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Food safety: A digital dilemma?

17 March 2019

A recent report highlighted that the food and beverage industry are still seeking practical applications of digital solutions to help improve food safety. 

The report from DNV GL and GFSI survey, entitled ‘Food safety: what’s next to assure its future?’ found that, although the food and beverage industry recognises the importance of new digital technologies to food safety, there appears to be a lack the understanding of how to apply solutions like blockchain for this purpose The survey of over 1,600 industry experts found that only 1-in-10 companies are currently using new technology to ensure food safety. However, companies responded more positively when it came to the use of technology in the longer term, with that number rising to almost 4-in-10.

Of the new wave of digital technologies, sensors and beacons (44% today, 56% in three years) are the most widely used solution followed by blockchain (15% today, 40% in three years). However, the lack of clarity is impacting investment decisions with more than one-quarter of companies saying they do not know how much they will invest in digital solutions in the next 12 to 18 months and 14% answered that they will not spend in this area at all. Asian companies in particular see value in blockchain, with 57% expecting to use the technology in three years – significantly higher than other regions.

Elsewhere in the survey, safeguarding the health of consumers (88%) was shown to be the main driver of food safety, followed by laws and regulation (69%) and needs/requests from customers (60%). Commercial benefits (30%) rank low, indicating that ensuring food safety is seen as a prerequisite.

Operational risk (76%), such as contamination, is perceived to be the standout threat whilst a lack of food safety culture (30%) and compliance to regulations (28%) are the next two biggest risks. The fear of operational risks is especially strong in Europe (82%) compared to other regions.

A clear majority of companies view certification as a necessity of doing business (79%) while more than half (53%) see it as a way of improving food safety.

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