Food contamination outbreaks and recalls seem to be in the news every week, from ground beef coming off the shelves because of E. coli to the massive romaine lettuce recall that started in 2018 and is still ongoing. While quality control is integral in any consumer-facing industry, it’s absolutely vital in industries that create consumables. How can the food industry improve quality control to reduce contamination and prevent people from getting sick while enjoying their favourite foods?
The massive romaine lettuce debacle of 2018 cost the food industry millions of dollars in recalls and losses. More than 200 people became ill after eating romaine lettuce in their salads or other dishes due to E. coli contamination. In California, which is the top producer of leafy greens in the United States, investigators discovered the water used to irrigate these crops contained E. coli.
Previously, growers in California only had to treat their water if it showed more than 126 parts per million of E. coli per sample. Now, to combat the rampant spread of E. coli on our food, growers in the state must keep their water below 10 parts per million. New state legislation also forbids watering the crop with untreated ground or surface water for three weeks before harvest, because the E. coli bacteria can survive on the surface of the lettuce for up to 21 days.
Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control
Making sure the food supply is safe isn’t just about quality control. It’s also about quality assurance. Consumers want to be sure the food they’re buying is safe to consume. Quality control helps you detect defects and stop a problem product from entering the market. Quality assurance, on the other hand, puts the focus on preventing the deficiency from occurring in the first place.
These two departments go hand in hand. You can have quality control without quality assurance, but ideally, you should have both departments in your facility.
Supply Chain Transparency
As food companies try to make a move toward a more sustainable industry, supply chain transparency is becoming more essential than ever. Many of our food products come from overseas and without that transparency, it becomes impossible to ensure the foods are meeting the same standards for quality and safety we use here in the United States.
Consumers are savvier than ever when it comes to finding out where their food is coming from. A study from 2016 showed 94% of surveyed shopper said they’d stay loyal to a brand that offers full transparency throughout its supply chain. In addition to retaining customers, supply chain transparency gives you the tools to trace the source of potential contamination so you can reduce the impact it has on your product and your consumers.
Implement IoT Sensors
Sometimes, even the best preparation can’t prevent a bacterial agent like E. coli or listeria from making its way into your supply chain. The best thing you can do in these cases is to detect the problem before the affected product makes it onto grocery store shelves. IoT sensors and enabled warehouses could detect these issues before they become a real problem.
Wireless sensors can monitor perishable foods for temperature changes while stored in a refrigerated warehouse or truck and even detect the presence of dangerous bacteria, alerting the quality control team in seconds instead of waiting for bacterial cultures to come back from the lab. Food that isn’t frozen must remain below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent bacterial growth during transport. Wireless temperature sensors could measure the temperature of the food in real time, alerting the team to changes that could put the cargo at risk.
IoT sensors for the food industry are relatively new, but they are available now if you’re looking for a 21st-century way to improve your quality control and assurance departments.
Consumer Safety Remains Vital
Quality control is not an option in the food industry when so many millions of people rely on it for safe and healthy foods. Taking steps to improve quality control in your facility could help prevent you from becoming the next company in the news issuing a recall. It takes time and effort, and sometimes an investment, but in the long run, the money you save by preventing recalls and contamination will pay for itself.
For further information about IoT, and sensors please contact a member of the AmbaSense team on 01609 600884 or email: email@example.com for a free no obligation free trial.