Food safety self-auditing has historically been completed by restaurant and store employees with nothing more than a pen and paper. However, electronic data collection is increasingly common today and allows organizations to analyze and identify issues more easily and efficiently, whether they operate at one location or many.
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Moving forward, the increasing use of the IoT and big data will further improve food safety efforts. “Sensors on pallets or even individual food products may measure temperature, humidity, infection risks, etc.,” adds Vandenheede. Systems analyzing big data will become more sophisticated, allowing stakeholders to better understand and make decisions about the supply chain.
Employees Are Essential
To maintain and improve food safety, organizations must also invest in the people who will rely on and use the technologies that are being adopted.
Organizations must create a culture of food safety with top-down commitment so that everyone is engaged. Leadership must provide support and follow-up as more time and energy are focused on the education and the training of employees who directly impact food safety. Employees must understand why a food safety task is important, when to do it, how to do it, etc. To do this, training programs should be innovative and capitalize on the principles of adult learning. Today, e-learning is frequently being used in place of classroom training for food business workers because it can provide on-the-spot training via a tablet or a smartphone when an employee encounters a question or concern. It also allows for customizable lessons and tests, making training more relevant and meaningful.
“We now have better equipment, facilities and technologies available, but we must remember that people are still involved in the food safety equation, and that human errors can be made,” says Dr. Gravani. “However, great strides can also be made if organizations provide practical, useful food safety information to workers.” In addition to offering engaging learning opportunities, organizations must remember to recognize successful food safety activities and to use food safety incidents as “a teachable moment,” and as an opportunity to further educate workers so that mistakes aren’t repeated.
Safe Food for Everyone
Changing consumer demands and an increasingly complex food supply chain are forcing retailers and food service operators to look for ways to maintain the integrity and safety of the food they are selling or serving. Organizations now have access to a wealth of data that didn’t exist a decade ago. In years to come, there will be exponential growth in the amount of data available and more advancements in technology. These changes will allow organizations to more easily and quickly identify trends and potential areas of concern and maintain strong food safety cultures.