Technology drives virtually every facet of our lives today, and the food industry is no different. At Sprague’s Innovation in Pest Management Conference in Portland, Oregon, Lisa Lupo, editor of Quality Assurance magazine
, shared her observations on the trends driving change in the food industry.
Topping the list of trends changing the way quality assurance and food industry managers do their jobs is technology and connectivity. Also making the list were the global marketplace, transparency and the voice of the consumer.
“Technology will be the most impactful trend for the food industry in the years ahead,” said Lupo. “SMART technology, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are introducing applications that are changing the way the food industry responds to food safety, including the way pest management is done.”
From farms to processing facilities and distribution centers to retail outlets and ultimately consumers’ kitchen tables, emerging technologies and connectivity are making the battle against pests more proactive.
“It’s all about the data technology, coupled with increased connectivity, are making data collection and analysis easier and more accurate, which is critical for compliance with the added requirements of FSMA, as well as customer audits and global standards,” says Lupo.
What does technology bring to the table in the battle against pests?
- Faster, more comprehensive data collecting capabilities
- Digital collection of documentation
- Deeper analysis of the data
- More in-depth corrective action
“When data is digitally collected into a single system, it enables tracking and trend analysis of patterns and issues to make proactive decisions on where corrective actions are needed,” said Lupo. “This is particularly critical where pests are concerned.”
Lupo cited the 2017 U.S. FDA Inspection Observations report as an example of data collection and analysis that could help QA and facility managers and their pest management service providers design targeted, more innovative programs.
“The list included 2,700 ‘observations’ related to pests,” said Lupo. “That doesn’t include observations of sanitation, food storage conditions, etc., which could certainly have an impact on pest pressure. Whether you’re talking pest data collection or the heaven and hell of hyper-connectivity, data is trending.”
The FDA report data revealed the type and frequency of pest-specific observations that were made during inspections and the causes behind them:
- 314 – Lack of effective pest exclusion. Effective measures were not being taken to exclude pests from the processing areas and protect against the contamination of food on the premises by pests.
- 224 – Screening. Failure to provide adequate screening or other protection against pests.
- 169 – Other (i.e. harborage, pesticide use, record keeping, etc.)
Of the 2,700 observations listed in the report, 707 (26 percent) related to pests in one or another.
When you look at how data is collected today versus five or ten years ago, the transformation is impressive. The development of remote monitoring technology for rodents, flies and other pests coming online has the potential to significantly shift the way pest management programs are designed, priced, executed and evaluated.
“Food safety itself is not that much more difficult than it has been but the job will become more problematic mainly because regulators, your customers and consumers are looking more closely,” said Lupo. “Technology will allow you to gather the data, conduct the analysis and take the appropriate actions to protect food from pests.”
Sprague has long been on the front edge of technology and deploying it for the benefit of its clients.
Sprague’s client portal
makes a client’s entire pest program accessible on the computer or mobile device. It includes service reports, detailed trend reports, alerts and document archives.
The portal also enables clients to filter data, create ‘favorite’ views, track patterns, view recommendations from Sprague pest experts, and make pro-active decisions to prevent risks from pests.
Data keeps a client informed, documents current and allows for analysis that will improve the performance of pest programs and focus on what FSMA and all auditors want – pest prevention.