According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 48 million people become sick from foodborne illnesses each year. Researchers have identified more than 250 foodborne diseases, many of which are caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. To prevent the risks of foodborne illness and improve shelf life, food processors and manufacturers prioritize safety. Here Mark Howard, US country manager at industrial parts supplier EU Automation, shares three ways that technology is improving food quality.
Safety is a top priority for food processors and manufacturers because of the financial cost of food recalls, as well as the subsequent reputational damage to the business and the risks that foodborne illnesses pose to consumers. With the growth of automated systems and smart technology, businesses can more easily and efficiently manage food safety and meet quality standards, saving them time, money and maintaining their brand image.
Sterile is safer
Harmful levels of bacteria, such as Salmonella, are a common cause of foodborne illnesses. according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Salmonella takes less than five hours to reach harmful levels at room temperature and to avoid this, it needs to be prevented from multiplying.
To remove most of the microorganisms on food, manufacturers can use technology such as high-pressure processing (HPP). During HPP, packaged food is subjected to high pressures, killing any residual bacteria and reducing the chance of bacterial growth. As a result, food can last longer and meet food safety standards without adding preservatives or affecting flavor.
According to Research Report Insights, the HPP equipment market has a projected compound annual growth rate of 12.3 percent between 2016 and 2026. Smaller manufacturers who don’t want to invest in an HPP overhaul, can rent third party equipment from contractors. On the other hand, large companies can advance their own HPP processes by incorporating automation.
For many years, food businesses have had the option of vacuum packing food to remove oxygen and prevent the growth of aerobic microorganisms. As well as this, there are other ways that packaging can impact food quality. Faulty packaging can result in contamination of the batch or if any labeling is damaged, it can make the product difficult to track.
One way that food and beverage companies are tackling food quality and packaging issues is with a visual inspection. Machine vision means that products can be checked quickly to ensure that they are correct. One example is Acquire Automation’s Prism machine, which can scan and reject faulty packaging, ensuring that each product meets specifications. Manufacturers can monitor the number of defective items, allowing them to address quality issues before production is stopped or items are recalled, without damaging their company image and finances.
Unplanned downtime is a major disruptor for food businesses. If a component breaks, refrigerators may stop working and ovens may switch off, spoiling food. Ingredients may also expire if they cannot be added into the process when planned and the lack of records can mean that food is unsellable because the business is unable to trace it through the supply chain. All of these factors can have a huge impact on profits and can also damage relationships with customers if orders are not delivered on time.
Proactive, predictive maintenance is a critical way to reduce the risk of unplanned downtime. By monitoring the performance of machinery on their lines, food businesses can predict in advance when a part is going to fail and order a replacement from a reliable automation part supplier, such as EU Automation.
While 48 million people suffer from foodborne illnesses a year, there is technology that can help. Food manufacturers can update and adapt their processes to help improve safety, great for customers and business.