Tag Archives: traceability

Kari Hensien, RizePoint
FST Soapbox

Food Crisis Backup Planning

By Kari Hensien
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Kari Hensien, RizePoint

We were collectively shocked by the Covid-19 crisis that disrupted the food industry. We didn’t see it coming and we weren’t prepared for the long-lasting, widespread repercussions of that crisis, including product and labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and record-setting inflation.

Many food businesses were reliant on certain suppliers, and if they couldn’t deliver necessary products, companies either had to go without or scramble to find an alternate solution. As an industry, we were reactive—not proactive—to the pandemic and the ensuing fallout.

Now that we have some perspective, a big takeaway is that food businesses need to have better backup plans to address supply chain disruptions, product shortages and delays. This is especially important because:

  • Extreme weather is causing crop failures, livestock deaths and suboptimal soil conditions, resulting in more world hunger. Extreme drought conditions are destroying produce out west, including in California, a region that grows significant amounts of produce to ship nationwide. The Midwest, which produces approximately three-quarters of our country’s corn supply, is facing the opposite problem, as frequent floods wash away precious soil. Europe’s record-setting heat is torching vegetation, while India is pausing exports because of a severe heat wave.
  • The ongoing Ukraine/Russian war is predicted to give rise to a “food catastrophe.” Our global food system relies on a few big food commodity exporters, and Ukraine and Russia are two of the biggest. Together, these two countries supply approximately 60% of the global sunflower oil production—a product that goes into hundreds of consumable goods. It is a significant threat to the global food supply that so many of these exports have stalled.
  • Soaring inflation and resulting record high food prices are putting food out of the reach of many, leading to a worldwide rise in food insecurity, leading to increased hunger and malnutrition. The number of food insecure people is predicted to grow globally from 440 million to 1.6 billion, and nearly 250 million people are facing famine.
  • The ongoing labor shortage is contributing to disruptions and food waste all along the supply chain. Crates of perishable foods are being left to rot in shipping containers, warehouses and trucks because there aren’t enough workers to get them safely to their final destinations.

Below are several steps food brands can take to address and prepare for these ongoing threats to the supply chain.

Use tech tools to manage your supply chain. Today’s digital solutions allow you to audit and evaluate your supply chain’s sustainability and resilience. These innovative tools can help you get a better handle on your supply chain by organizing supplier certifications into a system that offers better visibility and is easier manage.

Embrace sophisticated technologies. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other technologies may help solve some of our most pressing supply chain challenges. For instance, when the Suez Canal was blocked in 2021 it halted all shipments through that major passageway, causing a supply chain crisis. AI rerouted ships to avoid the blockage, so food deliveries could continue via a detour. AI can also monitor shipments to ensure safety and quality, notifying suppliers and buyers about any safety breaches.

The FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety calls for a broader approach to food safety and traceability, and AI can help achieve those goals. Moving forward, AI will be instrumental in increasing transparency all along the supply chain, providing end-to-end visibility and predicting the path of foodborne outbreaks.

Develop back up plans. How are your suppliers pivoting to manage the simultaneous threats against our global food supply? How are they preparing for climate change? What will they do if they can’t get necessary produce from California, corn from the Midwest or grain from Ukraine? How will they recruit and retain enough labor to deliver necessary products safely to their final destinations? It’s smart to find backup suppliers, especially those closer to home, to ensure an uninterrupted supply of foods. Work with suppliers that are focused on solutions, safety and quality, and keep careful track of each supplier’s safety certifications.

Consider vertical farming. Increasingly, companies are looking for alternate supplier and agriculture solutions, such as vertical farming, which grows crops closer to their final destinations. Growing foods closer to their final destination helps reduce food deserts and safety risks, boost sustainability and minimize food wastage. Vertical farms are typically indoor climate-controlled spaces. These growing conditions protect crops from severe weather, and offer a viable solution to bypass a variety of current issues from the climate crisis to supply chain headaches.

