This article appeared on Food Online as a guest column
It’s rare for the terms “food safety” and “software” to be used together in the same sentence. However, with the migration from manual to automated systems occurring in almost every other industry, is it time for food manufacturers and processors to move into the 21st Century? The food industry has largely been ignored by software companies since software is a hard sell. Many processors who already have a manual system in place cannot see the benefits of automation. But, with new government legislation coming under FSMA, in conjunction to an epidemic of foodborne illness affecting 48 million Americans per year, is this the time for a change?
Throughout the industry, most food-safety managers have established their own manual systems to manage food-safety programs, but these systems are enormously time consuming and often out-of-date. With some HACCP plans weighing in at over 500 pages, the effort to locate and update all information and then reprint can take weeks, if not months. The sheer volume of documentation can take up a significant amount of space within the plant as many binders of paperwork are required. Sorting and updating all this paperwork requires the QA manager to be parked in their office for extended periods of time instead of being out on the production floor preventing food-safety incidents from occurring.
A large proportion of smaller, and even many medium-sized, manufacturers do not have a food-safety program in place at all. This creates a level of uncertainty for customers since there is no reliable way of knowing the products are safe. This is a problem many retailers are now addressing by requiring food-safety plans as a condition of purchase.
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