How AI can improve Food Safety

Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health. So it is not surprising that food safety is a public health priority. This becomes especially clear when looking at data from  the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates that 600 million people (almost 1 in 10) fall sick each year after eating contaminated food, resulting in roughly 420,000 deaths.

Food Safety refers to handling, preparing and storing food in a way to best reduce the risk of individuals becoming sick from foodborne illnesses. It is a global concern that covers a variety of different areas of everyday life. This involves safety between industry and the market and then between the market and the consumer. In industry to market relations, food safety considerations include the practices relating to food labeling, food hygiene, food additives and pesticide residues, as well as policies on biotechnology and food and guidelines for the management of governmental import and export inspection and certification systems for foods. In market to consumer practices the concern is safe delivery and preparation of the food for the consumer.

Food Safety Surveillance

Food Safety Surveillance is conducted by the authorities to safeguard food, animals and plants. The organizations have a very broad set of activities. Food safety surveillance includes supporting food inspection activities, detecting outbreaks and assisting with their investigation and removing contaminated products from the market. Moreover, food safety authority ensures compliance with legal limits for microorganisms and chemical contaminants in food and makes sure that the foods comply with legal restrictions on the use of certain ingredients and processing technologies as well as taking care of the authenticity of certain foods. Last but not least, the organization provides data for risk assessment and risk management activities, identifies the pathogens found in foodstuffs for the purpose of monitoring trends and establishing public health priorities for control and prevention strategies.

Artificial Intelligence Opportunities to Improve Food Safety

AI in food sorting

With the COVID-19 pandemic making it more difficult for food producers to operate with their usual workforce levels due to restrictions, there’s been an even bigger push into discovering the capabilities of AI. Previously, a manufacturer had to hire many people to perform the monotonous and routine actions linked to food selection. Now, instead of manually sorting large amounts of food by size and shape, they can use AI-based solutions to easily recognize for example which plants should be potato chips and which are better to use for French fries. Vegetables of an inappropriate color will also be sorted out by the same system, decreasing the chance that they are discarded by buyers. 

Literature review

At we work with the Finnish Food Authority. The Finnish Food Authority

promotes, monitors and studies the safety and quality of food; the health and wellbeing of animals; plant health; fertiliser products, animal feeds and plant protection products that are used in agricultural and forestry production; and propagating materials i.e. seeds and planting materials.

The team is continually tasked by Finnish authorities to perform a wide range of food safety related searches to keep the population safe. They have to spend a lot of focused time on understanding each new research area and its vocabulary in order to perform extensive key word search queries – repeated across a range of search engines – reviewing the endless result lists to achieve an overview of the field and they are never sure the conclusions they can draw are comprehensive. To solve their problem of being overwhelmed with the amount of new fields they had to grasp, has collected all their content in one search interface. The reviewer can input a human language description of the research, without the need for comprehensive vocabulary understanding. uses contextual key terms, synonyms and hypernyms to build a ‘fingerprint’ that can match to other papers. Our engine finds relevant papers for them in just seconds – with results that have been proven scientifically to uncover more spot-on information, yielding a better overview of the topic for the reviewer as well as allowing them to draw superior conclusions.. 

Key takeaways

👉 Food safety refers to treating food in a way to best reduce the risk of    foodborne illnesses. 

👉 AI can be used to easily recognize which plants should be used for production or to find relevant scientific literature faster in an interdisciplinary field.