Pivot to agroecological farming. Agroecological farming practices mitigate climate change and prioritize local supply chains. Using this approach, farmers adopt agricultural techniques based on the local area and its specific social, environmental and economic conditions. Agroecology focuses on sustainability, working to reduce emissions, recycle resources and minimize waste. Those that embrace this farming approach believe that traditional farming often faces—and contributes to—a variety of problems, including soil degradation and excessive use of pollutants. Intensive, traditional farming approaches typically focus on short-term output vs. long-term sustainability, which exhausts many natural resources, local resources and wildlife. Agroecological farmers adhere to strict standards that support animal welfare, fewer pesticides and antibiotics, healthier soil and no GMOs.

Be proactive. In hindsight, we should have been more proactive during the Covid-19 crisis, developing backup plans for the huge supply chain disruptions that were headed our way. Before the pandemic, we couldn’t possibly have anticipated the ramifications of a disrupted supply chain and we didn’t understand the need to have backup plans in place for alternative food sources and waste reduction. Today, we have a more realistic perspective and recognize the need to plan ahead for any eventuality.

Our food supply is being threatened by simultaneous crises—from climate change to war—so we must be proactive, prepared, resilient and flexible in developing a solid Plan B.

 

 

Sara Bratager
FST Soapbox

The Future of Food Safety Is Data Driven

By Sara Bratager
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Sara Bratager

“Better food safety begins and ends with better data,” remarked FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas during a speech delivered on World Food Safety Day 2022 that emphasized the immense power of data in our food system. Digitized traceability data is critical not only for efficient recalls but also for root cause analysis of foodborne illness events. Product movement, performance and environmental data sets—when aggregated and analyzed—have the power to generate valuable trend insights and inform continuous improvement initiatives in food safety.

Embracing the opportunities provided by better data, the FDA has incorporated data sharing, data quality and data analysis themes into each of the core elements of the New Era for Smarter Food Safety Blueprint. Companies across the food industry mirror that focus, integrating data-based initiatives in their organizational goals. Following are some the latest and emerging technologies entering the food safety and traceability space to support industry efforts to harness the power of data.

IoT Devices Facilitate Data Collection

Though data collection efforts often rely heavily upon human labor, the use of Internet-connected devices to collect food safety and traceability data is expanding throughout the food and beverage industry.

Sensors at the harvest level can be used to monitor climate conditions in the field, automatically alerting farmers to weather events that may impact the quality and safety of food crops. Processing facilities use sensors to monitor the temperature of ingredients and raw materials through the production process, while logistics providers are using IoT technology for cold-chain monitoring.

Radiofrequency identification (RFID) scanners can be used to track the movements of tagged food products, supporting end-to-end food traceability efforts throughout the supply chain. The range of sensors, cameras, scanners and other IoT devices empower food industry actors to access and collect more comprehensive datasets than those collected with human labor.

Data gathered by these devices can be used to manage food safety deviations in real time, quickly recall unsafe products and create valuable predictive models.

Emerging Technical Standards Promote Data Communication

Traceability begins with data collection, but it does not end there. With complex, multi-party supply chains that stretch across our global food system, data communication is critical for end-to-end traceability.

Data standards and communications protocols facilitate seamless data exchange between trading partners. Published in July 2022, GS1’s EPCIS 2.0 standard provides businesses with a standardized way of capturing and sharing traceability data. This presents a common language to capture the what, where, when, why and how of supply chain events. Digital systems that elect to speak the same “language” enable interoperable communication, simplifying the flow of data from one end of the supply chain to the other. These systems can help to reduce the incidence and severity of outbreak occurrence through quicker, more accurate recalls and investigation.

AI and Machine Learning for Improved Data Analysis

With large pools of data at their fingertips, many organizations are looking to AI to analyze and make use of their food safety data.

During the March 2022 FDA TechTalk podcast, Maria Velissariou, VP of global corporate research and development and chief science officer for Mars, Inc., discussed the company’s use of AI in management of aflatoxin: a toxin that’s prevalence is likely to increase with climate change. Meteorological, geospatial and temporal data are analyzed to create AI-based models that predict the generation of aflatoxin in food crops. This model aims to provide farmers with the tools and information needed to prevent toxin formation in the field.

