How Science Mitigates Food Safety Risks in the Global Food Supply Chain

With the rise of global food production and trade, the food supply chain is becoming longer and more complex, increasing 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 food industry risks.

1. Connect science and data for better traceability and transparency globally

Traceability allows food products to be traced through the supply chain. Today, the reputational repercussions of food safety failures are greater than ever. As consumers understand more about the food they consume, they demand more transparency from retailers and food suppliers.

Science and data allow us to understand causes of breaches in food security, identify food safety issues before they become threats, and help stem the spread of food-borne illness. 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, smart packaging allows consumers to better track their food and help the food industry establish better supply chain visibility.

2.    Invest in high-performing food packaging

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

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

Food safety risks are also different by market and 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. A lack of packaging also makes it more difficult to manage traceability. 

Using the right type of packaging can dramatically decrease food safety risks while increasing shelf-life and minimizing food waste in China and around the globe. One example? Vacuum packaging with materials that are specially engineered for poultry.

3.    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 while also delivering on changing consumer preferences.

Every step of the food supply chain is accountable for what they supply or handle. The food industry is primed for 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 cloud-based, allowing global companies to introduce consistent 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 joined 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.

4. Don’t overlook automation, which is increasingly complex

Like many technologies, automation continues to evolve. Beyond increased efficiency, automation can also provide potential food safety benefits. Fewer workers can reduce the risk of human contamination. 

And as manufacturing continues to shift toward more complex automated processes such as material detection systems that can detect contaminants in fresh meat and poultry, the possibilities continue to grow.

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?