Technology has found its way into almost every industry with the hopes of automating processes, maintaining standards, and securing consistency. The food industry is no exception. Threats of contamination, bacteria, and intentional adulteration are on the rise. But when it comes to food safety, leaders can look to technology for more reliable monitoring and protection.
Connected devices, tags, sensors, label tracking, and monitoring systems are already available as effective ways to digitize food safety programs. Promising more accurate results and standards, you’d expect to see early adoption of these technologies in the food industry. However, some research shows otherwise.
The slow adoption of technology for food safety quantified
Recently, Food Safety News published an article on the slow take-up of digital methods to enhance food safety. The article points to a recent survey from the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) conducted with more than 1,600 industry experts. The findings of the survey were shared for the first time during the 2019 GFSI Conference in Nice, France. Results show that there’s still a huge opportunity to leverage technology in the food industry.
The results showed that less than 10% of companies credit technology as playing a strong role in their current food safety plan. Among those who reported using technology applied to food safety, most used sensors and beacons for food safety monitoring. However, even those are currently leveraged by only 44% of respondents, with plans to increase to 56% in three years. This technology group is followed by a very slow adoption of blockchain. Blockchain is currently only used by 15% of respondents with plans to grow to 40% in three years.
Additionally, the top operational risks revealed in the survey paint a picture of what could result in serious dangers for consumers. Lack of food safety culture was the second highest ranking threat at 30%, following behind the expected domination of contamination as the leading threat. Concerningly, non-compliance with regulations came in strongly as the third highest threat at 28%. These results highlight an important realization that the integration of digital technology and traceability have yet to fully transition from simply buzzworthy ideas into actual implementation and regular practice.
Rentokil’s food safety and technology research
In 2016, our parent company, Rentokil Initial, commissioned research around this very same topic. Conducted by Quocirca, this unique survey aimed to evaluate the challenges in managing an increasingly complex food supply chain. The survey also explored the perceptions around the current and future impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on food supply chain organizations.
Although years apart, the separate survey results are well aligned in their outputs. The Rentokil Initial study found that manual systems are still prevalent in managing issues around pest control in the food industry. One of the major findings of this survey was that only 37% of food supply chain decision makers planned to deploy significant numbers of IoT devices in the next two years. All survey results are shared in the report: “The impact of the Internet of Things: From farm to fork” alongside with some additional insights and relevant industry trends.
Why leverage technology for food safety?
Threats to food safety happen throughout the entire food supply chain process. As the global trade economy has boomed, so have the number of consumable goods being transported around the globe. With food crossing country borders more now than ever before, the risk of food contamination has escalated. This food contamination can be caused by many different reasons, including pest activity.
Pests pose a huge threat to business handling food as they can contaminate food and damage goods and raw materials. With ideal conditions and no natural predators, global trade can easily introduce a foreign pest to a new area. A small occurrence can quickly escalate into a full infestation if not identified soon enough. Rats offer a great example of how quickly pests can multiply and how much damage can be caused if left unchecked.
Along the same lines, one pest sighting can also result in millions of dollars in losses. Food-related businesses are continually under strict regulations, and any pest presence puts the brand at risk. A pest infestation can result in low audit scores, shutdowns, product recalls, as well as lost revenue and customer trust. The good news is that technology can help businesses to take proactive steps when it comes to food safety. Blockchain technology helps to track where food comes from and the potential risks it encounters along its journey, making it ideal for managing such a global food supply chain.
How to start digitizing a food safety program
Implementing technology throughout the food supply chain isn’t as difficult a process as some operators may think. A robust technology ecosystem of connected devices and cloud-based systems can be used in any business. Farms, warehouses, food processing facilities, food-retail facilities, and restaurants can easily track any operational standards.
For pest control specifically, monitoring devices such as PestConnect, when connected to a cloud system like PestNetOnline (PNOL), can provide real-time information on pest issues, locations, and recommendations enabling quick action before a small problem turns into an uncontrolled infestation. PNOL also offers easy access to documentation for audit processes to make the experience seamless.
Embracing the future
Technology can help to create a food safety culture that consumers can trust and business operators can rely on. Embracing this interconnected future increases transparency in the production process, aids in managing supply chain control, and demonstrates a commitment to food safety. Knowledge is power. So having knowledge of potential risks along every step of the way increases the power of brand consistency.
Pest control plays an important role in food safety. With the correct data and reporting, it’s possible to predict pest activities based on weather, facility structure, and seasonality. Customized programs allow you to put the right procedures in place before a problem ever arises. Having a proactive pest management plan in place keeps businesses protected against unexpected activity, possible contamination and regulation violations, and associated brand risks.
Rentokil Steritech has the right solutions to help brands of all sizes leverage the latest technologies to better support their pest control programs. Secure food safety in your business with the most up to date information possible.
For more information on Rentokil Steritech’s pest management plans for businesses handling food, visit www.rentokil-steritech.com.