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3 Ways Science Can Help Mitigate Food Safety Risks in the Global Food Supply Chain

Posted by Karl Deily

Sep 28 2017
Sep 28 2017

With the rise of global food production and trade, the food supply chain is becoming longer and more complex, which increases the requirement for food security. As global regulations change and consumer demands increase, products need to satisfy a greater number of food security or food safety requirements. Here are a few ways science can help tackle these risks:

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Connect science and data for better traceability and transparency globally

Traceability allows food products to be traced backward and forward through the supply chain. Today, the reputational repercussions of food safety failures are greater than ever. Due to consumers’ increased understanding of the food they are consuming, they are also demanding vigilance and transparency.

Unleashing the forces of science and data together give us the power to better understand what triggers breaches in food security and the spread of disease and identify food safety issues before they become threats. Data gathered from technology and applications rooted in predictive and remote monitoring can track production, distribution and improve food traceability and enhance food security. 

In some cases, digital and QR code based technology is even allowing consumers to better track their food and helping the food industry establish better supply chain visibility.

Invest in high-performing food packaging

Packaging protects food as it is transported, stored and even displayed in-store before consumers purchase it.  

Research conducted by food scientists and microbiologists, coupled with advances in packaging technology can help tackle food safety head on. These technologies when combined with good manufacturing practices provide extended shelf-life of foods with minimal food safety issues.

Food safety risks are also different by market and even country. In countries like China, consumers are more likely to purchase fresh chicken unpackaged in grocery stores or markets. This increases risk of cross-contamination and lack of packaging also makes it more difficult to manage traceability. 

Using the right type of packaging, such as vacuum packaging with specially engineered materials for poultry, can dramatically decrease food safety risks while increasing shelf-life and minimizing food waste in China and around the globe.

Know what’s changing and invest in science-based learning and advancement

As the food supply chain grows globally, the food industry must be prepared to meet the demands of national regulators around the world and changing consumer preferences.

Every step along the food supply chain is accountable for what they supply or handle. The food industry is already starting to see breakthrough cloud-based technology that delivers insights in real time for better connectivity across the supply chain in areas like cold chain management.

With the right data, the industry can also get ahead in compliance-based learning requirements to achieve important certifications. Many of these solutions are also e-based, allowing global companies to introduce training faster.

Big industry players should also consider investing in new approaches to research and innovation. To promote food safety and get ahead, scientists at IBM Research and Mars are joining forces under efforts like the Sequencing the Food Supply Chain Consortium. This collaborative food safety platform, led by scientists from both companies, takes advantage of advances in genomics to further our understanding of what makes food safe.

At the end of the day, food safety is a challenge the industry must continue to work together to address. What ideas do you have on how the industry can respond to this challenge?

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