As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, people are increasingly sensitive to hygiene standards — in their workplaces, public spaces and even in the food they consume.
And it’s not just the public that’s concerned; the UK government is continually releasing and updating ‘COVID-secure’ regulations, which require venues providing food and drink for consumption on their premises, to implement specific aspects of this guidance, or face a fixed penalty notice of up to £10,000.
The four main aspects of good hygiene in your food business are the 4Cs:
- Avoiding cross-contamination
The good news is that smart technologies of today can help your business retain high-quality food standards without exhaustive manual intervention.
In this article, we take a look at five ways that using smart technology can help you serve food safely, during the pandemic and long thereafter.
- Supply chain optimisation
Exacerbated by supply and demand challenges brought about by the coronavirus lockdown, the IoT is rapidly changing the way the world thinks about food, from cooking and storing to
tracking products as they move from the factory to store shelves. Some of the ways that smart technologies can be used in food supply chain logistics include:
- IoT asset tracking provides real-time location information for every piece in the supply chain. This helps companies manage their inventory levels, prevent shortages and avoid wastage.
- Maintaining a transparent supply chain to provide consumers with procurement information and to help prevent disruptions.
- Real-time temperature checking and cold chain management.
- Automated predictive maintenance schedules to help to prevent costly downtime.
- IoT sensors can improve fleet management by helping companies keep track of vehicles, driving patterns and maintenance requirements.
- Maintain the cold chain
Chilling food properly helps to stop harmful bacteria from growing. While most food products need to be kept in a cool environment, some products need to be kept chilled to be safe for consumption.
In storage and transportation, these foods need to be kept at a cool enough temperature. It is a legal requirement In England, Wales and Northern Ireland that cold food must be kept at 8˚C or below. In practice, most businesses set their fridges at 5˚C to make sure that food is kept cold enough.
Cold store freezers must be able to reduce chilled foods to the required core temperature (e.g. -18°C) within an appropriate timeframe to limit any microbiological growth in the food product and to ensure food safety.
Freezing surplus food: With supply and demand disruptions, some food and beverage businesses are forced to freeze or refreeze ambient or chilled food products. The defrosting, processing and refreezing processes need to be carried out safely, maintaining cold temperatures that prevent the growth of pathogens.
Temperature monitoring from production to consumption: Smart temperature sensors can be placed on any surface - pallets, packaging, inside trucks, inside fridges and freezers and on the food itself - to ensure that the food is being kept at the correct temperature throughout the supply chain.
If the temperature varies from predefined parameters, these Internet of Things (IoT)-connected devices can send out an instant alert to management to take swift action. To prevent the cold chain from being broken, automated systems can detect variations in temperature and adjust the cooling mechanisms accordingly.
- Smart storage
It’s critical to store food properly to keep it safe. Food must be stored in sealed containers at the correct temperature to stop items from being displaced, protect it from harmful bacteria and avoid cross-contamination.
Additionally, technology such pressure pads and anti-tamper sensors can report on changes in shock, movement and tilt, providing further analytical information for business owners to digest and action upon.
- Prevent the spread of infection
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of workers’ and customers’ health and wellbeing. One of the ways in which to mitigate the spread of infection in places producing, transporting and selling food products is to conduct temperature screening before or while people are at a given location.
Infrared cameras can scan crowds or individuals to alert if a high temperature (a possible sign of illness) is detected in an individual. Some of these cameras can also perform an access control function, denying access to a person with a high temperature or a person who is not wearing a mask, for example.
Data from these cameras is transmitted to a cloud-based dashboard, giving management a comprehensive view of potentially high temperatures in employees and customers, which can form the basis of further screening.
- Air quality and ventilation
Whether your environment consists of a factory, processing unit, restaurant, or retail store, your building’s ventilation should be optimised to provide a good supply of fresh air to all areas of the facility. Even outdoor areas (particularly covered areas) should have sufficient ventilation.
Here are some steps to improve ventilation by way of smart technologies and routes to make them easier to implement:
- Using motion and occupancy sensors to trigger the operation of the ventilation system when there are people in the building.
- Ensure that doors and windows are kept open by sending an alert if someone closes them.
- Monitor air quality indoors and outdoors using smart sensors.
Mentioned above are just a few of the many ways that connected technologies are transforming the food and beverage sector, keeping food supply safe and convenient for consumers while helping businesses to optimise and streamline their operations.
Smarter Technologies tracks, monitors and recovers assets across the globe in real time, providing asset tracking systems to the open market and fulfilling the world’s most complex asset tracking requirements. Our services cover a vast array of business sectors, products and equipment from container or pallet tracking to military-grade devices; and can be used across a broad spectrum of industries.