One of the main concerns in our everyday lives involves safe food for consumption. As much as consumers try to avoid contaminated food, there are limited means to assure that food is safe before consumption. In 2015 alone, there were 266,319 hospitalisations recorded in Malaysia where 15,346 were due to food related illnesses such as food poisoning, typhoid, cholera, dysentery etc.
Toxicity fears spread in Europe recently when supermarkets had to withdraw millions of eggs that were contaminated with insecticide. Food produced with eggs also had to be withdrawn from sale and farms were suspended or closed. Some non-EU countries were reported to have received the tainted eggs as well. Nearer to home, a prominent milk brand in Malaysia nearly sabotaged their strong brand presence when its milk products were recalled across the country due to bacterial contamination. Imagine the consequences that the milk producer had to bear if consumers were to consume any of those affected milk. As a result, this incident had negatively impacted the brand’s reputation and it was an uphill climb to regain consumer confidence as the news and public sentiment were widely spread on social media.
Both food industry and regulators must evolve and innovate to meet new challenges and consumer demands for better food safety and quality. In a recent collaboration with the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) on a 4-day Food Safety Inspection training, Rentokil Initial Malaysia emphasised the importance of food safety management and the role of technology advancement and data transparency not only in food manufacturing, but also the entire supply chain. 40 participants comprising of key players from industries like food production, healthcare, education and MOH Food Safety Auditors gained insights from various topics that included pest behaviours, integrated pest management (IPM) and hygiene practices in creating a safer food production experience.
Ever-tightening policies and regulations call for companies handling food to take appropriate measures and proactive approach in early detection to control pests in food and food supplies. Juliana Soo, Regional Technical Director of Rentokil Initial said at the event: “Innovative technological systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) are able to deliver better data insights that enable businesses to identify trends and hotspot areas. It can also provide a quicker solution to help mitigate risk in the increasingly complex modern supply chains. It is a more proactive approach towards food safety that helps organisations throughout its supply chain pest risk management and food safety audit compliance.”
Some of the innovations that were introduced are based on targeted needs and according to IPM using the ERDM (Exclusion, Restriction, Destruction, Monitoring) methodology designed by Rentokil to manage pest risks in a holistic manner. myRentokil, an online reporting portal that allows customers to stay on top of any potential pest risks at their site(s) was also introduced during the training. With myRentokil, all data are now easily available online at the click of a button compared to the conventional way where one needed to go through mountains of files and papers for service history and recommendations.
While business owners and auditors are committed to ensuring the supply chain end product is safe for consumption, Rentokil Initial shared that hygiene also plays a significant role in ensuring the safety of food preparation. The innovator in hygiene services also shared how most would take hygiene for granted as we might not be aware of the threats of cross-contamination and other risks from being exposed to different types of bacteria that could exist on our hands such as E. coli, Staphylococcus, Hepatitis A and more, if proper hygiene practices are neglected.
“We are always on the lookout to improve the quality in Malaysian food industry. With the today’s technology, it gives us better understanding of how these pests behave through biological research. And the hygiene awareness talk among the food auditors and food industry also greatly benefits the participants to bring back to their relevant industries,” said a Ministry of Health Malaysia representative.
"The world population is going to reach 8.5 billion by year 2030, and due to globalised supply chain, food safety management has gotten more challenging than ever. Ensuring the supply of safe food products is extremely crucial to protect the public’s health. This is why technology and data transparency are important to mitigate any potential food safety risks." said Carol Lam, the Managing Director of Rentokil Initial Malaysia.
In recent years, Internet of Things (IoT) has been the talk of the town on its potential to revolutionise the way businesses operate across the globe. Carol added, "IoT is also commonly used in food industry to track and trace the status of products through the entire supply chain. The other advantage of end-to-end food safety monitoring is, it enables various parties involved from farm to table to quickly identify points of origin if food contamination is discovered. Previously these investigations could have taken weeks or months to complete."
"At Rentokil Initial, this is something that our Innovations team has been working on over the years. With the right approach, this will ultimately help us ensure that our customers take a much more proactive approach in managing food safety risks across the supply chains. Predicting likely sources of contamination and food-borne disease outbreaks, detecting food safety threats as they happen and implementing control measures before threats can spread. This will improve efficiencies and reduce losses throughout the supply chain. Most importantly, raising standards in food safety and security for consumers."