All this lends itself well to the application of IT solutions. The obligations set out in global legislation and commercial standards will undoubtedly require acceleration in the development and use of IT. Two major changes make this a realistic possibility. The first is increasing agreement on what a food safety plan or system is. GFSI has provided a global standard and framework under which food safety standards can align, and this allows for the development of standard IT solutions. The second development is the emergence of web-based or cloud technologies as a viable platform upon which these solutions can be delivered. Web technologies change the economics of software and allow enterprise solutions to be delivered and used by both large and small food companies. Software can be quickly updated, and users can do work and maintain oversight anywhere in the world using a web-enabled device.
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When we approached the task of developing our web-based software, we solicited input from users, such as food safety managers, consultants, auditors, and retailers. From this, we defined a number of core principles. The software solution needed to be:
- Easy to use, intuitive, and designed to meet the needs of the user—the food safety manager;
- Fully integrated, addressing all the requirements of global food safety standards and embodying best practices;
- Capable of being quickly updated in line with changes in global food standards and regulations;
- Designed around the needs of retailers, consultants, external inspectors, and certification auditors;
- Able to provide real-time data on key food safety events, such as recalls, outbreaks, and changes in legislation;
- Supported by real value-adding and time-saving enhancements;
- Capable of allowing real-time monitoring of multiple production sites within a large corporate structure;
- Able to allow users to access and work on their food safety systems remotely; and
- Able to generate pertinent reports quickly.
In May, we launched Safefood 360, a complete online food safety management system designed for food processing and service operations. The system contained all the core principles expressed by our users and was the product of a forensic analysis of global legislation and GFSI. The solution is fully integrated, covering the main pillars of a food safety plan, including HACCP, PRPs, management, and documents. Designed to provide users with a ready-made solution addressing food safety requirements and best practice, Safefood 360 is still flexible enough to assimilate the specific requirements of local food businesses.
The past decade has indeed been a busy time in food safety management, and more changes are on the horizon. Regulation is crucial for maintaining compliance standards in the industry, but this is only part of the story. The food industry is ultimately responsible for ensuring that its products are both safe and legal, and the adoption of new web technologies will increasingly play a positive role in meeting this challenge.
George Howlett is CEO of Safefood 360 and has more than 20 years of experience in the Irish food industry, working as both a manager and food safety consultant. He also lectures at the Dublin Institute of Technology on food safety management.