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Reducing Food Safety Hazards through the Use of Technology

Food and Beverages | Friday, December 31, 2021

Operators must maintain constant vigilance to minimize or eliminate risks such as food safety violations, fraudulent reports, and security breaches. Technology tools contribute to the safety, efficiency, and profitability of operations—and can assist mitigate several dangers that could potentially ruin a brand.

FREMONT, CA: Every day, food businesses face risks with each shift. This requires their teams to take preventative measures to minimize the likelihood of a foodborne illness incidence, security breach, or other disasters. Organizations must now apply COVID-19 protocols in addition to "basic" safety standards, which are constantly evolving to comply with local, state, and federal guidelines. The industry-wide workforce shortage complicates these difficulties, which makes it even more difficult for food enterprises to function efficiently and adhere to safety procedures.

Any deviation from SOP is the reason for concern. A seemingly harmless error—such as improperly closing a freezer door—could result in significant liability for an organization. And mistakes do occur, mainly if the organization is understaffed or new employees are unfamiliar with safety measures.

Operators monitor and mitigate risk in various ways, with some relying on paper checklists and others on extensive digital systems. While operators desire to minimize risk, replacing their outmoded safety systems may not be high on their priority list, primarily while dealing with massive COVID-related outages, catastrophic economic losses, supply chain disruptions, and a human capital crisis.

While it may seem overwhelming to consider purchasing and implementing new technology tools now—with so many other pressing issues requiring attention—the negative consequences of a potential security breach could be catastrophic, including loss of customer trust, negative press, scathing social media comments, and potential litigation. IT solutions may help the firm decrease risks—and maximize compliance—across the board.

Businesses in the food industry would be prudent to:

Utilize technological techniques to improve food safety monitoring

It only takes one mistake to sully a brand's reputation. Personnel may be pressed for time and mistakenly skip a line check, resulting in the serving of dangerous food. Requiring the use of technology tools—such as safety inspections via a smartphone app rather than a paper

checklist—can improve compliance and accuracy and peace of mind that safety checks were conducted properly.

Food safety software can include Bluetooth integrations that continually monitor temperature sensors in refrigerators and freezers and notify personnel if they fall outside of safe operating parameters. Digital temperature probes automatically record and store data. Today's digital technologies enable managers to see any patterns of employees inputting data incorrectly or bypassing line checks entirely.

Recognize problems before they develop into costly liabilities

Manual processes have many disadvantages; among them is the inability to view, synthesize, and evaluate data in real-time. Businesses that rely on manual processes may not become aware of potential dangers until weeks, if not months after reports are eventually collected. However, by utilizing technology to handle data, it is possible to identify quickly—and correct—potential problems before they become significant liabilities.

Automatic, real-time reporting is critical to risk reduction. Digital reports enable food safety personnel to see patterns, verify that the proper standards are being followed, and establish whether data is altered.

Maintain familiarity with ever-changing COVID guidelines

Throughout history, cleanliness has been a critical component of food safety. Historically, food enterprises have employed "behind-the-scenes" cleaning techniques. COVID-19 altered this dynamic—most likely for the foreseeable future—as consumers, sellers, and other critical audiences expect and want to see cleaning appropriately performed and continuously.

Similarly, employees, consumers, and other vital constituencies expect that COVID practices—including masks, social isolation, staff temperature checks, and increased handwashing—will be followed, particularly as the highly contagious Delta variety continues to spread.

 

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