How many food recalls have you read about or seen on the news lately? Probably more than you can count.[/teaser] From produce to frozen foods, nothing seems safe. If you’ve been involved in the recall process, you understand that they can be a nightmare. From a food industry perspective, recalls are costly; many brands don’t survive once the process begins.
What if the problem behind these recalls didn’t stem from the production process at all, but rather from the inspection and data collection process? What if a change in technology could provide a means for avoiding recalls in the food services industry?
Put simply, it can. In fact, mobile technology and data automation may be the solution for consistent food safety inspections that prevent problems before food reaches consumers.
The Current Approach
The USDA and other governmental agencies see the need for technology to fuel food safety initiatives. Recently, they’ve come out with an analytics system that you might be aware of, the Public Health Information System. The system is designed to allow inspectors to stay ahead of problems by tracking patterns and receiving alerts when an issue arises. It’s an excellent start, but there’s still room to grow on an individual inspector level.
One of the greatest needs in the food inspection process is consistency and standardization. Various levels of contaminants are labeled as acceptable to different agencies. This means that what’s considered a problem in one area, may still be considered acceptable in another. To reduce the risk of foodborne illness before products hit the shelves, standardization is necessary.
With the use of a cloud-based mobile data collection platform, data that is collected can be measured and recorded against a single standard. If there’s a problem, it can be managed from the earliest possible stage.
Likewise, if multiple inspection agencies are working with the same technology, data collection for food safety can reach new levels and become more effective than ever before. It all starts with standardization of the process.
Ever notice that when a recall begins, it generally starts small? Then, over a few days or weeks, it becomes larger, often affecting multiple states and brands?
To the public, this seems like a mystery, or like a problem that just keeps growing. Internally, you understand that it’s not that the contamination has spread, it’s that the knowledge of it has grown. In fact, the reason behind the snowball effect is simple. Food from a single source may be used by hundreds of brands in multiple products, reaching thousands of consumers. This means that when a problem arises, even if it’s caught at the origination point, it can be difficult to ascertain where the contaminated product ended up until it’s too late.
However, with cloud-based data management managed by a single system, this phenomenon could be eradicated. If food growers and producers could input data, along with manufacturers and inspectors, an easily traceable chain would begin. If a problem would arise, it would be easy to A) manage it before the products hit the shelves, or B) begin a recall that is all-inclusive from the start.
Simplifying the Process
Another pain-point in the inspection process that often leads to after-the-fact recalls is time. While an issue may be identified early enough to prevent a recall, the process of logging the data, measuring it appropriately and reaching those affected means that the food has often reached the public already – leading to a recall.
Using a mobile data collection platform for food safety could be the answer. If all data could be uploaded the day it’s collected, then measured against all applicable standards automatically, red flags could be raised earlier in the process. Not only could this prevent recalls, it could also save manufacturers money, giving them time to correct potential problems early.
A cloud-based mobile data collection platform for food safety could include:
- Previous inspection histories, including follow-up items.
- Numerical values or pass/fail options for various items.
- Scheduling tools.
- Contact information for manufacturers and producers.
- Manuals, policy books and other standards in one place, allowing for quick reference.
- Appropriate reporting tools.
- Required follow-up items.
- Photo uploading and storage.
When proper functionality is available and easy to use, the entire food inspection and reporting process will improve. It’s that simple. Mobile technology and data automation is the most straightforward, easy-to-access option for consistent food safety inspections.
[teaser]Interested in learning more? Download the Food Safety E-Book today.[/teaser]