HACCP Changing Food Distribution and the Use of IoT
Institutionalization of Hygiene Management in Accordance with HACCP
Based on the revised Food Sanitation Act, the institutionalization of hygiene management in accordance with HACCP started in Japan in June 2021. HACCP is an acronym for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. It refers to a method in which food business operators themselves identify risk factors such as contamination with food poisoning microorganisms and foreign matter, and then control their processes to eliminate or reduce these risk factors in all processes from the receipt of raw materials to the shipment of finished products.
The control method was published by the Codex Committee, a joint body of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and its adoption is recommended in all countries. As a result, all food business operators in Japan have been required to establish a hygiene control system for all processes, including transportation.
The background of this mandatory requirement is that more than 15 years had passed since the Food Sanitation Act was revised in 2003, and the environment surrounding food safety had changed significantly. In addition, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) had led to the globalization of food distribution, leading to many cases of food poisoning, and with the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games being held in Tokyo, there was a desire to demonstrate Japan’s standard of food hygiene control both domestically and internationally.
Conventionally, hygiene control standards for food business operators in Japan had been managed in accordance with prefectural ordinances. From June 2021, they became uniform nationwide, and hygiene control in all processes including transportation became compulsory.
Furthermore, hygiene control is becoming increasingly important outside the food industry, with Good Distribution Practices (GDP) guidelines being promulgated in the pharmaceutical industry.
Combining Sensors and IoT to Manage Food Conditions Based on Data
HACCP-based management requires the development of a hygiene control plan and record keeping. The key points are to optimize the process by preparing written procedures for hygiene control, recording and storing hygiene control status, reviewing plans, and visualizing the process by recording and storing data such as temperature and humidity. For transportation in particular, in addition to temperature checks of refrigerators and freezers, records of temperatures in delivery vehicles, and records showing the condition of goods when received from the shipper, it will also be necessary to manage more detailed data such as the condition of goods en route from the warehouse to the delivery vehicle, during transportation in the warehouse, and after delivery.
On-site temperature recording is mainly done by hand, which can lead to inaccurate records during busy periods. Automation of temperature, humidity, and other information recording has become essential to reduce the workload on site and improve the accuracy of data, and IoT technology is being used more and more for this purpose.
Sensors for temperature, humidity, etc., are installed inside food delivery trucks, and data is measured automatically. The data is transmitted to the sensor’s parent unit, smartphone, tablet, etc., via short-range wireless communication NFC, Bluetooth, or a specified low-power radio setup. Wireless communication eliminates the need for drilling holes or wiring in the vehicle body, making installation easy. It also eliminates the need to get out of the cabin to check the inside of the storage area, making work more efficient and preventing the temperature from rising from opening and closing the door.
In HACCP, it is important not only to control food products, but also to manage the health and hygiene of workers who transport food products. For this reason, technology is advancing to store logs of who moved what and where with RFIDs, with recorded ID information attached to both workers and food products when workers transport food products on carts, etc. There is also technology that, by attaching individual RFIDs to work clothes, sends a notification when a certain period of time has elapsed after cleaning. This technology, which has been used for uniforms and sheets in hotels and hospitals, is now being applied in HACCP.
Data such as temperature and humidity changes in the warehouse, worker and food tracking information, etc., can also be linked to cloud systems to enable comprehensive management. This allows people to determine when, where, and how an abnormality occurred in a food product and to take remedial action.
From producers, markets, and processing plants to restaurants, retailers, and consumers. IoT technology is now indispensable to comprehensively manage food safety, which involves more movement than we might imagine.