Tag Archives: retail food safety

Guy Yehiav

Driving Restaurant Food Safety with IoT-Enabled Digitalization

By Guy Yehiav
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Guy Yehiav

Restaurant operators have a critical responsibility to safeguard the health of their customers. Mitigating foodborne illness must be top of mind today more than ever. The potential risks are too severe to overlook, especially with new FSMA 2026 regulations on the horizon.

Take Netflix’s critically acclaimed 2023 documentary Poisoned for example. It cast a light on the consequential impact that poor food safety can have on restaurant customers. More than 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illness every year, but it’s not always just a minor stomachache or temporary irritable bowels. In some cases, we’re talking about a matter of life and death. Dr. Darin Detwiler, LP.D., a nationally recognized food regulatory leader featured in the Netflix documentary, learned this reality firsthand after the tragic passing of his 16-month-old son from an E. coli infection caused by contaminated ground beef at a Jack in the Box fast food restaurant in 1993. And his family is not alone — there are 3,000 U.S. deaths from foodborne disease annually, with 1 in 3 afflicting children.

There’s also a business continuity component to consider. While no monetary value can be placed on human life, restaurants must understand the financial and brand reputational risks associated with poor food safety. Jack in the Box suffered approximately $160 million in legal penalties and lost sales as a result of the E. coli outbreak — and that was in the early 1990s. That is equivalent to about $350 million today. For a more recent example, Chipotle’s 2016 E. coli outbreak caused 43 restaurants to close, eroded over 45% of the company’s stock value, and resulted in a $6 billion loss in market cap. It underscored the criticality for restaurants to execute on food safety and the financial consequences of failing to do so.

In 2024, safeguarding restaurant customers from foodborne illness will require a shift away from legacy approaches in favor of IoT-enabled digitalized food safety strategies. The integrated use of IoT Sensing-as-a-Service frameworks throughout restaurant facilities provides the operational efficiency, real-time visibility, and data-driven decision making essential to preserve customer health. These frameworks combine IoT sensing and monitoring functions with the power of AI-driven prescriptive analytics to automate fundamental food safety processes such as condition monitoring, task management, compliance reporting, and asset protection. These tools enable the average person to comply with regulation and keep the client safe.

Compounded at scale, they enable restaurant operators to foster a culture of food safety accountability at every level of the enterprise and align with the oncoming realities of FSMA 2026.

FSMA 2026: A New Era on the Horizon

The FSMA 2026 regulations have raised the stakes for restaurant operators to enhance their digital food traceability capabilities. The new rulings will require them to provide verifiable data records of Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) across key hand-off-points of the food chain where products are at risk of spoilage. For example, that could be seafood containers transferred from a distribution truck to a back-house freezer or leafy greens inside a salad bar right before the point of consumption.

Restaurant operators must be able to prove that FSMA 2026 products remained in optimal conditions during critical control points. They will also be required to present an electronic traceability plan that clearly describes their procedure for maintaining records for the foods they handle. In the case of a foodborne illness outbreak at the restaurant, the operator must be able to present traceability records to the FDA within 24 hours if requested.

Maintaining compliance at this granular level requires agile food chain technology. Operators who haven’t invested in digitalization yet should be prioritizing it now ahead of FSMA 2026. It’s impossible for an enterprise to manually record accurate FSMA data across 40 or 50 locations without automation. Manual data logs are often siloed, incomplete, and hindered by human error. Adopting IoT Sensing-as-a-Service frameworks will be critical to preparing for the uncertainty ahead.

Real Time Condition Monitoring

IoT Sensing-as-a-Service frameworks empower operators to collect, analyze, and act on inventory data for a stronger food safety posture. Placed inside a restaurant’s food storage assets, IoT sensing and monitoring devices allow employees to remotely monitor their environmental settings in real time to confirm HACCP compliance standards are maintained. The devices also monitor the performance of those storage assets, automating the detection and prediction of maintenance issues that could lead to an illness-causing event. 

The raw data collected from each individual IoT device flows through a prescriptive analytics platform with continuous telemetry feedback loops that identify potential risks and prescribe mitigation actions. Based on the data-driven insights, restaurants can take the proper steps to ensure their products remain safe to consume.

Leveraging Digital Checklists

Digital checklists are another key component of the IoT Sensing-as-a-Service framework, helping to simplify the complexities of task management within a hectic back-of-house restaurant environment. Serving as an operational execution platform, these checklists enable operators to gain unprecedented visibility into employee efficiency and food safety initiatives. Managing workflows for multiple locations is exceedingly easier, allowing operators to monitor enterprise-wide food safety as quality performance alongside location-specific metrics. And with access to the right prescriptive tasks at the right times, employees can proactively enhance the safety of high-risk menu items such as poultry, leafy greens, and eggs that require stringent temperature-sensitive storage conditions.

In the past, restaurants would respond to incidents after the fact while leveraging unreliable paper-based records to explain what had gone wrong. While this level of manual task management is near impossible to analyze at scale, digital checklists help realize the benefits of a proactive food safety strategy, generating visibility into compliance and operational procedures, regardless of scale, while unlocking insights that prevent foodborne incidents from arising in the first place.

FDA logo

FDA Announces Two Virtual Events for Food Safety Professionals

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA logo

Registration is now open for the 2022 FDA Retail Food Protection Seminar. Registration for the September 19-22, 2022, event is free and open to all professionals interested in retail food safety, including all state, local, territorial and tribal regulators, standardized officers, industry and academia.

The event provides an opportunity for the FDA and state, local, tribal and territorial regulators to discuss current and emerging issues related to retail food safety. This year’s seminar will have a focus on norovirus, including assessing employee health, investigating norovirus related foodborne illnesses and implementing successful employee health intervention strategies.

A Risk Factor Study Workshop, planned for Thursday, September 22, 2022, will focus on how to design and conduct a Risk Factor Study and cover requirements for Standard 9 of the Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards. The aim of the workshop is to help participants understand different study designs as well as the FDA’s data collection approach, and get an overview on how to conduct a data collection. There will also be a demonstration on the use of FDA’s Risk Factor Study Database.

Attendees can register here.

On August 11 at 1:00 pm ET, the FDA is hosting a webinar to discuss the biennial food facility registration renewal period, the requirement for facilities to have a unique facility identifier (UFI) and general information and guidance on how to register with the FDA.

U.S. and foreign human and animal food facilities that are required to register with FDA must renew their registration this year between October 1 and December 31, 2022.

Nicole Shokatz and Robert Spear from the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Office of Compliance, will lead the webinar and answer questions submitted during registration.

The agenda includes:

  1. Who needs to register or renew
  2. How to obtain a UFI
  3. How and where to register
  4. The benefits of registering
  5. Questions and Answers

Registration is open until August 10.