Improving food safety with smart technology

Emerging technologies are helping to vastly improve food safety across the globe with greater transparency and efficiency.
10 September 2018

How is technology helping to improve food safety? Source: Shutterstock

Food safety is a global problem. According to the World Health Organization, every year approximately 600 million people (one-tenth of the world’s population) become ill after food incidents. And of these, 420,000 die.

Many people are becoming increasingly concerned about the credibility of food products. This has led to the demand for food traceability that enables supply chain transparency to consumers, from farm to fork.

Using technology to track food ensures the on-time delivery of fresh foods, as well as the ability to track a food product back to its original source. This is particularly valuable in the event of a product recall or adverse event.

Technology powers supply chain management

Today, several technologies are being leveraged to transform the food supply chain and improve food safety.


What if a supermarket could validate with confidence where a vegetable was grown, handled, stored and inspected, in addition to every top it made on it’s journey to the shelf?

This information could all be made accessible through the distributed ledger technology, blockchain.

Blockchain makes food traceability possible, tracking products to their source for enhanced food authenticity and safety. It directly connects growers, processors, distributors, suppliers, retails and regulators with a share and immutable view of their transaction history.

With a digital record of supply chain, transparency can be greatly enhanced. Source: Shutterstock

The mass globalization of food production and trade has created a longer and much more complex supply chain. This has led to an increasing lack of transparency which makes it challenging to effectively diagnose and address issues.

Furthermore, parties in a supply chain traditionally keep paper-based records. This out-dated process can lead to many inconveniences such as delays in updates and investigations.

However, if this information is digitally recorded on a blockchain, members are empowered to instantly verify the food products’ history, location, and status. With this end-to-end traceability, supply chain management can be vastly improved.

Drone technology

Drones are beginning to play a big role in precision agriculture. The unmanned aerial system (UAS) technology is being decked out with high-resolution cameras and advanced sensors and can be flown over thousands of hectares of farms to gather data.

This data can then be used to monitor the farm with information on things such as pest damage, crop stress, and soil quality.

Drones are increasingly being used to monitor crops and food produce. Source: Shutterstock

Instead of monitoring by foot, a farmer can use drone technology to get a much faster and precise picture of what’s going on across the land.

Roger Royse, attorney and founder of Royse Law Firm, which has an ag-tech practice, told Food logistics,

“We are starting to see clients with technologies that can monitor the gases that fruits and vegetables give off as they ripen. As these items move from field to table, the gases tell supply chain professionals which fruits and vegetables need to get to the shelf first, so spoilage can be avoided.”

“There are also spectral imaging technologies that can monitor not only ripeness but the health of the plant. Some of these technologies can even detect pathology issues early in the process, so the items never enter into the commercial food chain,” added Royse.

Robotics and artificial intelligence

New rules and regulations in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe are raising the bar even higher when it comes to regulatory compliance. to food safety. Luckily, robotics is helping food and beverage facilities meet these demands.

Automated warehouses are helping managers to easily track and trace products in the warehouse. With humans prone to making mistakes, using robotics can help improve consistency and reliability, ensuring a much more efficient process.

By implementing robotics equipment, food and beverage companies can ensure that products are handled in an appropriate, safe and hygienic manner. The technology also decreases the likelihood of contamination by reducing the amount of human interaction with food products.