Are you sure you know how to efficiently monitor food safety?

19/01/2021

A modern task management application can be used to regularly collect, organise and store data in one system. Thanks to advanced technology, it offers a wide range of functionalities from automatically sending scheduled reminders to reading data from thermometers or other devices and informing the user only when necessary. It’s the most efficient way to ensure food safety by regular control of temperatures, expiry dates, cleanliness - basically all the food chain. Regular audits ensuring compliance with standards and regulations are a priority for any food processing facility. Now, due to the pandemic situation, we find ourselves in, it is more crucial than ever.

What an App Can Do For You? (...and for Food Safety?)

Despite the multiple advantages of mobile apps in supporting regularity, collecting data within them is still not that common. They remind the user about the task at a specified time and confirm its completion. Each notification can be sent at the most convenient moment during the day. Every needed action, from monitoring products’ expiration dates to recording of losses, is done within the mobile app. Employees can take a picture, video or record an audio, depending on what is needed. In this way, health and safety checklists, observation checklists and audits can be completed all in one tool.

The management knows exactly how employees fulfil their duties. Photos with a time stamp or GPS location are evidence of correct execution of a task - both in the right place and at the right time. Additionally, they make it easier to keep records, therefore, speeding up the documentation process and facilitating reporting.

Employees have fewer responsibilities. Many things are done automatically, more accurately and faster than they were previously without technological support. For example, an application connected to thermometers can check and record the temperature every few minutes instead of only three times a day. Only if a difference from the standard occurs, it alerts the employee to take appropriate action but in this case a reaction is immediate.

Incident recording

In addition to regular inspections, unexpected events are also important. Whether food safety is maintained or losses occur depends on the response to them. Manual recording does not allow real-time analysis of data. Therefore, it is not possible to react immediately to the situation by introducing an appropriate procedure. In emergency situations, the application can guide a person (e.g. with a digital checklist), according to exceptional procedures which are not used on a daily basis. This is particularly important for inexperienced employees. It allows for a quick reaction to any incident and leaves no room for cheating or errors. All these facilitations increase security and reduce losses.

Paper is the enemy of efficiency

Compliance documentation must be prepared according to quality standards e.g. HACCP principles. Many organisations still keep records the old-fashioned way - on paper checklists and forms which are manually filled out every few hours. Employees record temperature, cleanliness level and opening time of products but this method only makes it difficult and more complicated.

The bigger the store is, the more complicated the problem can get because filling in these forms is time-consuming. The problems that occur with HACCP vary, depending on how many processes occur at the store level. It is obvious that a hypermarket or manufacturing plant has a lot of them, and a small grocery store - much fewer. Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that the forms are sometimes filled in poorly and incorrectly.

Human memory can be unreliable

In some instances it occurs that paper forms are filled out from memory. An employee can clean up and after a while comply with the formal requirements by entering the time. It seems that after a short period of time everything looks the same but concerning food safety, that is not true. Such practices can be caused by many reasons: lack of time, an insufficient number of employees, unawareness of procedures and their importance, inconvenience of carrying the forms or their unavailability, intentional or unintentional negligence. Unfortunately, these are well-known problems for companies in terms of complying with food safety standards, which couldn’t be eliminated beforehand.

Understanding the importance of procedures (e.g. HACCP)

Another issue is that large companies can spend more time and resources on training their employees than a small convenience store does. It happens that, for example, a franchisee undergoes training but does not understand the importance of applying procedures. Our mobile application with detailed instructions can offer many ways to simplify this process and make it easier. It guides the user through each stage and simply would not allow to skip any of the steps.

Better decision making

Head Offices often don’t have the adequate reports on activities or the correct security measures in place. They are lacking access to immediate feedback because it requires the data to be entered beforehand. They are also not sure that the necessary actions were performed at the right time. Better quality digital data available in the real time and improved data visualisation mean better decisions. All the data is immediately visualised on clear dashboards and charts. This is crucial for the management.

Real-time reporting

Thanks to a structured organisation, it is easy to access information, even if a lot of time has passed since it was introduced. The need to check the data may arise in the case of a food contamination incident. According to the regulations, food processing facilities must be able to trace what happened to a specific product.

Constant storage issues

Paper-driven procedures cause unnecessary paperwork. It takes a lot of time to generate a report, get an insight of an audit and to analyse the data. When using paper forms organisations also cannot react to situations instantly and it makes room for error. Additionally, retailers produce huge volumes of documentation that has to be archived and stored by law requirement. This can lead to serious storage problems. Digitised documents take up relatively little space and are safe in a secure cloud storage. Thanks to photos confirming the tasks, the data has both great evidential and practical value.

Human Factor + Technology = Safety

Until recently, there was no one answer to all of these problems. Even using modern solutions, someone had to fill in a paper form first. Laptops were not so widely-used and mobile terminals were very expensive. Nobody considered that an application would connect everything in one tool and establish communication with other devices, such as thermometers. The problems of retail chains, restaurants and production plants could not be solved, so they were put on hold postponed.

No application can replace common sense but technology gives us wonderful tools to empower repetitive actions of important procedures. There is no doubt that modern technology facilitates reporting, improves data archiving, allows to solve problems quickly and increases food safety and hygiene. However, that does not mean that employees should give up their rational thinking.

Example of how TakeTask does it

The TakeTask application allows employees to access procedures and instructions as well as easily register critical points for food safety. Our real-time text recognition feature allows for the speeding up and increasing the accuracy of the recording of used or spoiled ingredients. The Head Offices have constant insight into the level of food safety standards compliance. The system generates weekly reports and documentation for external controllers.

Find out more about food safety optimisation provided by TakeTask.