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Just as technology has helped the food industry keep up with the demand for food in the 21st Century, so too can digital solutions be leveraged in the overall effort to ensure the safety of food and food products. This article provides a brief overview of some of the ways in which digital technologies can support essential food safety practices.
Today’s $3.5 (U.S.) trillion food services industry has continually evolved to meet the rapidly growing demand for safe, nutritious and flavorful food required to feed the global population of nearly 8 billion people. Food supply chains extend halfway around the world to bring a wide variety of fresh and frozen food products to people in far-away countries. Food retailers increasingly offer precooked food options that are available for takeaway and for home delivery to meet consumer preferences and schedules. And researchers and scientists are exploring new ways to use plant-based and laboratory-grown ingredients as a substitute for resource depleting dairy and meat products.
The problem is that all of these food industry innovations also introduce new challenges when it comes to ensuring food safety. Food products and ingredients can be exposed to chemical or biological contamination all along the supply chain due to substandard handling, poor refrigeration or environmental controls, and inadequate transportation procedures. Insufficient or haphazardly applied sanitation practices among food preparation workers can transmit salmonella, campylobacter or E-coli, contributing to instances of food-borne illnesses. And, while it’s too soon to know all the potential effects, the introduction of lab-grown meat and dairy substitutes to the market is likely to generate a whole new array of food safety risks.
Having current and accurate information serves as the basis for almost all policies and practices intended to ensure the safety of food and food practices. That’s why the use of advanced digital technologies can provide an obvious and effective solution to the safety challenges facing food producers, distributors and retailers today. Here are just a few examples of how digital technologies are being deployed to support the effectiveness of food safety efforts:
These and other digital technology solutions offer significant advantages over legacy methods of collecting and maintaining a wide range of current food safety data, and enable food safety professionals to more easily identify potential safety concerns.
TÜV SÜD has long been a leader in the development of advanced digital solutions in support of efforts to keep food safe. Beginning in 2014, TÜV SÜD was one of the first testing organisations to implement the use of QR codes and holograms on food and other products. The QR codes provide users with direct access to online copies of all current certifications to relevant product safety standards, thereby allowing users to instantly verify compliance with relevant product safety standards. TÜV SÜD also released a Smart Certificate Explorer (SCE) application for smart phones and other mobile devices to allow users to quickly and easily scan product certificate QR codes.
More recently, TÜV SÜD helped to bring hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) practices in the food industry into the 21st Century with the introduction of its new eHACCP offering. Founded on a cloud-based HACCP platform developed by German start-up flowtify, TÜV SÜD's eHACCP programme offers a complete digital solution for the collection, reporting and storage of HACCP data. The flowtify on-line platform offers a suite of data analytics and reporting tools to help food facility management evaluate the effectiveness of their hygiene programs. And the flowtify app for handheld devices facilitates the electronic collection of data, eliminating the cost and risks associated with paper-based HACCP systems.
Digital technologies have the potential to radically transform how we address today’s complex food safety issues. TÜV SÜD’s eHACCP offering and its use of QR codes and holograms are making important contributions to that effort and to the current and future state of food safety in the world. To learn more about TÜV SÜD’s eHACCP and eAudit offerings, see our article “The Industry 4.0 Impact on Food Safety Testing”. For more information about TÜV SÜD’s QR product testing label, see our article “Increasing Transparency in Food Quality”.
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