The world of the information age is rapidly changing. The unprecedented rate at which every process we know conventionally, changes is remarkable. We must adapt to this change because this change is making our lives and businesses easy. The technology present is revolutionizing industries by helping businesses tackle setbacks such as maintaining the best product service, recruiting employees, and retaining them.
The great resignation is a real threat faced by businesses and this is where their business model is at risk. Furthermore, due to COVID-19, people are avoiding human touchpoints wherever they can. To tackle these problems, automation via machines and robots is making an impact by providing solutions, especially in the food industry.
These machines help support workers and service the customers. These machines also help to solve the problems of back-of-house operations as this is where food safety risks are maximum due to factors such as unclean working conditions, poor handling of food by the employees, and mismanagement. Automation is expanding and companies seek to digitize their equipment to provide a clean and well-maintained environment and decrease food safety risks that are on the rise.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), provided a report which estimated that almost one in six Americans fall ill due to the consumption of contaminated beverages and foods every year. As many as 3000 Americans annually lose their lives due to foodborne illnesses. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided estimated that annually, preventable foodborne illnesses cost the USA well over $15.6 billion. The food service industry needs to address these safety risks and due to the pandemic, an increase in labor shortage and costs introduces threats to this service sector.
The new and only way to adapt to these serious threats is to introduce automation to help the industry recover. This automation integration in the foodservice business can help provide food safety and help this sector recover. This industry can work collaboratively with the technology sector to design new automated devices as solutions.
Food Safety Challenges:
Food safety challenges continue to loom over our nation. The foods we consume to ensure good health are unfortunately becoming the medium for the transfer of foodborne illnesses in America. These foods are contaminated with germs and bacteria such as Salmonella, Norovirus, Listeria, E.coli, and Toxoplasma are responsible for over 90% of the illnesses in the country.
These sicknesses can even lead to deaths if not treated appropriately. Progress is needed to protect all of the people and eliminate illnesses related to food in America. This is due to mishandling of the animals and plants that make up our diets.
Read More: Key Components of Food Safety Compliance
New food safety challenges continue to emerge because of multiple reasons such as:
A Change in the Supply and Production of Foods also Includes Becoming More Reliant on Imported Foods
To meet the demands of the population, food must be produced at a rate greater than consumption; however, this is not entirely possible, and it represents one of the biggest food safety challenges
This results in the food being produced in unhygienic working conditions which increase the risk of the transfer of germs onto our foods. The animals are raised in hellish conditions that lead to their poor health. Furthermore, the supply of these foods is also in very unpleasant conditions.
The fulfilling of supplies means some business owners abuse the animals by fattening them artificially. Inadequate packaging leads the foodstuffs to be exposed to dirt and germs which increase the risk of foodborne illnesses.
Additionally, insufficient production leads to importing our food supplies, this means foodstuffs imported are stored, transported, and managed ineffectively which leads to the food becoming contaminated. This contamination sickens the consumers.
Changes in the World’s Natural Environment Lead to Food Contamination
According to the World Health Organization, climate change has considerable impacts on the safety of food. These indirectly and directly place the health of the public at risk.
Changing rainfall patterns and an increase in extreme weather conditions such as temperature are the direct result of climate change. These conditions impact the occurrence and persistence of viruses, parasites, fungi, and harmful algae which increase the risk of foodborne diseases and toxic contamination. This is another challenge from the list of food safety challenges.
Veterinary medicines inside plants and animal feed and chemical residue of pesticides increase the risks. Contamination of foods with industrial heavy metals and pollutants changes the crop varieties, cultivation methods, redistribution of sediments and soil contribute to mortality rates.
The effects of climate change pose a real risk to food security and public health. The pastures are also given artificial feeds that affect their meat as it becomes unfit for consumption but is rolled out in to the market to meet the increased demand.
The use of Technology for Better Detection of Multistate Outbreaks of Food
The CDC coordinates investigations for detecting multiple state outbreaks. These are generally caused by Salmonella, Listeria, and E.Coli.
These are detected by the CDC’s national laboratory network by PulseNet. The lab compares the DNA prints of bacteria from ill people.
When multiple people get sick around the same time period, after attending the same event and by the same food, this indicates a possible outbreak. This means better detection techniques increase the declaration of outbreaks.
Emerging and New Toxins, Bacteria, and their Increased Antibiotic Resistance
Bacteria and toxins are evolving and this leads to them becoming more resistant to antibiotics in the pastures. These germs develop an ability to defeat the drugs that were designed to eliminate them.
This results in the germs continuing to grow and sicken the animals. These are then supplied to the market and cause foodborne illnesses. Antibiotic resistant germs are a classic example of what doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger.
In the U.S. alone, annually 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur that make it through to the public via food supplies.
