Several high-profile food recalls have dominated headlines in recent years. These recalls can pose serious health risks to the population and do immense damage to businesses, negatively impacting their bottom lines. Whether from farm to supermarket, or downstream to hotel restaurants, cafeterias, sports stadiums and other venues, expectations for food quality and the safety of the food supply chain are higher today than those of earlier generations when food-related poisoning and illness were common.
The good news today is twofold - the FDA is taking a new approach to food safety, leveraging technology and other tools to create a safer and more digital, traceable food system. At the same time, new tools and technologies continue to transform the way food is produced, managed, and distributed, helping to make food safety easier and more accessible.
According to Food Manufacturing, the growing use of technology at every stage of the food supply chain is making it much quicker and easier to identify problems, trace them back to their sources, and eliminate them from store shelves and commercial kitchens before customers can be sickened.
Through the advancement of technology, food safety is becoming increasingly more manageable for distributors and manufacturers across the U.S. Among the top technology trends driving a safer supply chain are the rise of AI, predictive analytics, blockchain, cloud, and IoT. For instance, AI-powered technology, can predict demand spikes and lows, helping distributors identify when fluctuations might occur so they can act quickly and ensure inventory isn’t impacted.
As a result of these predictive technologies, food shipments can be traced throughout the entire supply chain process to reduce the amount of waste. New requirements for food tracing have also increased the popularity of blockchain coupled with RFID and IoT technology. To comply with food safety regulations and track environmental conditions and more, identifiers such as RFID tags stored in a blockchain can allow distributors and products to track products in real-time and provide the necessary updates for regulatory purposes. Considering foodborne illnesses cost the United States more than $15.6 billion each year, utilizing predictive analytics and blockchain-based technology is key for distributors to help prevent recalls.
The integration of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors with ERP systems enable automatic temperature monitoring and logging for the storage and distribution of food products. For example, if you are storing packages of meat that must maintain a specific temperature and a power outage occurs, you can check the temperature log to determine whether the meat remained at a safe temperature or if it must be removed from the supply chain.
As the use of artificial intelligence and automation continues to grow, trucking and the transportation of food goods have also become more manageable for distributors even with all the supply chain issues we are experiencing today. Fleet management software and blockchain help to analyze metrics and provide insight into trucking performance, including tracking safety incidents, engine hours, route performance, and fuel management. By using AI intelligence to predict patterns that help truckers and logistics providers create a more efficient, safer routing system for food distribution, companies are better able to meet demand and avoid hiccups in the supply chain.
To better manage unpredictable market conditions, organizations along the food supply chain are turning to the cloud — in fact, just mentions of the cloud have increased 220% in the space since 2016. With a scalable cloud architecture, organizations can create efficiencies such as the ability to track products in real-time, ensuring the freshest products reach their next destination along the supply chain.
While still evolving, current food safety trends such as improved process monitoring, new labeling guidelines, and supply chain traceability, is greatly assisting in identifying, tracking, and removing contaminated ingredients from the supply chain and protecting the population. At the same time, technology is helping to limit and even prevent damage to food companies and their customers.