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TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION SUPPORTING FOOD SAFETY TO MITIGATE THE RISKS OF THE SUPPLY CHAIN DURING COVID-19

Martina Sartoni – DVM, Specialised in Inspection of Foods of Animal Origin

Never before have we experienced the technological support being such a valuable resource for endorsing services or customs and habits of our personal, social and work routine as it has been in the past few months.

The impact of Covid-19 pandemic has made us understand the close interconnection between human health and the environment as well as the power of its impact on the global economy. This confirms there is a need of investments in infrastructure that would provide concrete tools for the management of emergencies, as it is happening in all sectors, including the food supply chain.

In this global scenario, the problem of safety and security in food supply chains remains a priority, as it does for the concept of “One Health” that has become a common denominator during these times. It is and will be increasingly important to place constant attention on strengthening the resilience of food systems towards critical issues such as this one, as well as others and some emerging ones.

If, in these recent years, the field of the supply-chain and food safety had gradually started to move towards the computerisation and use of technological tools, the Covid-19 devastation has made it clear there is a need to re-define the organisation of food safety and food production systems. The systems should be reworked as soon as possible, becoming accessible, safe and solid even during difficult times such as the ones we are going through right now.

The circumstances where companies are forced to work with reduced staff, put in place extraordinary measures to protect workers and consumers, and to operate without being able to lower the production level neither from a qualitative nor quantitative point of view, are deeply increasing the need of practical benefits coming from the simplification and intuitiveness in the digitised and interconnected systems. These are designed to simplify the performance of ordinary food safety tasks and, at the same time, assure reliability and effectiveness.

While the “race” started within the last few years, we can now affirm that it is currently in the acceleration phase, moving fast towards the cultural and structural technological leap through the virtualisation of the HACCP monitoring and the company traceability systems. Supported by a proper digital revolution, these systems are redesigned towards an operational project aimed at reducing the movements of controllers and eliminating the paper documentation for the control or for the activities that switch to remote and centralised management.

It is therefore desirable that operators and service providers in the sector make efforts to provide companies and actors in the supply chain with reference models to which the Food Business Operators could link new sets of procedures and tools aimed at mitigating the supply chain risks. That will represent a guide for all those who want to consolidate their existing control practices, making them stronger and more suitable to the context, while optimising costs and resources. Today, we are experiencing a new way of working, all socially distanced yet all together, which means that work today gives us the ambition to simplify and facilitate the way we will work tomorrow – in a safe and increasingly sustainable way.

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