Over 35,000 people die as a result of these foodborne illnesses. According to the CDC’s 2019 Antibiotic Resistance Threats Report, when Clostridiodes difficile is added, the toll of threats exceeds an astounding 3 million infections and yields approximately 48,000 deaths.
Anti-biotic resistant infections require a line of rigorous treatments that result in harming the patients by causing adverse side effects such as prolonged recovery and care, and organ failure for as long as several months.
These advances are then dependent on using antibiotics, replacing joints, organ transplantation, treatment of chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, and arthritis, and cancer therapy to restore the health of the patients.
A Change in the Consumption Patterns and Preferences of Consumers
There are multiple factors that result in biological determinants for food choices of humans. These factors are physical and economic factors, social aspects, psychological factors, and consumption patterns.
he physiological needs of people are changing rapidly. Palatability is proportional to the pleasure experienced when a particular food is consumed.
People eat sweets and high-fat foods as these foods have a high sensory appeal. People also want foods that taste good, regardless of any risk they pose. The cost and accessibility are the economic factors.
People eat what they can afford. Low-income groups cannot access fruits and vegetables and risk consuming rotten foods as they are more affordable for them. Social factors include cultural influences and social contexts.
The meal patterns of people also change as they don’t have time to cook s they prefer snacking as it is cheap and hassle-free but have highly adverse effects such as obesity and malnutrition.
A Change in the Tests that Diagnose Foodborne illnesses
With the advancement in technology, infections are being diagnosed quicker as it has become easy to identify them. This poses challenges to finding outbreaks and monitoring any progress towards preventing food-borne diseases.
Now, infections can be diagnosed within hours instead of days, and the tracking of these outbreaks can set disease trends.
Principle Guidelines to Follow When Automating Food Service Business
When a foodservice industry decides to use automation on the back-end of their system in order to ensure food safety. They rush in for it and ignore multiple guidelines.
Never Wait for Food Safety Evaluations
When you decide to automate the back-end of the food industry. You must have a food safety expert on board as soon as possible without any delays. This is required because this allows for crucial design changes to be made before it is late and an outbreak is born.
The food manufacturers can engage safety experts as early as in the architecture design phase. The experts will assist with examining the computer-aided designs to identify components that can be non-compliant with FDA or industry standards.
These components may be joints, fasteners, and seams. Unfortunately, the engineers who design equipment for food automation do not have any significant experience or qualifications. This is where third-party consultants are most certified to offer help.
The accredited authorities are able to consult on projects, clarify what design elements do not meet an industry standard. These allow the project to be given the go-ahead and save significant delays and reduce costs.
The automation in animal care also make sure that the animals are healthy and fit. RFID tags can be used on animals to treat each and every livestock as a separate entity and be cared for respectively.
Consider Design Elements for Hygiene
The hygienic design is a key part of making sure that the food is safe. Industries must make sure that they factor in time for performance testing, and hygienic testing preferably with a certified food safety organization.
During these tests, the certified experts may evaluate the architecture and design to find features that pose safety risks for food contamination such as open seams, open thermometers, and crevices that may encourage the growth or transfer of germs and bacteria.
Materials such as stainless steel and coated steel also need to be tested and ensured that these meet the standards of the U.S. food and drug administration regulations. If the standards are met then the machines are ready to use.
For example, for a refrigerated machine, it is important to test and verify that these temperature gauges are functional accurately.
Similarly, it is critical to make sure ventilation systems in machines are working and that they do not leak into the food products that may lead to contamination. When third-party organizations perform testing, they can make sure that the result is free of any bias.
These organizations perform tests such as design checks to make sure they follow FDA regulations, the cleaning instructions of the machines are tested, and the quality of the machines is also factored in.
Be Sure to have a Third-Party Certification from a Relevant Organization
The FDA has identified multiple food safety violation categories. In 2020, they found the three most common foodstuff safety violations. These were identified as manufacturing controls, personnel routine issues, and hazard analysis.
Having a third-party certification offers peace of mind about the quality, safety, and process routines of the industry. These certifications also provide an approval seal for convincing the clients and for public health food inspectors.
Relevant certification bodies ensure that all of the processes in the industry and the equipment used fall under the strict and evolving local, state, and international standards and guidelines.
This helps protect public health and provides a sense of approval. The food inspectors hold and look for these certifications as they are held in high regard. This is because the inspectors are aware of the rigor and prestige of the review process of third-party organizations.
It is preferable to obtain certification for the health inspector reviews for the equipment in the use of the business be it machines, storage compartments, or the routines followed out by the staff.
The automation of food equipment is going to be a revolutionary player in the future of the food service and foodstuffs industry. It can be a game-changer and innovator with the launch of devices such as self-servicing kiosks, automated hamburger flippers, smart eyeglasses for training or use, 3-dimensional cake printers that are sure to amaze the customers.
