Verifying Engineering Controls: The Critical Role of Emerging Technology

Featured in the AIHA Blog

Written by Erik Malmstrom, CEO of SafeTraces | December 22, 2020

A ceiling vent

2020 has been a wake-up call for the built environment. For years, indoor air quality has been a problem hidden in plain sight. Scientific research has detailed the scale and extent of this challenge, as well as the real human consequences evidenced in degraded cognitive function, illnesses, and absenteeism.

However, the current pandemic has elevated indoor air quality to an urgent matter of life and death. Infectious disease experts, including the CDC, have arrived at consensus regarding the significance of airborne and aerosol-based transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, viral infection has shown to be 18 times more likely indoors than outdoors, leading to a state of paralysis in much of the built environment.

The good news is that we know that air ventilation and filtration can make a major difference in mitigating airborne exposure risk indoors. According to the AIHA’s Guidance Document “Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 Using Engineering Controls” (PDF), “Engineering controls (including ventilation and filtration) that can keep infectious aerosols at very low levels indoors offer the greatest promise to protect non-healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations as we reopen our businesses and workplaces.”

The bad news is that the pandemic has exposed a critical gap in the toolbox of industrial hygienists and mechanical engineers—a science-based, data-driven diagnostic solution for verifying engineering controls in real-world indoor environments. Today, many rely on carbon dioxide monitors, computational fluid dynamic modeling, mathematical calculations, and even smoke and bubble testing, none of which accurately approximate the risk of infectious aerosols.

Our company offers the first diagnostic solution for verifying ventilation and filtration-focused engineering controls, specifically for infection control, through a novel methodology that safely mimics aerosol mobility and exposure levels with DNA-tagged tracer particles. During the pandemic, we have supported clients spanning commercial real estate, industrial plant operations, and public infrastructure, providing us the following key insights:

  • Assumptions vs. ground truth: Similar to traditional building commissioning studies, our test results invariably reveal important discrepancies between our client’s assumed understanding of airflow patterns, airborne exposure levels, and HVAC system performance in their facilities relative to our assessment findings. Frequently, we detect unanticipated airflow between building areas, mechanical faults in the HVAC system, among other surprising findings that would otherwise be unknown to the client and that increase occupational health and safety risk.
  • Multiplier effect of airborne interventions: Our test results indicate a valuable multiplier effect of ventilation and filtration, evidenced by lower detection levels of our tracer particles in both air and surface swab samples. In other words, effective ventilation and filtration not only can reduce airborne exposures by removing infectious aerosols in the air; it also can reduce fomite exposures by preventing infectious aerosols from depositing on surfaces and infecting building occupants.
  • Importance of in-room interventions: Our test results clearly and consistently indicate greater efficacy in reducing airborne exposures with in-room interventions like portable HEPA filters relative to HVAC system interventions like MERV-level upgrades. Our tracer particles often don’t make it to in-system filters, whereas portable HEPA filters remove our tracer particles closer to the point of risk where infected occupants are likely to infect others. Thus, several clients have reevaluated the soundness of proceeding with MERV-level upgrades when considering their occupational health and safety benefit relative to their financial cost.

In conclusion, it is paramount for all occupants and professionals to understand if the HVAC system and engineering controls are actually helping or not in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Emerging technologies have tremendous potential to provide a more accurate understanding of real-world occupational health and safety risk and mitigate this risk based on science and data.

 

– Erik Malmstrom

Erik Malmstrom is CEO of SafeTraces, a Bay Area technology company and provider of DNA-enabled diagnostic solutions for indoor air quality. Further information can be found at www.safetraces.com.

This content originally appeared on the AIHA Blog. Read it here.

The SafeTraces Podcast – Episode #5

Date: December 21, 2020

Episode #5
Melanie Nuce, SVP Corporate Development at GS1 US

In this episode, COO Ulrike Hodges welcomes Melanie Nuce, the Senior Vice President of Corporate Development at GS1 US, an organization that develops and maintains global standards for business communication, and a collaborator to SafeTraces. Melanie leads a team that investigates new technologies, partnerships, and business opportunities to increase the relevance and reach of GS1 Standards worldwide. Ulrike and Melanie discuss persistent track and trace issues within the supply chain, in particular GS1’s experience leveraging emerging technologies to drive business process efficiencies and innovation.