Regulatory agencies are also taking advantage of novel data analysis technology. Armed with two years of seafood import data, the FDA used machine learning to develop and pilot a predictive model for the identification of non-compliant seafood shipments. The program aimed to improve the agency’s ability to target seafood products that may pose a food safety risk, allowing for more efficient use of limited product testing and investigation resources. FDA plans to apply key learnings from the pilot to explore predictive models with other regulated food products.

As the global food supply chain becomes increasingly complex, the food industry must integrate data-driven solutions by expanding the adoption of technologies that enable data collection, exchange and analysis. We’ve already seen the power of food safety and traceability data in creating predictive and preventative models that benefit public health. Now, moving forward, stakeholders from across the industry must share their findings and work collaboratively to continually raise the standard of food safety practices worldwide.

Gary Nowacki
FST Soapbox

It’s Time To Embrace Ingredient Agility

By Gary Nowacki
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Gary Nowacki

In a recent Politico report, critics blasted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for chronic failures, including instances of contaminated baby formula, outbreaks of contaminated produce and the agency’s institutional reticence to implement changes.[1] Compounding the situation is the most fragmented global supply chain in history, making it a particularly challenging time for food and beverage companies.

Ingredients are the building blocks of the supply chain, so when circumstances threaten their integrity and availability, the ripple effect can linger for weeks, months or even years. As the FDA’s limitations become more apparent and supply chain challenges persist, brands must take responsibility for foundational change that addresses and mitigates risks related to food-, beverage- and supplement-borne illness.

Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues Challenge CPGs

As the Politico coverage pointed out, high turnover at the top of FDA has contributed to the agency’s challenges: five different commissioners have led the FDA over the last three years. In addition to concerns with federal oversight, brands are still navigating a broken supply chain, which has taken a beating over the last few years. And while the damage has come from war, trade tariffs and shipping congestion, food safety also emerged as a culprit when the FDA announced a recall of some of the country’s most popular infant formula brands. In February, the agency announced it was investigating consumer complaints of bacterial infections in four infants who were hospitalized. This bacterial infection might have contributed to death in two cases.[2]

While the recall emerged as a catalyst for the U.S. formula shortage, it wasn’t the only factor. Import restraints and market concentration (four companies produce 90% of the formula sold [3]) contributed to this perfect storm that rocked an already strained supply chain. National out-of-stock rates peaked at 70% near the end of May, and regulators announced that they did not expect relief until July. [4]

In scenarios such as this, the best defense brands can employ is to build a diverse supplier base and agile ingredient supply chain. Relying on a limited number of ingredient suppliers is a risky strategy even under the best of market conditions. But when disaster strikes, it can cripple a manufacturer and grind production to a halt. For the sake of consumers, creating agility and resilience around ingredients and sourcing is critical.

Equally important to cultivating relationships with alternate suppliers is the ability to have quick access to critical data. A robust digital document management system that offers manufacturers a unified view of products, data and processes across the business and the supply chain can help brands ensure they have a resilient ingredients network able to withstand supply chain or ingredient-sourcing issues. CPGs can benefit from instant access to millions of supplier documents to help fast-track sourcing, formulation and recipe development as well as protect themselves from potential disaster.

Pandemic Uncertainty and New Legislation

As the pandemic ramped up in March 2020, the FDA announced it would pause most foreign food inspections.[5] Additionally, regulators moved to virtual audits to keep their inspectors safe from COVID. Recalls fell. The FDA reported 495 recalls in the fiscal year 2020 and 427 in 2021. By comparison, the agency reported 526 recalls in the fiscal year 2019.[6]

The drop in recalls could be attributed to the ongoing rollout of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which strengthened food production safeguards. In addition, a proposed rule change to FSMA, Section 204, would enforce better recordkeeping and quicker recall responses. The introduction of the Formula Shortage Reporting Act of 2022, requiring immediate action from manufacturers when future disruptions to production occur, is another step toward stricter food standards.

If passed, Section 204 would require companies who process, pack or hold items on the food traceability list (FTL) to capture and store ingredient data for two years, and submit it within 24 hours of a recall.[7] Without a formal system of record in place to manage food production, tracing ingredients—where, when and from whom they came—is a difficult and complex challenge to solve. Human error, overseas suppliers, recalls and other constantly changing variables all must be tracked and monitored constantly. This diligence demands automation and collaboration at scale.

