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The evidence that we need to find new ways to manage food safety is growing all the time. Right now, the world’s population is currently growing by 80 million people a year. Overall the global population is forecast to expand to 8.6 billion by 2030. By 2050 this population will require a major increase in food production. In fact, according to the World Resource Institute, we’re going to need to close a 70% gap in food calories from where we are today – making sustainability incredibly challenging.

The challenges we all face

Changes in consumption and taste across global markets also pose new production challenges. Manufacturing and processing is already shifting to emerging economies to be close to a growing consumer base. Countries like China have already become a major food importer, for example, increasing supply chain complexity.

All of these trends are creating greater pressure on agriculture, production and the supply chain to ensure that food produced to meet this growing demand is safe. Yet despite significant improvement in food safety generally across the industry, 600,000 people currently fall ill from foodborne issues every year (source: World Health Organisation). This results in 420,000 deaths globally, including 120,000 children under 5.

On top of these safety issues in global food production, we’re also still wasting a lot of the food we produce. Currently almost 1/3 of food production (1.3bn tonnes per year) is wasted through a variety of reasons including poor management, contamination and pest infestations. Clearly, if we are to meet the challenges of the future, these are problems that the food industry needs to address.

Where we can make improvements

Over the last 20 years, GFSI and other organisations have led the way in making improvements to food safety globally, particularly by promoting better cross-industry collaboration. Nevertheless, there is still more that can be done to collectively focus on issues that affect food safety.

One such issue is pest control. At the moment, the UN believes that rats destroy more than 42m tons of food ($30BN) a year. Rodents also carry a wide range of bacteria, viruses, and parasites, posing a significant risk to food safety.

Meanwhile weather change, with increases in temperature, rain and humidity are allowing tropical and subtropical insects to move from regions where infectious diseases thrive in non-native areas. Overall, we can expect a potential increase in fly populations of 244% by 2080. We will also see a parallel increase in fly borne diseases that will affect food production and safety.

Globally we are now seeing that at any one time, 22% of facilities in the food industry have a recorded issue of pest activity. Our own research also shows that 60% of businesses now report annual revenue losses as a result of Stored Product Insect (SPI) infestations.

The consequences for businesses when pest infestations take hold can be dire, impacting food safety, revenue and public trust. The big question is – what can be done to improve this situation? How can we ensure that the new challenges of a growing population, supply chain complexity and expanding pest problems don’t overwhelm the food industry and our supply?

Technology spearheading a new approach

At Rentokil Initial, we are actively leading the fight against these challenges by embracing technology, new science, innovation and big data analysis. Our aim is to use this approach to provide greater insight into pest problems and develop highly effective solutions that support greater compliance of PRPs, and ensure timely interventions.

One area where we are leading the way is with the development of a highly advanced pest control system based on connected automated sensor technology. The system, PestConnect, remotely detects, captures or humanely kills a variety of pests and provides immediate alerts and a rapid response from technicians. PestConnect already monitors over 50,000 connected devices globally, generating over 25 million messages and alerts a year.

We are also using the data we collect and aggregating it with other sources (temperature, rainfall, proximity to water etc.) to support big data analytics and predictive modelling that further support food businesses. As a result we are beginning to identify client sites that could be particularly vulnerable to infestations and support them with early interventions and tailored site solutions.

Find out more

If you’d like to find out more about exciting and innovative developments to support food safety, we’ll be talking about a series of compelling examples at the forthcoming Global Food Safety Conference in Tokyo. We’ll be looking at how focused investment in data capture and analytics will provide actionable insight, identify risk and enable proactive intervention across every stage of the supply chain.

At our Special Session on Wednesday 7th March, we will also be sharing our latest global research on the adoption of technology to support food safety, which we carried out by interviewing 400 food safety industry leaders in the US, UK, Australia and China.

Joining us will be David Brackston, Technical Director for BRC Global Standards, who will be sharing his views on the industry’s challenges, changing standards and practices, and the impact that technology will have. David will bring his wealth of experience and unique insight into food safety management and standards.

With all this expertise and insight, it’s a session not to be missed.

This post was written and contributed by:

Savvas Othon
Group Science and Innovation Director,
Rentokil Initial

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