Keeping Food Safe Using the Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of Things (IoT) makes keeping food safe easier by enabling food-based businesses to digitally gather and store important inventory information.

How safe is the food you sell?

If you looked at your inventory today – would you know where those onions came from or how long they have sat on the shelf? What about the beef – has its temperature been monitored from farm to fork?

It doesn’t matter if you own the finest steakhouse in New York City, or a food truck – the federal government now requires you to know this information under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

To ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply, food-based businesses are now legally obligated to follow HACCP guidelines aimed at preventing foodborne illnesses. In fact, the FDA requires businesses to maintain at least two-years’ worth of records to demonstrate compliance with the law. If records aren’t kept or standards aren’t met; Uncle Sam will send you a bill.

What’s worse than a fine? A foodborne outbreak that causes a PR nightmare, angry (and possibly sick) customers, and in the end, a decline in sales.

Are you still sure about the safety of the food you sell?

Now, the good news! The Internet of Things (IoT) makes it easy to comply with these new regulations and most importantly, keep food safe. For the restaurant and hospitality industry, IoT devices can help track, transmit, and store data based on your inventory. Here’s how to adhere to new food safety laws:

IoT Devices Track Inventory From the Point of Purchase to Your Front Door

Let’s revisit those onions from earlier. How long have they been on the shelf? The delivery driver said they were fresh when he received them – are you going to take his word? Does your distributor have a process in place to enforce fresh, quality goods upon reception?

These are fair questions that a scribbled sales slip or manual paper trail probably can’t answer. Data gathered by IoT devices can answer these questions, and more, like:

  • Who placed the order, authorized the purchase, and accepted the delivery?
  • What was ordered, how much was it, and what method of payment was used?
  • When did the order take place and when did it arrive? When is its expiration date?
  • What is the origin of the product and how did it travel to get to you?

No more guesswork. With this kind of detailed audit trail, you can even visit the actual field where your onions were harvested! This question of origin is critical, especially during a food recall. The 2006 Spinach E. coli outbreak caused three deaths and made more than 200 sick. If such an outbreak occurred today, wouldn’t you like to know quickly if you just served contaminated spinach, or even better, ensure that you haven’t? You can with IoT data. You can pass the news onto your customers within minutes, and they will thank you for your swift assurance!

Making Sure Temperature Is Not Overlooked

Bacteria is a major reason why food is deemed “unsafe.” When the temperature of food is not properly maintained, bacteria develops. There are too many opportunities for this to happen – during production, transport, after it is delivered, and while it’s stored in the backroom.

Don’t let this happen to you! For example, if you purchased beef from Ohio, you could use IoT technology to monitor its temperature before it leaves the farm, while it is in transit, and when it arrives at your doorstep. During its journey, the collected data is uploaded to the cloud so you can view it in real-time.

This kind of critical control point IoT data will help you better manage your inventory by providing the data you need when inventory goes bad. In the previous example, if that beef didn’t pass inspection upon arrival to New York City, you could immediately check the IoT data to pinpoint exactly when the temperature was compromised, and recoup the cost of lost inventory due to circumstances out of your control.

HACCP Checklists Are Critical to Food Safety Success

New regulations don’t have to mean new headaches for business owners. Instead of wasting time on new paper trails that can be lost, misplaced, or forgotten; IoT devices provide an efficient way to adhere to the new HACCP protocol.

Hazard analysis and critical control points, or HACCP, is a systemized approach to food safety. Devices are available pre-loaded with HACCP checklists, allowing both the easy recording and storing of information now required by the government. These checklists remind employees and management when tasks are unfulfilled or incomplete, decreasing the chance of non-compliance should the FDA come knocking.

If they are at your door, no worries! With the click of a button, you can retrieve your IoT data to produce the necessary reports to show your business is adhering to the new food safety standards.

It’s that simple! IoT devices makes keeping food safe easier by creating an easy, efficient way to monitor and track your inventory. You can now be 100% positive that the food you sell is safe because you have the data to back it up – rather than just the delivery driver’s word.