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Technological Advances in Food Safety

Sherri Williams, Head of Technical Services, JBS

Every day we are challenged to be innovative in our jobs; whether you are a farmer, lawyer, doctor, or food manufacturer. So, how does one innovate Food Safety in a food manufacturing facility?  Better yet, what exactly is ‘Food Safety’?  Interestingly enough, Merriam-Webster.com does not have a definition for Food Safety.  Here is my take on it; Food Safety is the procedures, processes, and verifications used in producing a safe food product that will not harm the individual consuming the product.

Our goal, every day, is to make a safe food product for our consumers; which includes our family, our friends, our neighbors, and ourselves.  In an age where obtaining manpower is becoming increasingly more difficult, what else is there to help us with accomplishing Food Safety tasks?  Technology, to include artificial intelligence (AI), may be helpful.  How would the second largest food company in the world use technology to make Food Safety better?  By becoming innovative.

One of the most difficult tasks we need to do every day is to verify that Food Safety processes and procedures are completed the correct way.  The reason for this is simple, we feed the world and nobody wants to become sick from consuming food. Typically, human nature always wants to ‘look good’, especially, when they know they are being observed. As such when employees are audited they will do their tasks properly.  By using cameras and remote video auditing (RVA) capabilities, one can improve the behaviors of their employees. Most often it is typically after the fact. While the behavior is changed moving forward, product that was previously produced has already potentially been affected.

We need is a way to audit the food safety processes and procedures and report back in real time, as quickly as possible. This would allow changes to be made that will have a positive impact on the safety of the products being manufactured.  Technology has improved over the years and AI is emerging as a key advancement for food safety.  Our RVA partner has the capabilities and infrastructure to write complex algorithms; which allows AI to observe processes and procedures in real time through cameras. This also helps monitor the employees or machines perform their job tasks.  The AI program can then be ‘trained’ to decide instantly what is correct and what is not.  Instantaneous alerts can be sent to supervisors on the production floor.  This allows for immediate action to correct the problem.

Nobody is perfect and no machine is perfect.  Nobody can perform their job task perfectly every time and no machine can be fail proof every time.  The key to having a strong food safety system is to identify the times when the imperfect things happen and fix them in real time to limit having affected product continue on in the process. At the same time,it teaches the employees how to handle situations in the proper manner when imperfect happens.  We aren’t perfect yet. We are well underway to obtaining the technology and AI capabilities to assist us with being just a little more perfect, every day.

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