The new Blueprint is clear in outlining achievable goals to enhance traceability.

There is welcome news from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency is taking steps to prioritize food safety and that’s good for full-service restaurants. Last fall, I attended a meeting of the FDA to provide input on the agency’s new approach to the modernization of food safety. The resulting FDA New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint is a 10-year roadmap where technology and other tools will be leveraged to create a safer and more digital, traceable food system. 

Full-service operators that have been following this issue are already aware that ensuring the safety of the food supply will focus on a digitalized supply chain. The new Blueprint is clear in outlining achievable goals to enhance traceability, improve predictive analytics, respond more rapidly to outbreaks, address new business models, reduce sources of contamination for food, and foster the development of stronger food safety cultures. Even some of the lessons of COVID-19 are instructive when it comes to ensuring the safety of the food supply.

There are four pillars of the FDA Blueprint all of which apply to FSRs. The first is Food Safety Culture. The vision is a direct digital connection between the consumer and the food they are served that will help establish a culture of food safety like never before. It includes the use of interoperable standards for globally unique identification and uniform baseline content to be physically and digitally tied to each food supply chain item because this addresses the needs of both full-service restaurant management and customers. 

For full-service restaurants, COVID-19 was a pivotal point that illustrated that the industry could indeed adapt to new business models. This knowledge will drive Retail Food Safety Modernization, another pillar of the FDA Blueprint. Touchless retail experiences driven by the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to grow in importance. In fact, there is every indication that highly automated restaurants with self-service ordering, self-checkout, and delivery technology will be vital for success in the future.

A third pillar of the FDA Blueprint offers FSRs Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention. Among the many examples of current technology are smart temperature tracking sensors that can alert food purveyors that their refrigeration may be failing, before spoiled food gets to end-users. Additionally, as employing dedicated handwashing protocols have been shown to be even more essential, hand scanners are proving to be invaluable. This data collection device uses visible light fluorescence spectroscopy to instantly detect invisible signs of bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illness including Norovirus, E. coli, Listeria, Hepatitis A, and Salmonella. 

Tech-Enabled Traceability and Foodborne Outbreak Response is a fourth pillar of the Blueprint. Here, the onus is on FSRs and their suppliers to utilize intelligent label solutions that integrate digital identities at the first mile to bridge the physical product to digital platforms, such as blockchain and predictive analytics, to provide a secure means for traceability and transparency throughout the entire supply chain.

RFID tagging solutions can give individual items unique digital identities enabling verifiable chain-of-custody data to be captured throughout the supply chain. These solutions capture and create data that fuels intelligent automation in the back-of-the-house.

Operators are well aware that there’s great urgency for full-serves when there is a food recall. Deploying RFID and barcode labels allows recalled products to be located in seconds, quickly identifying the source of outbreaks and pulling them out of the food supply before they cause widespread illness.

Full-service operators are well aware of the importance of using technological advances and maintaining a food safety culture. By focusing on technology and safety, foodborne illness will not lead to restaurant closures. Ensuring a safer food supply for the health of consumers is essential to the success of full-service restaurants.

Ryan Yost is vice president and general manager for the Printer Solutions Division of Avery Dennison. Avery Dennison is at the forefront of global initiatives to modernize food safety with its Freshmarx suite of intelligent food industry solutions and Freshmarx Connect, which enables data harmonization.

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