SafeTraces and SGS Galson Deliver Groundbreaking veriDART™ Solution for Indoor Air Quality

The first and only liquid aerosol-based solution for verifying air ventilation and filtration engineering controls is available from SGS Galson

Date: December 15, 2020

PLEASANTON, Calif., Dec. 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — SafeTraces Inc., the leader in next generation DNA-enabled technology solutions, announced that it is working with SGS Galson. This collaboration enables environmental consultants and end users within the built environment to purchase SafeTraces’ groundbreaking indoor air quality solution, veriDART™, through SGS Galson, the world leader in industrial hygiene analysis and monitoring solutions.

Infectious disease control experts, including the Center for Disease Control (CDC), agree about the importance of airborne and aerosol-based transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The industrial hygiene and mechanical engineering communities, including the AIHA and ASHRAE, also regard air ventilation and filtration engineering controls to mitigate airborne exposure risk indoors as important. However, the current pandemic has highlighted a critical gap in the toolbox of mechanical engineers and industrial hygienists: a science-based, data-driven diagnostic solution for validating and verifying engineering controls in real-world indoor environments.

At the cutting edge of health science, building science, and data science, the veriDART by SafeTraces is the first and only diagnostic solution for verifying engineering controls for aerosol contaminants. Developed with the support of the National Institutes of Health and world-class experts at MIT and Stanford, veriDART leverages patented DNA-tagged particles that safely mimic the mobility of airborne pathogens to identify hotspots, assess ventilation and filtration, and verify remediations with empirical data. veriDART’s data analytics provide a level of scientific and empirical rigor often lacking in engineering control decisions that have significant occupational health and safety, as well as financial, consequences, both short- and long-term.

SafeTraces’ agreement with SGS Galson will focus on national and eventual global distribution of veriDART to meet overwhelming demand from multinational companies, commercial real estate owners, and public infrastructure managers, among others, amidst unprecedented indoor air quality challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective immediately, SGS Galson will offer veriDART as part of its comprehensive COVID-19 Recovery Assistance Services covering indoor air quality, surface decontamination, and worker hygiene.

SafeTraces’ CEO Erik Malmstrom stated, “COVID-19 has created an unprecedented occupational health and safety risk that has led to massive disruptions in the built environment. Those responsible for facility management and safety have lacked effective solutions for assessing and mitigating airborne exposure risk, which is key to keeping buildings open and safe during the pandemic and beyond. SafeTraces is excited to be collaborating with a world-class leader like SGS to meet the huge and urgent need for veriDART across the US and world.”

Lisa Swab, SGS Galson Laboratory Director, said, “A major aspect of our mission is to provide data to protect people from hazardous exposures.  Collaborating with SafeTraces by offering veriDART will immensely help our clients provide remediation solutions during these perilous time to the built environment.”

For more information on the veriDART by SafeTraces, contact info@safetraces.com, or visit www.safetraces.com.

This post originally appeared on PRN Newswire. Read it here.

Is Your Supply Chain Putting Your Company at Risk?

Written by Krista Earl of TagOne | December 7, 2020

Ingredient traceability. Once merely a concern for select consumers and extraordinarily transparent brands, has become a more frequent concern of consumers and has been highlighted in the FDA’s “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” initiative.  The FDA, retailers and consumers are increasingly invested in the safety, efficacy and quality of the ingredients and their source that are the foundation of what we are putting in our bodies.  This foundation is built on one of the key components in “The New Era of Smarter Food”: Tech Traceability.  Tech traceability will combine a culture, best practices and technology to enable your organization to know, at a minimum, who provided your ingredients, and who purchased your ingredients. Sounds simple, right? Well, it depends. Let’s look further at the steps which will help you effectively manage your supply chain.

It Starts with Culture

Implementing a company culture that is focused on quality is critical to ensure that you have a safe, detailed process that keeps your consumers safe. The problem, however, is that many companies are not living up to these standards, and do not have the proper process in place to capture and analyze critical data and documents throughout their supply chain.  As recently as August 2020, a salmonella outbreak in onions caused 167 hospitalizations nationally. A study by Countless investigations around the globe have uncovered mislabeled ingredients and unsafe handling of consumable food products. A study by the Journal of American Medicine identified that less than 50% of CBD products had accurate labeling. The result? Consumers aren’t trusting food and supplement companies anymore. Additionally, this drives up legal fees and insurance premiums.

