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Transforming food safety with technology and innovation

There are some alarming statistics on the impact of pests on businesses. For example, 55% of all businesses report losing at least one working day per year due to infestations and two-fifths of all infestations last over two weeks – causing substantial financial and reputational damage to any food business.

The problem is frustrating for anyone managing facilities in the food industry. Many organisations have preventative measures in place but still struggle to stop infestations because they don’t have the resources to monitor facilities 24/7.

Thankfully, though, a solution is now available with the rise of IoT technology that presents a considerable opportunity to redress the balance and improve pest control. 

What’s the role of technology in food safety?

In recent years, we’ve seen the presence of technology grow exponentially in the food industry. As technology advances, the industry has become increasingly able to meet the ever-changing demands of consumers.

The food and beverage industry uses technology to ensure safety and quality in food processing, packaging and distribution. Technological advances are making it quicker and easier to maintain food safety and technology mitigates the risk of unsafe food. 

In food production, technology can help save time and protect employees from doing dangerous tasks themselves.

What are the different types of food safety technology?

Several technologies have been introduced to enhance and ensure food safety. Let’s look at a few examples of how it’s transforming food safety. 

Temperature monitoring

Firstly, technology has proven very useful in monitoring the temperature of, for example, refrigerators. For example, monitoring systems that rely on sensors signal when temperatures rise above safe storage temperatures. This not only prevents food waste and monetary loss when refrigerators malfunction and the temperature isn’t monitored, but it also protects food safety and could even save lives. 

An automated temperature monitoring system ensures that staff and managers know exactly if and when a refrigerator is out of order so, they can maintain food safety by addressing the issue before storing any more food. 

Expiration dates and ingredients

Technology automation can also promote food safety by providing expiration dates and information and the source of ingredients used. 

Date coding technology is making it easier and more efficient to print dates, such as sell-by and expiration dates, and maintain food safety. 

Technological advances mean most date-code printer systems can print clearly and quickly onto various packaging materials. But speed and efficiency are not the only benefits. The automated system also significantly reduces the need to handle products, helping to ensure food safety and minimising the chance of human error. 

Reducing fraud

Technology can even help to reduce fraud that compromises food safety. For example, there seems to be an unfortunate and widespread ‘pencil whipping’ problem, whereby employees can falsify and ‘cheat’ paper record systems. This process can compromise food safety and violate food codes, threatening the health and safety of customers. 

However, technology and digital tools can help reduce or even eliminate this problem with real-time data collection and visual activity records with photos and videos. This ultimately ensures high standards of food safety are upheld. 

How Rentokil employs IoT technology in pest control

At Rentokil, we’ve harnessed IoT technology and developed PestConnect – a system of connected, sustainable rodent traps for superior protection of premises and ultimate peace of mind.

The system uses infrared sensors that continuously monitor facilities and detect rodent activity. With quick intervention from expert technicians, PestConnect helps prevent costly infestations and environmental damage. 

PestConnect is also integrated with myRentokil: our customer reporting and analysis portal. This 24/7 reporting system uses the data analysis expertise of organsations like Google, PA Consulting Group and Qlik and allows businesses to gain insight into pest trends for their premises and view detailed records of pest activity. They can use the data to build and schedule custom reports to support auditing and legislative requirements and help prevent pest problems.

A future of multi-sector collaboration to improve food safety

In the future, the availability of new data collected by systems like PestConnect will likely lead to greater collaboration across the whole food industry.

Major industry groups recognise this already. For example, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) provides an international multi-stakeholder platform for collaboration, knowledge exchange and networking along the supply chain.

Governing authorities are also playing their part. Significantly, the European Commission is encouraging the participation of all the potential contributors that play an active role in the agro-food chain, including farmers, machinery suppliers, food processors, retailers, wholesalers and, of course, the scientists and IoT technology suppliers working in the food sector. Results will also inform EU policy on farming, food safety and food security.

There’s little doubt: the rise of IoT technology could significantly affect food safety. Systems like PestConnect detect food safety threats as they happen and implement control measures before threats can spread. Crucially, they also lead us to the point where we can predict likely infestations and improve efficiency and business continuity in the process – ultimately helping to improve food safety and security across the supply chain.

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