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How Technology Can Create Safer Food Systems

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Infected food affects millions of people and kills hundreds of thousands annually. Nutritional action programs and technological approaches aim to change this.

A metallic robot hand holding a red apple.Key Takeaways:

  • Consuming unsafe food can cause nutritional deficiencies
  • More than 250 diseases can result from contaminated food, causing physical and mental illness
  • Technology can help create a safer food system through greater traceability, improved monitoring standards, and shared data

Eating contaminated food is a sad necessity for people worldwide. Exposure to an imperfect food system is affecting an estimated 600 million people in 2022 according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). As many as 420,000 will die this year, with children younger than 5 accounting for 40% of those infected and 125,000 annual deaths.

It’s a grim situation, but there’s a silver lining. Technological advances combined with recent nutritional initiatives could make a powerful difference. Read on to learn about the current situation and how a healthier food system is taking shape.

How contaminated food affects people

The first effect is lowering food’s nutritional value. This alone contributes to many physical problems because people aren’t getting the vitamins, minerals, and protein their bodies need to stay healthy. The impact of this nutritional deficit is worsened when combined with disease.

Until relatively recently, food contamination could be traced back to five causes: chemicals, toxins, bacteria, parasites, and viruses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that researchers have found more than 250 foodborne diseases stemming from these sources, while the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH) reports that global warming is proving to be a sixth cause of lower-quality crops.

The effects of consuming unsafe foods range from fever and diarrhea to disabilities and even some forms of cancer. Even the most common illnesses can become much worse over time. Food poisoning, for example, is generally understood as a very unpleasant but ultimately short-term discomfort. This isn’t always the case, however. It can cause long-term physical and mental harm, including brain and nerve damage, arthritis, and kidney failure.

The global health community is responding

The WHO observes World Food Safety Day every year and publishes a range of free materials aimed at creating a safer food system. These promote best hygiene practices wherever people eat, including homes, schools, businesses, and more. The CDC provides four steps to help establish food safety habits, while the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) provides many excellent resources for all food stakeholders in the United States.

One of the most promising tools in tackling nutrition-related illnesses is technology, the biggest advantage of which is allowing food stakeholders to keep constant tabs on their fragile and perishable shipments and storage facilities. Seeing the value of this technology, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed tech-based solutions first on their list of four core elements in their latest blueprint for a “New Era of Smarter Food Safety.”

How technology can be used to protect food

The FDA blueprint highlights how technology can help create safer food systems through greater traceability and improved monitoring standards, both of which supply key data elements that enable rapid tracing and containment of contaminated food sources. Wireless devices with shared connectivity and gateways via a cloud allow the data gathered by one group of food stakeholders to be quickly reviewed and shared with many others.

Such information sharing can dramatically reduce response and recall times, minimizing supply chain disruptions and dangers to human health. The final goal is end-to-end traceability that delivers data at every point in the food system. The FDA hopes to achieve this in essentially three ways:

  • Convincing food-related organizations to “voluntarily adopt tracing technologies” to help the FDA and other international regulators control contaminated food sources
  • Standardizing data tracking through interoperable systems to create a universal traceability language
  • Encouraging tech providers to supply cost-effective solutions that allow food producers to participate in data collection

Increasing connectivity and acquiring such cost-effective data solutions is easy when you find a company that understands how crucial the matter is. Our products are designed to put data in your hands so you can stay connected to products in the food system.

Marathon Products for safer food shipping and storage

Our technology can help the food and agriculture industries get involved with collecting and sharing data. For example, our EDL-4S is a low-cost digital data logger (DDL) that monitors four important metrics: CO2, vibration, temperature, and relative humidity.

When used in food transport, the EDL-4S could help stakeholders measure how sensitively food is being handled in transit and in storage. It can also tell if and exactly when storage temperatures go above or below safe limits before triggering a visual alarm.

Many food manufacturers make careful use of a CO2 atmosphere to bring produce to optimal ripeness, making another of this product’s features valuable in creating healthy foods. The EDL-4S will soon become one of our wireless devices when our Wi-Fi Reader Station is released, upgrading its alarm status to allow for email and SMS via email-to-text alerts.

Our 3C\TEMP-RH with Bluetooth is already there! Also fitted with a visual alarm for quick response times, this option has a range of 30 meters. Our EDL-Beacon can connect to a wireless network and email temperature data anywhere in the world, making it perfect for monitoring food shipments. A further four options in our EDL range also provide wireless devices for temperature sensing and data logging, which supply alarms via cell email, phone, SMS, or pager, allowing users to stay connected. 

Information from our DDLs is easily transferable to a PC using a standard USB when paired with our MaxiThermal2 or MDAS-Pro software accessories. This means users can quickly view and share food shipping data with other stakeholders to increase reaction times and help create a better global food system. They are also excellent 21 CFR-certified tools for documenting standards compliance, which can keep your company in line with FDA electronic recordkeeping regulations.

Contact us for the best in food service technology

Marathon Products has more than 30 years of industry experience. We supply precision environmental monitoring devices so you can supervise your most sensitive shipments, and all our solutions are thoroughly tested to ensure they perform reliably for businesses of all sizes. Contact us at or call 510-562-6450 for more information. Don’t ship without us!

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