So, what can you do to protect yourself now?

  • Develop standard operating procedures. Identify and document your key process areas. And equally important, assign named individuals to own them. When something is assigned to everyone, it’s assigned to no one.
  • Get GMP/ GAP certified. This is a long, challenging process, but this will build in the discipline necessary to scale your operation and reduce your risks while you push out a quality product. Additionally, any major retailer or enterprise partner is going to require GMP certification prior to conducting business with you.
  • Know your Suppliers and Buyers. You should have a clean database of each of your suppliers (and have documentation of their respective certifications) and also each of your buyers and the products they delivered or purchased (respectively). All documentation needs to be up to date and verified (yes, companies fake their paperwork). Start with a spreadsheet and move to a cloud-based system when you have the budget.
  • One up and one back. Once you have your supplier and buyer list locked down (and an approval process to ensure you are working with safe suppliers), make sure you track EVERY transaction that occurs (date, item, lot #, location, CofA’s, etc). If your business is early stage, a spreadsheet and shared cloud drive may suffice, but as you expand, a more sophisticated technology will be required.
  • Inactive ingredients matter too. In fact, your packaging could be a risk to your product. Remember, every item that touches your product- adds risk.
  • Inspect your processor or contract manufacturer. Many of you may be thinking “I use a partner, and they say they are certified” and then stop. Well, don’t assume. You need to collect and keep all documentation, conduct an audit to ensure that they are meeting your quality standards. Remember, it is your label on the package, so you are liable in the event of an incident.

Taking it to the Next Level

  • Risk reduction. Class action lawsuits and civil disputes can put us in court, which is a significant distraction from growth, an undue financial burden and can destroy your reputation. Don’t risk it.
  • Product provenance. If you have taken the time to ensure that you have the best quality product on the market (organic, no-GMO, etc) how can you validate this claim? Blockchain traceability systems can help you differentiate your product and increase sales.
  • Chain of custody. Having proper documentation, CofA’s and buyer/seller information isn’t only for your records, it is extremely important to illustrate who was in possession of specific ingredients at what time period. This is especially critical with foreign imported items.
  • Tech traceability. Consumers want to know where the product they are putting in and on their body came from. Domestic? Organic? Allergens? And equally important, in the event there is a recall, a quick, surgical action can make the difference in lives, and millions in lost revenue. The only way to achieve this is with both a tight supply chain process and a technology system which can “connect” the data from your suppliers, ingredients, products and track to your buyers.
  • Get digital. It is time to move on from paper, spreadsheets, dropbox and your accounting system and invest in a digital platform that consolidates, organizes, and measures all of your supply chain and inventory information.
  • Predictive Analytics. Anything that is measured improves. Imagine if you could identify your more reliable suppliers based on a graph? Or which seed is going to perform better in a different climate? Being able to track your data and analytics will keep you ahead of the competition.

Building a great brand starts with building a great product. Yes, we can drive sales and have nice packaging, but your product is a compilation of all the ingredients and critical events in your supply chain. The companies that master quality and their supply chain and know where all their ingredients came from, will win by developing a reputation of excellence leading to trust from consumers and retailers.

 

– Krista Earl, Marketing Coordinator at TagOne.

TagOne is a cloud based, blockchain enabled integrated supply chain technology solution delivering groundbreaking transparency to the food and natural products industry. Learn more at www.TagOne.com or subscribe to podcasts on natural product transparency visit www.GettingTransparent.com

Using the Power of DNA and On-Product Traceability to Exceed the Security of Conventional Packaging

Featured in TagOne’s BlogOne!

Written by Ulrike Hodges, COO of SafeTraces | December 4, 2020

With increasing urgency, consumers and regulators are demanding transparency and assurances from companies, manufacturers, and distributors regarding their safety practices and the authenticity of their products. To illustrate the magnitude of the issue, the U.S spends an average of $152 billion annually on foodborne illness related costs and an average of $10 million a year per food recall. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration responded by ushering in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety, highlighting critical shortcomings of the current system in rapidly tracking and tracing food: records being largely paper-based; lack of end-to-end product traceability; and limitations in data sufficiency, compatibility, and quality for identifying products along the supply chain. These shortcomings can result in loss of life, millions of dollars in avoidable product loss, and lasting damage to consumer trust.