Collaboration via holistic networked platforms can facilitate that diligence by enabling global ingredients suppliers, CPG brands, co-manufacturers and packing companies to build safer, stronger and more modern supply chain networks. Today, the stakes of not having a modern supply chain and access to real-time ingredient data have grown exponentially beyond profit and competitive advantage to a whole new level of costing lives.

Nimble Access to Ingredient Data is Crucial

On May 27, U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, introduced the “Ensuring Safe and Toxic Free Foods Act.” The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, would—among other things—strengthen the Substances Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) Rule, which allows companies to avoid pre-market approval for food chemicals.[8]

The bill would direct the FDA to revise the GRAS Rule to include provisions that:

  • Prohibit manufacturers from designating substances as safe without supplying proper notice and supporting information to the Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Require safety information to be publicly available on the FDA website and subject to a 90-day public review period
  • Prohibit carcinogenic substances from receiving GRAS designation
  • Prohibit substances that show reproductive or developmental toxicity from receiving GRAS designation
  • Prohibit people with conflicts of interest from serving as experts in reviewing and evaluating scientific data regarding GRAS designations

Brands must have easy access to ingredient data to ensure compliance with the GRAS revisions as well as be proactive about food safety. Software that monitors threats and regulatory risks throughout the supply chain in real-time is essential to prevent both food safety issues and supply chain disruptions. These systems transform massive amounts of data into user-friendly, actionable insights for fast and effective risk management.

Food safety remains one of the gravest public health threats to consumers worldwide. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) insists that foodborne diseases cause 76 million illnesses in the U.S. annually, leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 fatalities.[9]

With the FDA still struggling to regain the agency’s pre-pandemic diligence, it’s incumbent on manufacturers to double down on food safety. Digitization—evolving from paper to relevant, real-time data—is a critical component of the path forward to improve safety and increase ingredient agility.

Technology and automation help manufacturers and suppliers work better together, collaborate on ingredient data, move more quickly and problem solve together. In today’s modern supply chain, more CPGs are investing in partnerships to increase agility and gain more resilience over the shocks we’ve seen the past few years. More flexible and collaborative tools for engaging with global ingredient supplier networks can increase safety while improving bottom line efficiency.

References:

[1] Bottemiller Evich, H. (2022, April 8). The FDA’s Food Failure. Politico.

[2] U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2022, May 12). Powdered Infant Formula Recall: What to Know.

[3] Muller, M. & Nyler, L. (2022, May 20). How US Baby Formula Monopolies Have Failed Families. Bloomberg.

[4] KHN. (2022, May 27). FDA Chief Suggests Stockpile Of Baby Formula Once Crisis Ends In July. Kaiser Health News.

[5] U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2021, May). Resiliency Roadmap for FDA Inspectional Oversight.

[6] U.S. PIRG Education Fund. (2022, January 31). Food Recalls Decline in 2021, but That Doesn’t Mean Food is Safer.

[7] Govinfo.gov. (2022, June 13). Formula Shortage Reporting Act of 2022.

[8] Ensuring Safe and Toxic-Free Foods Act of 2022. (2022, May 27). Ensuring Safe and Toxic Free Foods Act.

[9] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States.

 

Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine
Food Genomics

How Data Analysis Supports Food Safety

By Emily Newton
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Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

Data analytics can reduce the risks of foodborne illness, improve collaboration among food processing and service teams and help identify food fraud. As technology has advanced, researchers, policy-makers and food safety professionals are finding new ways to collect, use and analyze data. Following are some of the latest advances in the field of data analytics and food safety.

Improving Risk Assessment Strategies

Data and tracking have long been integral components of food safety risk assessment. Today, researchers are combining big data, machine learning and microbial genomics to create next-generation quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA).

Researchers at the University of Maryland received funding from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) to support work that combines machine learning and computational analysis with genomic sequencing and data about foodborne pathogen characteristics. They intend to take advantage of big data available in the agriculture and food sectors and integrate data from food production, processing, food safety risk factors and genomic data to inform—and potentially transform—public health strategies to prevent foodborne diseases and speed response to outbreaks.