The following principles in the food industry will make sure that this equipment will help in increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the business while also keeping the process safe and FDA approved. These intelligent devices have started to be deployed into the industry and are on the way to approval. It is important to have a company that can manage the automation side of the business while you focus on growing the business.
What are the Benefits of Automation in the Food Industries with Respect to Food Safety?
There are multiple benefits for the foodstuff industry especially when the standards for food safety are increasing day by day. These benefits provide benefits such as increasing work efficiency, decreasing operational costs, less dependent on manual labor and increasing overall operational effectiveness. The benefits which represent their potential for food safety are as follows:
Digital Automation for Food Safety and Quality
The automation helps in implementing a system that can make sure that the food safety regulations are followed. These systems produce efficiencies that can result in a lower operational cost from the bottom.
Automation can help reduce time and labor costs while also increasing the accuracy and cleanliness of the system or the process. The automation of devices comes into major play in systems where food safety is of critical importance. The automated devices can easily adapt to the organizations’ safety needs.
This digitization can closely replicate the current food safety process equally if not better. These limit the reconfiguration requirements and limit any disruption. If you have a technology company partnered that can tailor solutions to a specific operation, it is extremely beneficial for your long-term success with automation.
These solutions help reach safety standards and make them more seamless and virtually risk-free. For whichever safety solution for food you choose, the organization will come to a step closer to increasing efficiency, reliability of products, safe operations, and hygienic products. This is the future of smarter and safer food.
Reducing time Spent Auditing and Recording
In this new era of producing smarter food safety, the records for traceability are required more than ever to ensure proper documentation. These records are needed as hardcopy or electronic records.
These records need to be in an appropriate condition and be legible. In the case of a food safety incident such as a foodborne illness spreading, the FDA will require traceability documents to be submitted to them within 24 hours. These records are required in the form of a spreadsheet that is searchable and within 24 hours.
If your business is reliant on the conventional paper-based system, the audit can become extremely time and resource-consuming.
Furthermore, the trail of papers will be very difficult to find and maintain. The storage of these documents is also very chaotic. So arranging the documents within a 24-hour time limit can become almost impossible.
On the contrary, a digital system for food safety makes the auditing and recording of this process extremely easy and hassle-free. It will make use of a cloud-based system that will record and report the food safety data automatically.
This means that if a company is required to organize, collect and then present the complete documentation within 24 hours, this process will only take a few hours at maximum. It will require minimal resources and eliminate any chance for human error in the reporting.
These modern digital systems can even export all of the data as an organized and searchable spreadsheet. This improves the operational effectiveness of the business and ensures that the data is safe and reliable. Even the livestock can be treated in a way that each and every animal is cared for properly to ensure a healthy food supply for the public. Automation makes the business and the authorities’ lives easier and more manageable.
Standardizing Simple, Everyday Compliance Tasks
As new FDA regulations and protocols are entering the food safety industry, the usage of digital solutions can help to standardize the most common procedures for food safety.
The compliance of everyday tasks, such as temperature checks of equipment, product logging, sanitation, and cleaning of the machinery are tasks that are necessary. These tasks are time-consuming and tedious and generally lead to very poor workflow management.
Thanks to automation, the advanced safety systems for foods can automate tasks or provide digitized management that can track the complete work from devices such as mobile phones or computer applications. If this is connected to a server, this also increases the day-to-day operations and can help free up the time of your workforce to focus on other tasks of the business such as customer service.
This includes the traceability modules that will help track the operations from the start. This digital solution is virtually tamper-proof and can prevent fraudulent entries. A digital food safety solution will also make sure that tasks are safely carried and save costs.
For example, the sending of live notifications by a refrigerator can alert the employees of a breakdown, manage the inventory and prevent any spoilage. Or checking if an individual livestock suddenly has an abnormal activity with their health. These problems can be catered to with immediate effect.
Automated Food Safety Reports
The automation of food safety reports means that by using machines and the internet, the report generation of food safety is digitized. Automation systems demonstrate a huge reduction in the lag between recording a problem and then acting up upon it.
The data can be uploaded and then a weekly report can be generated. Systems that make use of artificial intelligence can detect patterns and even provide smart reports where a setback or shortfall is detected. It can even offer help to solve problems such as timing conflicts or detect repeated errors. AI can be used to detect illness or any abnormality in the livestock.
Expert and certified companies are available to offer their automation services for industries related to the food business and can significantly help these organizations achieve partial or complete automation to help the business become safe, considering the increased importance it has in the post-COVID-19 world.
Automation companies such as Folio3 provide cutting-edge Animal Care Software Solutions that revolutionize livestock management and pet care.
