HOW BIG DATA PLAYS A ROLE IN FOOD SAFETY.Detecting alerts, monitoring environments and anticipating needs


Insights from big data are revolutionizing food safety in our globalizing and interconnected world. Heavy amounts of data have been extracted to provide insights that have transformed the automotive industry, the insurance industry and the retail industry, and these big amounts of data have been progressively applied to food safety. Big Data is specifically being optimized to detect alerts, to monitor environments and to anticipate needs, so that everyone from the producer to the consumer is free from food safety hazards.

Detecting Alerts

Machine learning and Text Classification
Have you ever made a social media review of a food that made you, “vomit” or “throw up?” According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, these types of words are being assembled and extracted from social media sites like Twitter and Yelp through machine learning by Colombia University’s Computer Science department in order to improve the public health of New York City. Restaurants that have gone undetected for carrying foodborne illnesses are being investigated by the New York City Department of Health as a result of this innovation. Machine learning has similarly been used with store shopper and loyalty cards, which has increased the pace of food recalls, therefore preventing outbreaks.

Whole Genome Sequencing
The European Food Safety Authority emphasized the milestones made and opportunities declared in whole genome sequencing in Europe. Whole Genome Sequencing is an application that improves the identification and detection of foodborne diseases, so as to avoid outbreaks of, for example, Salmonella. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has created a pathogen identification network that uses genome sequencing to analyze DNA left behind by disease borne bacteria, which are then put into the database. Genome sequencing therefore provides the source of a disease so that diseases can be stopped before causing detrimental outbreaks.

Monitoring Environments

Geographic Information Systems
With such dense populations of people around the globe, the production, maintenance and delivery of food has raised serious safety concerns, and big data is being exploited to ease these concerns. Geographic information systems have aided in establishing and improving food quality, safety and sustainability by monitoring environments. Geographic information systems are used to capture and analyze data in order to provide insights into a geographical region, thus providing a multitude of opportunities when it comes to monitoring geographical areas to improve food safety.

The use of geographical data and data relating to environmental conditions are used to analyze pre-harvested soils, to monitor land changes, and to predict contaminated products and contamination locations. Even factors that may have influenced a contamination can be detected. Beyond growth and production, geographic information systems are used to control a product’s environmental conditions after harvest and during product transportation. Geographic information systems therefore monitor an environment to ensure produce is safely grown and maintained so as to avoid safety hazards for the sellers, transporters and consumers.

Anticipating Needs

Internet of Things
In a globalizing world, the transportation of produce and products across countries and continents has been normalized. Thanks to big data, the transportation of such products has been made safe and sustainable so as to anticipate the needs and requirements of the places the products are entering. Meat and fish during trans global transports, for example, need to be placed in a temperature monitored environment to ensure a safe delivery, and advanced sensors allow that data to be recorded and tracked. Everything from humidity, temperature, air quality and air composition is tracked and monitored using sensors and RFID-based technologies in order to ensure well-preserved and maintained produce. Should a contamination or foodborne illness be discovered, these sensors and monitors help in detecting where exactly the contamination occurred. Real-time information allows for shipments to be tracked and monitored in the moment, which means if a problem arises, an alert is subsequently sent to the driver or distribution center.

Food Safety at the Center Stage

Big data evidently plays a significant role in the food industry, offering both preventative and reactive solutions to food safety. Food safety has taken the center stage, as the world is more connected than ever before. The spices we add to our dishes and the salmon we put on our plate aren’t necessarily from the country in which we reside, which is why the food science sector has optimized transportation and communication systems through big data and technology.

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