Is IoT the Key to the Future of Food Safety?

Sensors are becoming essential components of the supply chain and critical to food safety.

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We are in the wake of a 25 state E.Coli outbreak that was traced back to Romaine lettuce out of Yuma, Arizona, causing 75 hospitalizations and a death. We’re also currently in the midst of the largest food recall since 2010, with 200+ million eggs being recalled for Salmonella and 22 confirmed cases of illness so far. Both of these outbreaks could have been stopped at the source, but instead it has taken weeks to track down and identify.

These outbreaks are a call to action for better Food Safety Practices, and we are quickly seeing the solution for these issues in the world of IoT. From sensors that read temperature or record time from harvest, to pathogen detection reading bacteria count in various areas and indicating the risk points (known as hazard control points), IoT is making food safety easier and making any problems like the recent outbreaks more traceable.

Sensors are becoming essential components of the supply chain, with temperature sensors being one of the primary concerns. “Temperature has the biggest impact on food safety”, says Brad Walters, CEO of Monnit, a sensor technology company. Companies like Monnit and Delta Trak are integrating smart sensors and devices into the shipping process to create a seamless e-tracking that keeps food cold and prevents pathogens.

Another item on that list of concerns? Environmental testing of pathogens.

“Food producers need to determine at-risk sites for pathogen contamination,” says Andrew Flannery, Ph.D.. Andrew is head of product development in Baltimore-based Pathogen Detection Company, PathSensors, Inc. “These areas can develop into harborage sites because of insufficient cleaning and sanitation. Easy-to-use pathogen identification can help identify these problem areas and make sure the sites are efficiently cleaned to comply with and exceed food safety standards.”

Technologies like Hygiena and CANARY are now able to test, respond and track areas of high risk,  enabling the facilities to have more control over these matters than ever before. Instead of tracking these readings through paperwork and spreadsheets, the capabilities are present to store and share all this information electronically.

And the latest of electronic tracking is a scanner to ensure that employees hands are clean before they encounter any food or food contact surfaces. PathSpot detects any missed pathogens on the hands and sends data that will allow the employees to proceed with their work only if they thoroughly cleaned their hands and are pathogen-free.

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These technological advances are integrated into a food supply chain software to ensure that each critical control point from field and packaging facility to employees hands is completely secure. The Internet of Things enables the integration of each of these points through various technologies to  ensure the safety of our food-future.

And with the Food Safety Modernization act bringing more regulation into the industry as a result of recent food-borne illnesses, IoT in Food Safety will only grow in demand. It will no longer be merely a novel technological advance in the supply chain, but it will be mandatory.

“A mandatory electronic trail that tracks pathogen free facilities, temperature-controlled shipment and safe food-handling practices is in our near future” predicts PathSensors Food Safety Consultant, Don Grim. “This will ensure safe practices throughout the food supply chain and allow us to easily track the source if an outbreak does happen. It shouldn’t take months to get back to the source”. And IoT will be blazing this electronic trail ensuring a food-safe future.

Written by Dawn Musil, Business Development Associate at Pathsensors.