The internet of things can extend to the food safety world.  First, the internet of things (IoT) is network of computer devises that connect together to transfer data.  The data transfer can occur without human intervention.  How can that help retail-foodservice food safety?  Let’s recap the five major risk factors for foodborne illness as described by FDA in the Food Code.

  • Improper hot/cold holding temperatures of potentially hazardous food
  • Improper cooking temperatures of food
  • Dirty and/or contaminated utensils and equipment
  • Poor employee health and hygiene
  • Food from unsafe sources
TEMPCLEANHANDWASHSOURCE
There are two types of IoT devises.  The first is the temperature datalogger.  This devise will monitor temperature 24/7.  The most effective types automatically sync their data to a computer.  These devises are most effective for cold holding and can be used for hot holding as well.  The second temperature devise is the bluetooth thermometer.  This IoT devise is most suited to taking the temperature of a food and transmitting the data to a software program.
Clean and sanitary equipment is a little harder to monitor using IoT. One example would be monitoring the temperature of a hot water automatic dish machine.  Sensors could also be used to notify management when detergent or rinse-aid chemicals are depleted.
Handwashing has long been a target for IoT.  There are many different technologies, but most are only partly effective.  One example is using a vibration sensor on a water pipe of a hand sink.  This sensor can record vibration events and if they are assumed to equate to handwash events, they can be counted and related to time of day. Another example is to monitor soap dispenser use.  Each use is equated to one handwash.
Currently there is a new effort at using enhanced UPC label codes called GS1.  This system would allow an operator to scan their food items (shipments, pallets, boxes, item) labels. Working with a software database, the operator can determine if that food was purchased from an approved supplier. In a similar manner, recalls can be flagged for removal.

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The RFSC is a consortium of food industry member organizations and individual professionals.  The consortium is mountain-west based (Utah, Nevada, Wyoming) with the main goal of collaboration between its members in food safety across the USA. Collaboration activities include education, training, workshops, conferences, networking events, and the creation of retail-foodservice food safety standards.

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As a consortium, member organizations or individual professionals may join and collaborate at will.  The Consortium is apolitical with the exception of stakeholder activities within the structure of the Conference for Food Protection.  Hopefully rare, but members may also oppose any activities of the Consortium.

TTIs are time-temperature integrators.  They generally consist of a very specific dye that moves along a path based on both temperature and time.  In food safety, they can function as monitors of times and temperatures in instances where temperature dataloggers cannot.  The prime example is in consumer packaging.

The rapid development of mail order food delivery has highlighted a major concern in temperature assurance during shipping.

Current Option 1: Place non-toxic “blue” ice type products in a Styrofoam box or similar to preserve the cold temperature during delivery and receipt.  However, there is no assurance or knowledge of the temperature.  And, there is no assurance a consumer will notice a warm food delivery.

Current Option 2: Several shipping companies offer expensive guaranteed cold (refrigerated) storage before delivery.  These shipping options are often used for vaccines and similar.  But even these shipping methods leave packages at doorsteps that are not temperature controlled.  If the customer does not retrieve a food product package in a timely manner it can warm to unsafe levels.

Using these TTIs can provide the consumer with a very easy to read label for safety assurance.  Do an internet search for different brands to determine best use and best cost.

Here is an example of a fully submersible high temperature datalogger.  Because it will function under pressure and at temperatures well above 212F; it can be used for monitoring and verification of high temperature processes such as low acid canning.  For example, in low acid canning a retort or pressure canner will get to 10-15 psi and 240-250F.  Unfortunately, this datalogger in the high temperature model will run $400-$500 dollars.  The photo model is “deltatrak“, but there are other brands available.