QMRA can be used to: predict the behavior and transmission of pathogens across food production, processing and supply chain; identify areas in the chain that could lead to contamination; and estimate the probability and consequences of adverse public health effects in the event that tainted products are consumed.

Abani Pradhan, associate professor in Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Maryland and lead investigator on this project, explains that this data analysis project should lead to better accuracy due to the inclusion of AI and genomics. “The sheer abundance of information by including molecular and genomic data available should increase the robustness of disease risk estimates by reducing the sources of uncertainty and variability in the QMRA model,” said Pradhan. “This is important because there are so many different species of each foodborne pathogen, and even within the same species, there are different variations or types called serovars.”

Pradhan’s team are starting with Salmonella, because it has more than 2,500 serovars, all of which have highly variable characteristics. How resistant a pathogen is to heat stress or antimicrobials, how infectious it is and how quickly it grows and spreads are all characteristics of the pathogen that can be partially explained by genomic data.

“The idea is to connect that genetic information with the characteristics of the pathogen to bridge the gap between the genes and the food safety aspects for consumers,” said Pradhan. “If we can use machine learning tools to understand the linkages between genotypes and phenotypes, based upon that we can determine which serovars are the most concerning so that we can focus our experimental work on those types and further strengthen our models to create a risk assessment that provides a more robust and complete picture of the risk for risk mitigation.”

Using Online Data To Detect Safety Issues

The U.S. has a robust regulatory and oversight system to identify foodborne threats. In 2019, researchers led by Adyasha Maharana of the Department of Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education, University of Washington, wanted to see if online consumer reviews might contain safety clues that could identify unsafe food products before official inspections or recalls occurred. They created a database linking Amazon food and grocery product reviews to product recall data from the FDA, and analyzed more than 1 million Amazon reviews featuring words like “sick,” “ill” and “foul.” The results showed that only 0.4% of the Amazon reviews containing those words were for recalled products.

The researchers also found synonyms for terms linked to FDA recalls in 20,000 reviews, although those products were still on the market. The researchers concluded that this “might suggest that many more products should have been recalled or investigated” and note their work could be used to aid regulators in determining which items to investigate.

A similar project, Google’s machine-learning algorithm FINDER (Food-borne Illness Detector in Real Time), uses search and location logs to identify restaurants that could be making people sick in real time. FINDER pulls data from people’s Google search queries for terms or symptoms that suggest they may have food poisoning. It then matches that information to Google location data logs to figure out which restaurants those individuals may have visited.

They tested this approach in Las Vegas and Chicago for four months in each city. The data analysis application helped food inspectors find 25% more unsafe restaurants compared to the previously used inspection method.

Neither of these case studies suggests regulators should do away with their more established procedures. However, combining this type of data analysis with existing strategies could further enhance safety.

Reducing Food Fraud

Many of today’s consumers want to know that the food they are eating comes from organic farms or was otherwise produced to certain standards. That’s why many restaurants now list which supply chain partners they use for specific menu items. This type of data reporting and sharing also offers improved food traceability. Having accurate information about where a food or beverage originated makes it easier to address and track problems when they do occur.

End-to-end traceability and real-time monitoring technologies continue to evolve, bringing new, more powerful tools that help providers at every link of the farm to table chain identify loss, theft and potential safety issues.

At the University of Adelaide, researchers improved upon current methods of detecting wine fraud by combining fluorescence spectroscopy and machine learning to determine a beverage’s molecular fingerprint. The team looked at Cabernet Sauvignon from three different wine regions. They found that their method could correctly authenticate the geographic origins of wine with 100% accuracy.

It is impossible to remove all food and beverage safety risks from the supply chain. However, successful applications of data analysis that help keep people safer are undoubtedly steps in the right direction. As more companies in the food and beverage industry adopt new data analysis tools, other interesting possibilities will become apparent. Even as things stand, the applications are full of promise.

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.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

A Special Aura To Track Authenticity

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Cognac, food fraud
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Cognac manufacturer Hennessy joined AuraBlockchain, a non-profit private blockchain for luxury brands that can be used to track the entire supply chain of a product. From raw materials to manufacturing to the consumer, digital timestamps are used to trace and record every step of the production process. Every product has a unique ID, with decentralized and unchangeable blockchain records. The consumer can check these records online to ensure authenticity of the purchased product.