There is a persistent gap between the physical product being tracked and traced, and paper and digital records in the supply chain, providing the opportunity for bad actors in the supply chain to manipulate paper-based records, product labeling and packaging, and to profit from the misrepresentation of products. Product integrity can also be compromised through unintentional adulteration of records and products, due to human error resulting from an overly manual, inefficient recordkeeping process.

The good news is that blockchain and other existing supply chain solutions and digital technologies have made significant advances toward enhancing traceability and ultimately product integrity and consumer safety. Yet, the question remains on how to link a product’s digital record directly to the product.

A groundbreaking technology that leverages the power of DNA addresses the gap between the physical product, packaging, and digital-based records. SafeTraces, an innovative technology company in Pleasanton, CA has patented and deployed the miniDART® solution in the food industry and pharmaceutical industry, where it integrates seamlessly into existing production and processing steps, such as bulk commodity transfer points at the farm-level, produce wax lines or automated bag-filling lines.

SafeTraces’ revolutionary process of DNA tagging combines short, non-coding, non-living DNA sequences into edible, invisible, FDA-Generally Recognized as Safe (FDA-GRAS), DNA tags that leverage GS1 standards. The flavorless DNA tags, called safeTracers®, are applied directly to food, an API, excipient, or finished dose, in parts per billion (ppb) or less. By adding safeTracers directly to a product, the miniDART provides an immutable, covert, physical link between the product and digital traceability solutions. Using a simple test kit, downstream partners can read lot-level information directly off the product in 25 minutes, thereby rapidly accelerating the time it takes to authenticate a product even after its packaging has been removed.

When compared to conventional traceability solutions, SafeTraces’ solution delivers superior performance, ease of use, and scalability. It enables manufacturers and downstream partners to empirically support farm-to-fork claims, strengthen transparency and sustainability stories with consumers, and mitigate cost and risk associated with recalls and adulteration.

 

– Ulrike Hodges, COO of SafeTraces

Ulrike Hodges is the COO of SafeTraces, a Bay Area-based technology company and leader in DNA-enabled solutions for safety, traceability, and environmental quality. By harnessing the power of DNA, SafeTraces’ solutions meet the increasing demands of customers in the built environment, pharmaceutical, and food industries. Visit safetraces.com or contact a representative at info@safetraces.com for more information.

 

This content originally appeared on TagOne’s BlogOne! Online. Read it here.

The SafeTraces Podcast – Episode #4

Date: November 17, 2020

Episode #4
Ron McMahan, Dir. Business Development at SGS Galson

CEO Erik Malmstrom speaks with Ron McMahan, Director of Business Development and Innovative Solutions at SGS Galson, the largest occupational health lab in the world, with whom SafeTraces is collaborating to deliver the SafeTraces veriDART solution. For over 30 years, Ron has been at the forefront of applying burgeoning technology to real-time applications and currently leads a team in developing innovative ways to make sampling simpler. They discuss his experience in the indoor air arena, the changes he has seen in the EHS space as it pertains to new technologies, and some of the solutions SGS is providing to help protect spaces from COVID-19.

The SafeTraces Podcast – Episode #3

Date: November 4, 2020

Episode #3
Lisa Kay, Chief Operating Officer at NV5

For this episode, CEO Erik Malmstrom speaks with Lisa Kay, the COO of Health and Safety at NV5, with whom SafeTraces is collaborating to deliver the SafeTraces veriDART solution. Lisa leads a team of high-performing environmental, health, and safety (EHS) consultants with the mission of making businesses cleaner, stronger, and safer. She sheds light on NV5’s EHS practice, her perspective on the impacts of COVID-19 on the built environment, and the kind of work NV5 has been doing to help clients navigate challenges since the pandemic began.

Managing Indoor Air Quality Amid COVID-19

Featured in Restoration & Remediation

Written by Mark Drozdov | October 7, 2020

As we seek to return to normalcy without a vaccine, COVID-19 confronts us with a troubling reality. We spend 90% of our time indoors in the U.S. and Europe, and scientific evidence indicates we are nearly 20 times more likely to be infected by the virus indoors than outdoors. COVID-19 has impacted many indoor settings such as schools, offices, churches, restaurants and bars, with prisons, meatpacking plants, and long-term care facilities being most affected due to high occupancy, poor ventilation and vulnerable populations.

