expectations of data access and availability over time, resulting in more stringent regulations across the board.

Research from Enhesa shows that the regulatory growth rate is nearly as staggering as Internet growth rates. According to the firm’s research, from 2007–2014 regulatory increases by region were as follows:

  • North America: +146%
  • Europe: +206%
  • Asia: +104%

Impact on Food Safety: Consumer Engagement and Regulatory Growth

One particular area of regulatory growth has occurred within the food and beverage sector. Arguably no product category has a more direct impact on consumers than food, as it literally fuels us each day. It’s no wonder that in an environment of increasing regulations and more empowered consumers that food quality and food safety are under increased scrutiny.

In today’s environment, it becomes much more challenging to brush aside product recalls and food safety incidents or bury these stories in specialized media. The latest news is not just a fleeting negative headline. In a worst-case scenario these incidents are viral, voracious and more shareable than ever before. From Listeria outbreaks to contaminated meat to questionable farming practices—when fueled by the Internet, the negative branding impact of these stories can be staggering. Consumers are paying attention and engaging with these stories—for example, during a Listeria or Salmonella outbreak, online searches for these terms significantly rise.

The rise of hyper-aware consumers has had a measurable impact. As a result, governments have been quick to respond and have beefed up existing regulations for the food and beverage sector via FSMA and GFSI.