A Spotlight on Food Safety and Industry 4.0

People with protective masks working in the food industry

Standing still is not an option. As food safety moves up the global agenda, demands are being made by consumers, retailers, regulators, and stakeholders to raise the level of food protection around the world. Food safety has risen to prominence for several reasons including a growing population, scarcity of natural resources, globalisation, sustainability, and advances in modern technology.

Unsafe food practices can have devastating consequences. A food safety incident in one part of the world has the potential to go global within hours. The human and business costs of failure can be catastrophic: harm to consumers, loss of trust, damage to the brand, costs in terms of product recalls and redesign. ​

Food Safety Trends – Smart Manufacturing

F&B manufacturers are starting to use robots to automate tasks, virtual reality for machine maintenance, track and trace technology for better traceability and transparency. Going digital is seen as a positive way to transform food safety and make food safe and available.

Smart manufacturing provides opportunities to tackle potential food safety issues because fully integrated collaborative systems can respond in real-time to meet the changing demands and conditions in the factory. Manufacturers can be proactive in everything from hygienic design and new cleaning in place (CIP) technologies like electro-chemically activated water to quality control systems that measure compliance to food safety regulations such as good manufacturing practices (GMP).

Challenges for the Food and Beverage Industry

  • Which technologies to use? What first steps to take?
  • How to make food safe without increasing operational costs?
  • Change the mindset: from reactive to proactive food safety; being a late tech adopter
  • Growth and competitive advantage
  • Securing food safety and quality while cutting waste and using fewer resources

In this tough and fast-changing operating landscape, there are many challenges for F&B producers, not least those that have emerged with COVID-19 and how smart technology might be used to overcome them. Now may well be the time to make decisions over how to keep up and not be left behind when it comes to industry 4.0.

Connectivity in Food Manufacturing

Digital technologies help ensure food safety and quality. To date, F&B manufacturers have been much slower to adopt smart technology than other industries like the aerospace or automotive sectors.

Around the world, governments are encouraging businesses to digitalise as part of their industrial strategies as they recognise the opportunities that it brings. The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that the fourth industrial revolution will create up to $3.7 trillion in value by 2025 but that much more needs to be done by all industries to unlock this value.

Solutions and Practical Steps

Digitalisation enables food security to be improved. The F&B industry needs to gather, understand, and use data – move from paper to digital ways of working to satisfy its goals and consumer demands. The real power of Industry 4.0 cannot be tapped without data, and lots of it, to feed algorithms for AI, robotics and for the creation of better process management systems.

Data Protection and Systems

Stay safe, keep protected. Once a device is connected to an outside external network, there is a risk. Globally cybercrime is on the rise and the food industry is not immune to attack. The University of Minnesota’s Food Protection and Defence Institute says food companies need to beef up their security and IT systems. The overarching, most important step is for companies to extend their food safety and food defence culture to cybersecurity, because insecure = unsafe. As the industry moves towards a more digital world, securing systems and data is vital.

Looking Into the Future

  • Trends like the growth of e-tailing and connecting the food value chain from end to end
  • New tech like DNA sequencing for traceability and rapid testing for food safety or the use of nanoencapsulation for quality issues
  • Increased use of robotics, remote sensors, and drones
  • Powerful partnerships
  • Convergence of nano-, bio-, information and cognitive sciences to generate new product markets

Article courtesy of Tetra Pak, to read A Spotlight on Food and Safety and Industry 4.0 in detail click here.

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