Introducing AI Scan - A New Era in Smarter Food Supply Chain Monitoring

September 11,2020 01:11 PM By James Flynn

The Battle Between Preventive Controls and HACCP

The US FDA has been leading the charge on food safety standards, with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), for years now. And not without good reason, over 2000 Americans die from food borne illness every year and in the past few years increasing problems with leafy greens have been causing havoc in the US food supply chain. The FSMA approach is a holistic supply chain based ‘Preventive Controls’ methodology that seeks to identify and verify the food safety controls that need to be in place along the whole supply chain. 

Meanwhile, in the EU, UK and elsewhere, a HACCP based approach focusing on ‘the food production process’ (the HACCP plan), with GMP pre-requisites to cover the upstream supply chain threats, remains the norm in terms of controlling food safety standards. And yet, food safety problems persist worldwide with over 400,000 people dying every year, 30% of these deaths being children under the age of 5, according to the World Health Organisation. Its increasingly apparent that a different approach is needed.

A Digital Approach

To address the food safety problem the US FDA has been advocating a more ‘digital’ approach to traceability in the food supply chain. Indeed, the FDA has been investing heavily in its new Food Safety Dashboard, where they openly share the food safety compliance performance of all food producers, domestic and foreign.

In parallel to this, GFSI standards like BRCGS Food, SQF, IFS and FSSC 22000 have long called for effective supplier monitoring systems in addition to the well-established HACCP based food safety plan. They continue to evolve and improve their standards, but it moves painfully slowly. It’s food safety standards by committee which works in the 1980's but is slow to react to emerging threats in the fast-changing 21st century. Just look at COVID-19 and its effect on the food sector. Now, imagine a pandemic spread by food? How many people think this is not possible? And how many food producers would be equipped to deal with it?

“A New Era of Smarter Food Safety”

Whilst most food manufacturers are doing a great job of managing food safety, unfortunately major problems remain. Therefore, more recently, FDA has launched new initiative called a ‘New Era of Smarter Food Safety’ which focuses on the digitisation of food safety information. 

This new strategy has at its core a drive in direction to digital ledgers, aka chockablock, and a drive to make industry go digital and ‘hook up’ their data to digital ledger traceability systems. The US approach to foods safety is digital and is now leading the world. It will be interesting to see how their influence on global trade will move the HACCP needle closer and closer to their Preventive Controls ‘whole of supply chain’ approach in the very near future as other Countries need to dance to the tune of the US FDA.

COVID-19 – The Digitisation Virus

On top of these developments, we have observed directly, COVID-19 is driving more food companies to ditch paper and spreadsheet based systems because it is simply easier to work remotely if you have a cloud based food safety and quality management system.

This makes a food business more ‘shock proof’. For example, supplier and raw material approvals can easily continue to be completed whilst working from home with a cloud-based food safety management system which has strong supplier management tools. Again, we have directly experienced this in recent months and our customers have really appreciated the tools that we provide to make their job so much easier in these circumstances.

Why Digital is Important

The problem is that much of the food sector still relies on paper-based systems for everything from cleaning records to supplier approvals, HACCP monitoring and quality records. This is a problem because the information on these ‘bits of paper’ is exactly the kind of information that should be digital.

This information needs to be digital to be of value so it can be used in trending and reporting, alerts, and BI dashboards, for example. Batch records, incoming goods, production, and customer dispatch records need to be digital before they can be shared on a block-chain.

Documents like CoA’s and CoCs, nutritional analysis and so on need to be electronically ‘shareable’ to be able to prove they meet customer, GFSI standards and legal requirements. To be ready for the new Era of Smarter Food Safety, and we believe everyone will need to be ready in the next few years, the information in our food businesses needs to be digital.

Introducing AI Scan

The above reasons are why, for the past 2 years, we have been hard at work in the background building a new solution that takes a different approach. In a few weeks from now, we will formally launch our AI Scan solution. This takes care of supply chain monitoring automatically by leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data from trusted data sources like the UK Food Standards Agency, US Food and Drug Administration, Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and other sources. 

AI Scan does all the hard work for you by gathering, analysing and risk assessing these data sources and making connections between your suppliers and raw materials and what is happening in the supply chain.

Imagine, a supplier of yours also exports to the USA, Ireland, or some other country and upon testing at the border control that a food safety problem is found. This may not result in a product recall, just a border rejection. However, I am sure that you would value knowing about this so you could check if you may be affected. Such information could prevent your company from having an expensive food recall or rejection.

Now think about how you can detect new and emerging problems in the product categories that you buy, i.e. so-called Horizon Scanning. This activity requires a lot of digging through records, e.g. RASSF, to check trends and so on. We call these new and emerging threats anomalies. An anomaly is an event that is either completely new or has not happened with any regularity for a long time. Sudan 1, horsemeat, melamine, fipronil are all good examples of anomalies that no one saw coming in the food supply chain.

Learn what AI Scan can do for your business

If you would like to be part of the new era of food safety, Contact us today to learn more about AI Scan.

Come and see the power of AI Scan and start a new era of food supply chain monitoring in your company today.