Resource

  1. Taylor, P. (March 21, 2022). “Hennessey adds blockchain traceability via Aura alliance”. Securing Industry.
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.

Food Safety Consortium

10th Annual Food Safety Consortium Back In-Person with New Location and Focus

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food Safety Consortium

EDGARTOWN, MA, Feb. 23, 2022 – Innovative Publishing Company, Inc., publisher of Food Safety Tech, has announced the dates for 2022 Food Safety Consortium as well as its new location. Now in its 10th year, the Consortium is moving to Parsippany, New Jersey and will take place October 19-21.

“COVID-19’s impact on the food safety community has been significant and its impact will continue to be felt for years,” said Rick Biros, president of Innovative Publishing Company and director of the Food Safety Consortium, in his blog about the current state of the food industry. “The goal now is not to get food safety back to 2019 levels but to build it better. These issues must be discussed among peers and best practices must be shared. This year’s event will help facilitate this much needed critical thinking and meeting of the minds.”

The 2022 program will feature panel discussions and concurrent breakout sessions intended for mid-to-senior-level food safety professionals that address important industry issues, including:

  • C-Suite Communication
  • Employee Culture
  • What is the State of Food Safety and Where is it Going?
  • Audits: Blending in-person with Remote
  • Quality 4.0: Data Analytics and Continuous Improvement
  • Digital Transformation of Food Safety & Quality
  • Technology: How Far is Too Far?
  • The Days FSQA Folks Fear the Most
  • FSQA’s Role in Worker Rights and Conditions
  • Analyzing and Judging Supplier’s Human Rights and Environmental Records
  • New Trends in Food Fraud
  • Diversification of Supply Chain Capacity
  • Product Reformulation Challenges due to Supply Chain Challenges
  • Traceability
  • Preparing the Next Generation of FSQA Leaders
  • Food Defense & Cybersecurity
  • Food Safety and Quality in the Growing World of e-commerce
  • Quality Helping Improve Manufacturing Efficiency with How Does Quality Show Value to the Organization?

The event will also feature special sessions led by our partners, including the Food Defense Consortium, GFSI, STOP Foodborne Illness and Women in Food Safety.

Tabletop exhibits and custom sponsorship packages are available. Contact Sales Director RJ Palermo.

Registration will open soon. To stay up to date on registration, event keynote and agenda announcements, opt in to Food Safety Tech.

About Food Safety Tech

Food Safety Tech is a digital media community for food industry professionals interested in food safety and quality. We inform, educate and connect food manufacturers and processors, retail & food service, food laboratories, growers, suppliers and vendors, and regulatory agencies with original, in-depth features and reports, curated industry news and user-contributed content, and live and virtual events that offer knowledge, perspectives, strategies and resources to facilitate an environment that fosters safer food for consumers.

About the Food Safety Consortium

Food companies are concerned about protecting their customers, their brands and their own company’s financial bottom line. The term “Food Protection” requires a company-wide culture that incorporates food safety, food integrity and food defense into the company’s Food Protection strategy.

The Food Safety Consortium is an educational and networking event for Food Protection that has food safety, food integrity and food defense as the foundation of the educational content of the program. With a unique focus on science, technology and compliance, the “Consortium” enables attendees to engage in conversations that are critical for advancing careers and organizations alike. Delegates visit with exhibitors to learn about cutting-edge solutions, explore three high-level educational tracks for learning valuable industry trends, and network with industry executives to find solutions to improve quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the evolving food industry.

FDA

Highlights of FDA’s 2021 Achievements in Food

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

At the end of his reflection on FDA’s 2021 accomplishments in the food realm, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas stated that he believes collaboration will enable industry to “bend the curve of foodborne illnesses in this decade”. It would be a significant milestone, and in his latest FDA Voices blog, Yiannas reviewed a host of FDA achievements that bring his statement much closer to a reality:

FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock gives of full report on the agency’s work in the “FDA 2021 Year in Review: Working For You”.

Compare this year’s review with that of 2020, where Yiannas reflected on the agency’s Food Program achievements during the first year of the pandemic and the 10-year anniversary of FSMA.

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.