Increasingly, scientists believe airborne transmission is a major route for the spread of COVID-19. Viral respiratory droplets released from coughing, sneezing, talking, and breathing can aerosolize into smaller particles, stay suspended in the air for hours, and travel significantly farther than six feet. A key scientific debate has been whether the virus is infectious in aerosols.

Though the virus is clearly detectable in aerosols, no one had been able to provide evidence  that it is “live” until the University of Florida. Skeptics of airborne transmission have been using this lack of evidence to challenge the importance of this mechanism. As the prominent aerosol scientist Linsey Marr said about the UF study, “If this isn’t a smoking gun, then I don’t know what is.” Even those who acknowledge aerosol’s infectiousness debate the relative importance of different viral transmission routes, including airborne or fomite, droplet or aerosol, direct or indirect contact, or a combination of mechanisms.

The role of airborne transmission of COVID-19 has a huge bearing on infection control in the built environment in two important respects. First, common approaches characterized by deep cleaning are incomplete and possibly misguided altogether. Second, masking and social distancing by themselves might be insufficient for mitigating airborne transmission.

Lisa Brosseau, a retired professor of public health, says that masks can limit larger particles’ spread, but they are less helpful for smaller particles. Aerosol mobility of over 30 feet, and suspension in air for hours can reduce the efficacy of six-foot social distancing mandates.

Image via Restoration & Remediation Magazine Online.

The fundamental question is what can and should we do to mitigate airborne transmission and create “safe” indoor environments amid COVID-19? One critically important and often overlooked area is engineering and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) controls. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) states, “Engineering controls that can keep infectious aerosols at very low levels indoors offer the greatest promise to protect non-healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations as we reopen our businesses and workplace.”

Similarly, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) states, “Changes in building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems can reduce airborne exposures.” It highlights the following HVAC strategies based on evidence-based literature:

  • Enhanced filtration that includes higher Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) filters over code minimums in occupant-dense and/or higher-risk spaces
  • Upper-room UltraViolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI), with possible in-room fans, as a supplement to supply airflow
  • Local exhaust ventilation for source control
  • Personalized ventilation systems for certain high-risk tasks
  • Portable, free-standing High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters
  • Temperature and humidity control

ASHRAE is careful to qualify its recommendations with the caveat that the system’s impact will depend on the source location, strength, and distribution of the released aerosol, droplet size, temperature, air distribution, humidity, and filtration. Each indoor environment is unique; conditions within each indoor environment are dynamic, and there is not a one-size-fits-all strategy for infection control.

Emerging technology by SafeTraces to evaluate engineering and HVAC systems for infection control. Image via Restoration & Remediation Magazine Online.

The complex and evolving nature of the airborne transmission risk has resulted in two broad categories of responses for engineering and HVAC controls. The first is that owners and operators, particularly those responsible for mission-essential businesses, have spent significant financial resources on many of ASHRAE’s recommended strategies and beyond. The second category is many other owners and operators have done little due to being overwhelmed, confused, resource-constrained, or merely taking a wait-and-see approach.

Empirical data that allows people to understand the current level of risk and remediation usefulness is absent from most decision-making processes. ASHRAE, AIHA, IICRC and other leading authorities base their recommendations on evidence-based methodologies and peer-reviewed research.

Extrapolating academic studies results to any specific indoor environment has significant challenges and limitations, especially for a novel virus like SARS-CoV-2. ASHRAE and AIHA acknowledge as much, urging the involvement of knowledgeable mechanical engineers and industrial hygienists familiar with a building and, in some cases leveraging computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling.

However, mechanical engineers and industrial hygienists have candidly and consistently shared with us their concerns around infectious aerosols. Simply put, existing diagnostic solutions for indoor air quality, including tracer gases, smoke or bubble testing, and monitors or sensors may be insufficient for assessing the risk posed by an airborne pathogen like SARS-CoV-2.

The good news is that emerging technologies at the cutting edge of building, health, and data science are posed to fill this gap. One notable solution is veriDART, developed by the Bay Area-based technology company SafeTraces with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) support. This groundbreaking technology safely mimics the airborne pathogen’s mobility with proprietary tracers based on the chemical composition, fluid dynamics, and detection methods of human saliva and aerosols that comply with OSHA, NIOSH, and ACGIH exposure limits. The key is to enable owners and operators to identify hotspots, assess filtration and ventilation, and inform remediations with empirical data, heatmap visualizations, and time-series analyses.

