We asked Food Safety experts the following question regarding new technologies, and they were kind enough to share their insights with us:

According to you, what are the most impactful effects of upcoming technologies on food safety?

University of Guelph

Portrait of Dr. Robert Hanner

Associate Professor,
Dr. Robert Hanner

New technologies will play a key role in assessing vulnerabilities and mitigating risks. Portable DNA-based testing methods will be used to support authenticity claims and screen for biological contaminants. Advanced imaging technologies will enhance detection of foreign objects and other nonbiological contaminants, while stable isotope and trace element analysis will be used to authenticate country/geographic region of a product’s origin.

NSF International

Portrait of Paul Medeiros

Managing Director, Consulting & Technical Services, North America,
Paul Medeiros

It depends:  Technologies such as wearables (e.g. google glass) will make training and off-site auditing much more effective and cost-effective.  Cloud-based quality and compliance platforms (like TraQtion) put critical data into the hands of decision makers, allowing them to respond to issues quicker and drive meaningful improvement.  Continued increases in automation can also improve food safety and product consistency.

On the other hand, consumer based technologies – especially around automation and convenience can introduce a whole new set of food safety risks.  For example, self-serve checkouts at groceries can introduce risks of cross contamination if the customer doesn’t know to bag raw poultry and lettuce separately.  Home Meal Kit delivery companies can introduce significant temperature related risks if they don’t validate and verify their delivery cold chains or preparation instructions.

There is also the fine balance to be met with automation as on one hand it relieves many burdens of food handlers, but on the other hand could be contributing to less engagement and attention to the production process.

ERB Group

Portrait of Tom Boehler

Director of Safety and Compliance,
Tom Boehler

Carriers having the ability to monitor temperatures and fuel levels remotely. This provides the ability to correct or reconcile those temperatures from a desktop. This will provide a backup to carriers as well as distribution shippers who have drop trailers at their facility. This also eliminates the need to take a trailer to a facility and have the reefer downloaded when discrepancies arise. This technology will create faster response times and eliminate the need for manual temperature and fuel level checks in the yard. This technology is fairly new, expensive, and requires a significant amount of time to install. Not all carriers will have this available.

Wireless Temperature Sensors that are easy to use and part of the complete automated temperature monitoring solution. Temperature data is collected, viewed and managed through the dashboard and mobile app. These Temperature Sensors are the size of a Dixie cup and have an operating range of -40°C to 100°C (-40°F to 212°F), with a communication range of 300 feet. They are fully calibrated and easy to switch out when there are issues or the calibration has expired. Extremely versatile. Because they are wireless, it eliminates the need for wiring and large labour costs.

Food & Consumer Products of Canada

Portrait of Susan Abel

Vice President Safety and Compliance,
Susan Abel

  1. Plastics replacements in packaging – as our awareness of the impact of plastics on the environment grows, alternatives that provide the same level of protection and cost effectiveness but with less environmental impact
  2. The race to “zero” – the ability for analytical tests to detect ever smaller amounts of substances, and how this can create undue concern in consumers – there is often a significant difference between the level of a substance that can be detected and the level it can cause adverse health effects
  3. Social media and the spread of misinformation

Bento Sushi

Portrait of Kitty Pat

Quality Assurance & Sustainability Specialist,
Kitty Pat

In my opinion, the most impactful effects of upcoming technologies on food safety is the development of microbial intervention used to reduce, control or eliminate foodborne pathogens from food products and food contact surfaces in food processing operations. Microbial intervention technologies (thermal / non-thermal / chemical in nature) are designed to provide momentous inhibition or inactivation to a microbiological population and may be used as a kill step to enhance or ensure the safety of foods. This will help to reduce the amount of high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks associated with foods, particularly in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods.

Strawberry Hill Farm

Portrait of Tim Livingston

Owner,
Tim Livingston

As a smaller scale producer myself, I think honestly that webinars and podcasts related to food safety education along with remote monitoring software that is affordable are probably the best technologies to help at our scale.

Costco Wholesale Canada

Portrait of Marcelle Lavergne

Director of Food Safety and Quality Assurance,
Marcelle Lavergne

New technology will be required for the management of all documentation required under the SFCA and for traceability at all points along the chain. Also, new and faster microbial testing methods must be developed and approved by Health Canada and other government agencies on a timely basis so that product testing (ie, listeria) can be done with little delay in shipping product to retail.

Piller’s Fine Foods

Portrait of Angela Bernoski

Director of Quality Assurance and Food Safety,
Angela Bernoski

From my own experience, the implementation of a new ERP system within my company has allowed us to improve our product traceability.  What used to take up to two hours to trace, now only takes a few minutes. This means that we can locate product faster in the event of a recall.

Another great technology is this Whole Genome  Sequencing.  Being able to connect the dots and determine the source of an outbreak could save lives by preventing more contaminated product from getting to the consumer.

Canadian Organic Trade Association

Portrait of Tia Loftsgard

Executive Director,
Tia Loftsgard

The ability to test for residues at increasingly smaller thresholds will have a huge impact on food safety.

Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)

Portrait of Christine Summers

Director of Food Safety and Quality Assurance, Costco and Associate,
Christine Summers

I think food safety is in a position to benefit from the implementation of block chain. Blockchain offers the ability to securely share and track data from farm to processing plan to the store to the consumer in a scope we haven’t been able to achieve before.  Blockchain allows for full insight into the supply chain.


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