Tag Archives: advances in food safety

Food Safety Progress with Blockchain

Blockchain and Food Safety

I have studied blockchain a little, and can see great utility in its universal un-dilutable universal ledger approach. It is horribly data inefficient, but with incredible strides in memory systems, why not waste all available resources, an IT priority I hate.

Someone came up with a fantastic use for this technology. Food Safety chain problem tracking.

The first food poisoning cases came to light in late March: Eight patrons of fast-food restaurants in New Jersey suffered bloody diarrhea and cramps that sent them rushing to hospitals. More than two months later, one person is dead in California, 75 others have been hospitalized, and federal authorities still don’t know where a nasty strain of E. coli bacteria latched on to romaine lettuce from Yum a, Ariz. Their struggle to trace dozens of supply lines across 32 states, on a paper trail that often might actually be on paper, demonstrates the limits of tracing food by methods rooted in another century.

Food safety advocates and industry insiders say it may be time to borrow the encrypted accounting platform that drives crypto currency: block chain. Blockchain, the encrypted accounting platform, may have helped solve the mystery of the nationwide romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak.

“I often describe that as food trace ability at the speed of thought: As quickly as you can think it, we can know it,” said Frank Yi annas, vice president of food safety for Walmart, which is scaling up an IBM-driven pilot block chain that already includes top suppliers such as Uni lever, Nestlé and Dan one.

Not long ago, Yi annas, who guards the integrity of food in Walmart’s $280 billion grocery empire, would have brushed off the notion of an instantly “knowable” and verifiable food chain as fantasy. He heard about it two years ago, when Walmart was about to open a food safety institute in China, where 10 years ago a baby formula adulteration scandal sickened 54,000 babies.

“Up until that point I only knew that it was the technology behind bit coin,” Yiannas said. “I will tell you I was a bit of a skeptic, just like many people are about the technology.” Block chain, for all its cloak-and dagger associations, is basically a democratized accounting system made possible by advances in data encryption. Rather than storing proprietary data behind traditional security walls, companies contribute encrypted blocks of data to a “distributed” ledger that can be monitored and verified by each farmer, packer, shipper, distributor, wholesaler and retailer of produce. No one can make a change without everyone knowing, and agreeing to it.

“If I want to change something or fudge something on my version of the ledger, I then have to share it with everybody else, and they all have to agree to that,” Yiannas said. “You can’t have two separate sets of books. It’s one set of books that everyone sees.”

As it stands, no one can see the entire path from farm to fork. Each time a food-borne illness breaks out-which tends to happen around 900 times a year-investigators have to work their way backward, one link at a time, from victims to fields, tracing multiple paths across separate companies and sometimes across international borders. This would generate great strides in this nearly unmanageable problem.

“It’s very linear, but the food system as we know is not very linear,” Yiannas said. That linear approach can cost lives and waste billions of dollars in health care costs, lost work hours and trashed food every year, health officials and analysts say. Food borne illnesses can cost the economy $152 billion a year, with tainted produce
responsible for a quarter of that damage, according to a Pew Charitable Trust study.

“To say to consumers that you shouldn’t be consuming romaine lettuce if it came from the Yum a area [a leader in organic farming], and yet that information at the point of consumption or the point of purchase isn’t readily available or obvious to the consumer, then that’s a problem,” said Step hen Ostroff, deputy commissioner for food and veterinary medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Block chain, first developed in the 1990s, was considered some dark art in the world ofcrypto currency in 2010, when Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act,the first major overhaul of the nation’s deeply fragmented food safety regulation since the 1930s.

The law required the FDA to identify high-risk foods and require companies to keep better records of them. The agency has yet to write those rules-and they have been further delayed by the Trump administration’s wholesale rollback of regulation. I hope that nobody falls out of their chair from this revelation.

Seven years after the enactment of FSMA, the FDA has yet to carry out Congress’s mandate to create a list of high-risk foods and issue a proposed rule for enhanced record keeping,” a coalition of food safety advocates said in a letter to the agency recently.

The groups noted that leafy greens were responsible for more cases of E. coli illness than any other produce-a general category that accounted for half or more of the outbreaks of listeria, E. coli and salmonella, and a third of the campylobacter outbreaks reported from 2009 to 2013.

Ostroff said implementing the remaining FSMA regulations “would help, but it wouldn’t necessarily solve the problem” presented by such a broad outbreak.

No one solution will. only cocktails of efforts will better address food safety issues.

Parts of this article taken from an article by BY GEOFFREY MOHAN LOS ANGELES TIMES

Preventing Food Borne Illness Remains Illusive

chicken legs

Americans enjoy one of the world’s safest food and water supplies, in part due to a host of products of chemistry, from simple disinfectants such as chlorine and soap to modified atmosphere packaging.

But while dreadful diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera and tuberculosis have been virtually eliminated in the United States, there are 76 million cases of food borne illness here every year, leading to untold billions in costs, unnecessary suffering and nearly 5,000 deaths. Eradication of food borne diseases remains elusive. Disease causing microbes and pathogens are the primary culprit. That’s where chemistry can help, from farm to table.

Innovations in Food Safety

Food growers use chemical compounds to eradicate a plethora of disease carrying pests that compete for our food supply.

Chlorine disinfectants used in industrial food production penetrate the germ cell walls and membranes, bursting open the germs and leaving them unable to reproduce.

To identify disease causing “bugs” before they reach store shelves and our homes, the business of chemistry has created a DNA-based diagnosis to detect contamination in raw ingredients and finished foods. This Nobel Prize winning technology has become standard in the United States and much of the world to improve food safety.

Plastic packaging plays a major role in protecting fresh, processed and prepared food, as a trip down the grocery aisle can attest. Plastics’ unique properties allow food to remain sealed against air and grime, helping to prevent tampering while extending shelf life. Foods packaged in a modified gaseous atmosphere (replacing air with nitrogen and carbon dioxide, for example) resist mold and spoilage caused by microbes.

Modern refrigeration is made possible by plastics (insulation, liners, hoses, seals, etc.) and chemical refrigerants.

The World Health Organization estimates that diseases associated with dirty water kill at least 6,000 people every day. The most effective weapon against waterborne bacteria and viruses is chlorine chemistry, so water treatment facilities across the world rely on this basic element to clean and disinfect drinking water.

Our military makes extensive use of chemistry for its MREs (meals ready to eat)—they cook themselves through a chemical reaction, withstand extreme temperatures and are designed to last three years without spoiling, made possible by layers of resilient plastics.

Policies to Ensure Chemical Safety

Promoting the safe use of the essential products of chemistry is a shared responsibility of manufacturers, the government and those who use or sell chemical products. Manufacturers and government must work together to:

Develop, implement and comply with sound regulations so chemicals are safe for intended use.

Enhance scientific understanding of chemical safety.

Produce publicly accessible safety information.

Americans must feel confident that the federal regulatory system is keeping pace with the applications of chemistry. Our nation’s primary chemicals management law must be updated to adapt to scientific advancements and to promote that chemical products are safe for intended use—while also encouraging innovation and protecting American jobs.