The challenge is how it efficiently support safer office reopening and emergency response at sites, yielding valuable data for what could be very costly engineering and HVAC control decisions. For example, a Fortune 500 company used veriDART for both a survey risk assessment of their 500,000 square foot office building and targeted risk assessments of their restrooms, conference rooms, and other perceived high-risk locations. A major focus area of testing was dilution ventilation, which ASHRAE and AIHA cite as an important engineering control for reducing an occupant’s exposure to airborne viruses.

It was established by veriDART data-driven time and condition parameters for tracer dilution to the diagnostic indicator level of low risk. Interestingly, the number of effective air changes per hour had a uniform effect on tracer dilution within a room, but non-uniform across rooms of similar size, HVAC configuration, and test conditions. The customer’s implication was clear: they needed to be careful about not over-generalizing their engineering and HVAC controls across the entire building.

veriDART solution measures time and HVAC setting parameters for dilution ventilation of aerosol particles. Image via Restoration & Remediation Magazine Online.

Additionally, test results indicated mechanical issues, including exhaust systems not functioning properly and unexpected airflow between high-trafficked areas. In many cases, test results confirmed engineering and HVAC controls performed as expected. Ultimately, the user leveraged data to baseline their risk and inform tactical decisions regarding space utilization SOP’s, filtration enhancements, and procurement of airborne interventions prior.

Engineering and HVAC controls represent one of the most important opportunity areas for mitigating viral spread. However, there is no silver bullet strategy given each building’s uniqueness and constantly evolving conditions within the building. As management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Assessing your risk through regular environmental monitoring and data-driven technology solutions will be hugely consequential for occupant health and safety, organizational productivity and liability, and development of infection control strategies that are both effective and financially sustainable.

This article originally appeared on Restoration & Remediation Magazine Online. Read it here.

References:

  1. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.28.20029272v2
  2. https://www.pnas.org/content/117/26/14857
  3. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2763852
  4. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.03.20167395v1
  5. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/07/11/1005087/coronavirus-airborne-fighting-wrong-way/
  6. https://aiha-assets.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/AIHA/resources/Guidance-Documents/Reducing-the-Risk-of-COVID-19-using-Engineering-Controls-Guidance-Document.pdf
  7. https://www.ashrae.org/file%20library/about/position%20documents/pd_infectiousaerosols_2020.pdf
  8. Ibid.
  9. https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.iicrc.org/resource/resmgr/images/resources/COVID-19_Professional_Cleani.pdf

Welcome to a New Era of Food Safety

Written by Thomas Skernivitz | October 1, 2020

This article originally appeared on Growing Produce. Read it here. 

The miniDART technology from SafeTraces applies edible, invisible, DNA-based tags directly to fruit and other produce. Photo courtesy of SafeTraces

Food traceability companies will remember the summer of 2020 for more than the coronavirus and lockdowns.

On July 13, the FDA announced its new approach to food safety, the goal of which is to bend the curve of foodborne illness in the U.S. by reducing the number of illnesses. The organization had planned to announce the initiative in March but was forced to turn its attention to addressing the public health emergency posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New Era of Smarter Food Safety leverages technology and other tools to create a safer and more digital, traceable food system. The blueprint seeks out simpler, more effective, and modern approaches and processes.

Tasked with educating growers on the FDA program and its significance are food traceability companies such as iFoodDecisionSciences (iFoodDS), rfxcel, and SafeTraces.

“Produce growers, packers, and shippers need to meet and exceed the performance of conventional packaging and requirements of the initiative,” Ulrike Hodges, the COO of SafeTraces, says. “As consumers and regulators demand higher food safety standards and visibility into supply chain practices, on-product traceability can provide them and their customers much needed assurance of the safety and authenticity of food products.”

The FDA is focusing on four core elements that it believes could significantly reduce foodborne illness in the country: tech-enabled traceability; smarter tools and approaches for prevention and outbreak response; new business models and retail modernization; and food safety culture.

“Industry- and regulator-led efforts and standardization will set the rules of the road for the key data elements (KDEs) and critical tracking events (CTEs) that must be captured,” John McPherson, Director of Global Solutions with rfxcel, says. “For the growers/harvesters, we think that data-capture innovations will allow field-level/harvest data to be leveraged for traceability, data analytics, and many other business uses. