Editor’s note: This is the first of a four-part series on technology and food safety sponsored by PAR Technologies.
pH meters, infrared thermometers, wearable prompting guides and automatic cleaning systems are just a few of the many technology advancements the food industry has seen in the last 20 years says NSF’s Rade Jankovic, Senior Account Manager of Retail Food Services.
As paper back documentation systems are replaced by digital platforms, education and technology investments need to be made to aide food industry workers on a retail level practice better food safety practices.
“Unlike food manufacturing companies that rely heavily on process automation, food retail establishments’ use of automation is limited to the extent that consumers – as current trends indicate – are looking for fresh offerings that evoke the feelings of home-made cooking,” says Jankovic.
“Technology in retail settings and food safety programs has been primarily used to aid in the management of elaborate food preparation processes and procedures rather than serve as a replacement.”
Data point tracking
“Thermometers, pH meters and other measuring devices are used to monitor critical control points, as well as food quality or content attributes,” says Jankovic. “Infrared thermometers allow operators to obtain quick measurements of case temperatures and in conjunction with more conventional thermocouples and digital probe thermometers augment the in-store temperature monitoring programs.”
“Use of labels/stickers on food packaging to indicate product freshness levels or temperature compliance.”
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) hygiene monitoring to detect for food particular residues is an effective was to verify store cleaning programs by in-store personnel, internal or third-party auditors, says Jankovic.
“ATP technology can identify inadequate cleaning practices and help management conduct root cause analysis and implement strategies to minimize the potential for product contamination.”
Technology in food safety isn’t all about temperature control and measuring devices, says Jankovic. Simple things such as computer-based training and online classes have opened the doors to more assessable education and training opportunities to train employees.
From in-store purchases to shopping online across multiple devices for curb-side deliver, many retailers are utilizing the internet to enhance customers shopping experiences, while using RFID technology and real-time trackers to monitor store inventory and food safety during transport.
Internet of things, or IOT, is the use of sensors to report real-time data back to a cloud based storage system and is often seen in the food industry in the form of temperate tracking from packaging, shipping to in-store displays. According to Jankovic, “automated temperature monitoring systems can spot problems promptly and alert management to take immediate corrective actions to prevent excessive product temperature abuse that can impact its safety and quality.”
From making a sandwich to auditing a produce packaging facility, the development of wearable technology to visually guide employees has made huge headway in removing human error in food safety practices by signalling users on which steps to make and when practices are not completed.
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