Role of Technology in Today’s Food Safety Efforts

Technology has transformed food safety efforts significantly in recent years. Today, we not only rely on specialized equipment to plant and farm, but we have very specific pieces of equipment that provide food safety reassurance. For example, the online international journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering recently published an article spotlighting engineers at the University of California-Berkeley who have developed a "3D smart-cap". The engineers demonstrated that the device can wirelessly monitor the freshness of milk. What a tremendous impact this cap could have!

Francine L. ShawWith the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) looming, food safety technologies continue to hit the market at a record pace. Foodservice directors utilize modern technology for ordering, inventory control, portion control and waste management — even scheduling their staff. These innovations enable the foodservice industry to run much more efficiently and effectively, decreasing labor costs and increasing profit margins.

Moving forward, technology will be fundamental in gathering information to meet menu labeling guidelines. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration wants better nutrient analysis to support its labeling authority — achieved through advanced technology. Productivity levels in commercial kitchens are up due to the reporting tools and production technologies now available. The use of ventless cooking equipment represents a trend that eliminates the need for cooktops, ovens and fryers to be attached to a conventional exhaust system.

Information that was once burdensome to obtain is now available at your fingertips. Development and utilization of computerized gadgets will support validation practices and processes for safe production, harvesting and processing of fresh fruits and vegetables, providing reassurance that the products you purchase and serve are safe. Advanced state-of-the-art technology will be a necessity from farm to fork — including regulatory agencies. Health inspections in many areas have already moved away from paper and are completed on tablets. Inspections are then uploaded to a website hosted by the state and can immediately be viewed by consumers. Computerization is no longer feared as it once was; automation must continue to evolve and meet society's demands.

The basis of FSMA is risk-based preventative control and Hazard Analysis. Within these processes, preventative measures must be put in place to be successful. The measure of success is minimizing future food safety issues. Operators must implement controls to identify hazards and continually monitor the performance of such controls, including record keeping, corrective action plans and tracking suppliers' compliance. All of this requires groundbreaking technology. It's likely that this new emphasis on prevention will lead to an increased presence of these requirements in the foodservice industry, as well as food production and processing.

Every year in the United States, 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses occur. That's 1 in 6 Americans; yet, it's 100 percent preventable. The foodservice industry is incredibly competitive. The organizations that will succeed, prosper and meet the new compliance standards are the ones that possess the most innovative technologies and methods to attain regulatory compliance without compromising efficiency or standards.

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