Food industry urged to establish solid foundations before new technologies can benefit food safety

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The food industry has been warned that AI technology is no magic bullet to ensure food safety and that developing the right culture must be the first step.

While AI presents opportunities to improve the overall efficiency within global food supply chains, LRQA believes that the industry needs to foster a culture in which food safety is emphasised at every part of the supply chain before new technologies can fully be leveraged.

Jan Kranghand, Global Head of Food Centre of Excellence at LRQA, says: “Technological advances have the potential to revolutionise the way we approach food safety. AI systems could enable large amounts of data to be analysed to identify patterns and generate insights, while blockchain, which is an unchangeable digital record of transactions, promotes transparency by monitoring the movement of food products through the supply chain.

“However, it’s important we put the foundations in place before we put all our faith in technology. Food is better than ever, but this cannot be taken for granted. The food industry must prioritise transparency, ensure it is collecting the right data, and focus on creating a food safety culture.”

Jan says that many food businesses operate with a traditional, science-based approach that addresses food safety on a compliance basis: “Before organisations implement technologies such as AI, blockchain and the IoT (Internet of Things), they must first change the way they think.

“Moving forward, this means evaluating processes and asking if current techniques are fit for purpose. Companies must understand what ‘best-in-class’ food safety is, with business leaders driving change from the top. Plus, by taking a step back to assess systems, processes, and procedures, gaps can be identified to achieve a harmonised risk-based approach.”

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) defines culture as, ‘shared values, beliefs and norms that affect mindset and behaviour toward food safety in, across and throughout an organisation’. The GFSI’s position paper, A Culture of Food Safety, clearly stipulates the importance of all employees having a basic overview of hazards so they recognise the responsibility that comes when working in an industry that delivers consumable goods.

Jan adds: “For an effective food safety culture, implementation requires employee engagement. It’s about clearly explaining not just what staff need to do, but why these protocols matter and what the consequences of falling short are. Doing this helps gives teams ownership of food safety and ensures they feel more accountable for their actions.”

For organisations looking to implement or augment a strong culture, the Food Safety System Certification (FSSC 22000) – among other schemes – provides an excellent framework for action. Supply chain integrity programmes from independent assurance specialists, like LRQA, can also guide organisations on how to create a strong food safety culture that balances compliance with a holistic approach.  

Jan also says that technology will have a role to play but a cultural framework is vital: “From a traceability perspective, a combination of technologies could provide end-to-end traceability, enabling consumers to verify the origin and quality of their food. If applied appropriately, they could also transform the risk analysis framework from reactive to proactive. And, when this comes together, auditors will be able to conduct a risk-based approach assessment rather than 'ticking the boxes' for scheme requirements. This added value will benefit us all.”

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