With the knowledge of our domain experts of the animal care industry, and our extensive expertise in developing animal care software solutions, we can help you optimize and better manage your animal care procedures and practices, whether you’re a farm or ranch owner, animal caretaker, feed yard operator or animal care specialist. Their solutions can also be implemented in food service sectors such as retailers or restaurants.
Why Digital Food Safety Features are Necessary?
These digital food safety features are necessary as they help maintain the safety of food quality. Automation helps in decreasing human error factors, makes the process streamlined, and decreases operational costs.
These features are necessary as they help in a variety of maintenance features such as:
- Preventing inventory losses and improving staff efficiency. The digital food safety systems can be relied upon as they use technology such as remote sensors and Bluetooth pyrometers that can take temperature checks of machinery consistently and accurately.
- These remote temperature sensors are placed in locations that are temperature sensitive such as walk-in coolers, cold storage, and freezers. This helps avoid any potential inventory loss due to factors such as incorrect storage environments. In case say machine malfunctions, these triggers can sense the change in temperature and send an immediate alert which can allow the problem to be dealt with swiftly without suffering any heavy losses. It also ensures that the food is kept safe and does not lead to food poisoning or contamination.
- Since these temperatures are detected by sensors, all of the temperatures are logged and are well documented. The Bluetooth thermometers on the other hand help save your workforce time by automating the temperature logging. The Bluetooth device is connected to the food safety software which can capture are log temperatures into appropriate records. This increases efficiency as the staff can perform these checks swiftly without any paper documentation.
- Transparency via digital checklists. The conversion of paper checklists into a new digital system is necessary for several reasons, but, most notably to maintain constant transparency into the task completion. Increased visibility allows for a better understanding of everyday operations and their compliance in every position. These digital checklists also ensure the compilation of all the food safety processes into a single repository instead of sheets of paper and books that are individual. A connected dashboard of all of the data makes the information transparent and visible.
- Compliance with corrective actions. The actions in digital food safety systems need to be carried out correctly based on guidelines. A software solution that can include actions based on regulations and make sure all tasks are completed say in starting up a machine. This also ensures task completion with high quality.
- Easier inspection processes. If all of the processes are digitized onto an automated dashboard, the centralized repository will be ready for review at any time. The food safety and data logs will be available easily and most importantly available without manipulation and easy transfer. This will make the inspection process easy and quick as there is no need to deal with huge stacks of paper. The organization will always be ready for any surprise inspections with all the reports ready at an instant.
These are multiple reasons why food safety is of utmost importance and why the medium to maintain this safety should be digitized. The service improves and technology can be used to uplift service standards and be ready for any inspection checks.
You can hire services of software solution companies such as Folio3 that can help you automate systems and make sure that local, and international service standards are met for the food business while keeping the foods safe and healthy for the public.
Folio3 provides cutting-edge Animal Care Software Solutions that revolutionize livestock management and pet care. With the knowledge of our domain experts of the animal care industry, and our extensive expertise in developing animal care software solutions, we can help you optimize and better manage your animal care procedures and practices, whether you’re a farm or ranch owner, animal caretaker, feed yard operator or animal care specialist. Their solutions can also be implemented in food service sectors such as retailers or restaurants.
Can Food Production be Automated?
The food production process can be automated. This will actually reap several benefits. The automation has the ability to replicate the quality and the appearance of the product with the use of minimal ingredients.
This can increase the operational efficiency that can increase the profit margin. It also results in a consistently good product. Automation also helps to improve the traceability of the raw materials and keep them in check for food safety.
Automating the food production process removes the need for dependency on human labor which can also lead to decreased human error. There is a problem for maintenance of standards in the food industry as the materials are perishable, unlike automotive machinery.
So it is of extreme importance that only the best companies are recruited to produce these automation solutions. Companies such as Folio3 have been in the automation business for well over 15 years and they have head offices in multiple continents. You can pay the nearest office a visit or contact them for an appointment.
How Does Technology Affect Food Safety?
According to Fortune magazine, America has a $55.5 billion food safety problem annually. Foodborne illnesses cost America this much in medical treatments, illness-related mortality, and lost productivity. These illnesses originate from retailers, restaurants, food recalls, and other food safety issues.
The technology is elevating the food safety protocols and making this practice safer. This helps reduce or eliminate food contamination outbreaks and incidents in the future.
A major challenge is getting food businesses to adopt these technology tools. Food companies have been slower to adopt these changes as the food items are perishable. Business people of the food industry are worried about the cost and implementation of these technology-related solutions as they incorrectly fear that these solutions will be expensive or complex to manage.
Technology can help in monitoring processes and making sure that all of the FDA regulations are fine. Technology can make our food safer and contamination-free. It is of equal importance that the solution provider is a competitive company as well. This increases the legitimacy of the third party for your business.
Subsequently, if you have a technically sound company at your side, inspectors and the clients are sure to believe that your food is safe and the processes followed are international and well driven.