The food industry is facing increasing pressure to improve safety of food from two fronts, the consumer, and regulator. Consumers are becoming more sophisticated and demanding more from food suppliers while agencies ranging from FAO and WHO to national food safety agencies and health authorities are enforcing more stringent safety requirements.
Consumers in developed and developing economies are demanding an increasing range of foods to be sourced from all parts of the world and seasonal foods to be on the shelves all year round.
Coupled with this there is a greater awareness of nutrition, environment, sustainability and ethics of food production, putting greater demand on the suppliers and retailers.
The easy availability of information globally means the consumer can find scientifically correct information about products and ingredients, news — and even misinformation — anywhere, anytime. This means food safety issues can be reported around the world in an instant — and affect suppliers, processors, and retailers in an instant.
On the regulatory side, there is pressure, both internationally and nationally, to improve the safety of global food supplies at all points along the increasingly complex supply chains.
These can involve multiple growers, processors, transporters, ingredient and packaging manufacturers and storage sites in any part of the world. Even simple ingredients can have complex supply chains with multiple handover points where risk can be introduced and then errors become difficult to trace.
After several major food safety scares, such as melamine in baby milk formula, horsemeat in beef products, numerous outbreaks of food-borne diseases such as Salmonella, E-coli, and Listeria, authorities have tightened requirements for all components of food supply chains.
Most significantly, major food importing and exporting countries such as the US and China have introduced the greatest changes to their food safety legislation for decades.
Legislation requires all businesses along the supply chain to take responsibility for ensuring the supplies and suppliers they use, as well as their own products, are safe and conform to standards.
Processors, manufacturers, packers, suppliers and distributors of food ingredients and products must be able to:
- identify the hazards that introduce food safety risk;
- define all the processing points that can affect food safety (critical control points) and implement measures to maintain safety;
- implement standard safety practices including pest management, cleaning, hygiene, sanitation and waste management;
- keep records showing compliance;
- comply with standards, verified by independent auditors.
Data on causes of failure to comply with food safety standards compiled by BRC auditors shows that the most common cause of failure is basic hygiene, which includes: sanitation, cleaning, personal hygiene and pest management programmes. 
New role for connected technology
New technology developed by Rentokil Initial uses a range of sensors and wireless technology to send sensor data automatically to a cloud storage system.
The data is combined with an integrated online reporting and analysis system that allows customers to monitor and analyse data collected from their sites.
The same data when collated across all sites and combined with data collected by technicians gives Rentokil unprecedented insights into food safety across thousands of sites.
PestConnect is a collection of devices that detect or capture a variety of pests using traps, bait stations, and monitoring units.
The devices have integrated sensors that can detect a pest, activate a trap, and automatically trigger an alert to Rentokil, for an exterminator to schedule a priority visit, through a dedicated wireless network or GSM mobile network.
The technician will visit the site, survey for signs of pests and recommend measures to improve the integrated pest management service.
The PestConnect detect and capture systems are:
- RADAR Connect: a mouse detection, capture, humane killing and alert system;
- Cage Connect: a mammal capture and alert system;
- AutoGate Connect: a rat control and alert system that uses a smart gate mechanism to allow access to toxic bait.
CageConnect traps an animal and immediately sends an alert to a Rentokil pest controller These systems are integrated with the myRentokil customer portal, where the data is available immediately to the customer and it provides trend reporting, recommendations, interactive maps, charts and analytical tools to support internal and external audits. PestConnect is already installed at over 1000 locations.
HygieneConnect is a system for washrooms that can count the number of visitors and the number that wash their hands with soap.
The aggregated percentage is then displayed on a screen for everyone to see to encourage people who don’t wash their hands to change their behaviour.
The system consists of these components:
- sensors: count the number of people visiting a critical handwash area and the number of people that wash their hands with soap;
- control panel: data is collected from the sensors and is sent to a cloud-based data storage through 3G; the data is then sent to the myInitial reporting tool and the hygiene display monitor;
- hygiene display monitor: shows the percentage of people who have washed their hands with soap at a critical handwash area within a building; and
- myInitial: a secure online reporting tool that gives the customer access to their data so they can easily see and track the handwashing compliance rates of each critical control area.
The power of data
Data intelligence and recommendations that are gathered through our Connect solutions have confirmed the importance of sanitation and hygiene.
From the 100,000 recorded activations of HygieneConnect pilots that have been conducted in high dependency businesses across Europe, it is evident that HygieneConnect has helped them double their hand wash compliance percentage, increasing it from an average of 40% to 80%.
PestConnect data is equally as powerful. Data insights collected through our PestConnect solutions consists of pest incident observations and recommendations that are collected from 51,000 sites in 27 countries. This data is entered by our technicians (exterminators) into myRentokil — a powerful tool for analysing safety factors throughout the supply chain every time a site visit is conducted.
Recorded pest incidents show that just over half of pest problems are caused by rodents and a quarter by flying insects. Interestingly, when the detailed recommendations made by Rentokil technicians across all the sites are analysed, they show that the major factor that needs improvement is sanitation and hygiene.
The data that has been collected by our Connect solutions gives a strong indication that when businesses follow basic procedures for cleaning, preventing contamination and ensuring hygiene, it can have a major effect on improving and maintaining safety throughout the supply chain.
Our PestConnect and HygieneConnect solutions discreetly monitor pest incidences and hygiene compliance to give management an instant indication on:
- where critical areas need improvement;
- help businesses achieve compliance with food safety standards and legislation;
- and most importantly improve safety for consumers.
- Tessa Kelly, Food Safety — A global view, BRC, October 2014. [from RI white paper, Assuring the future of global food safety]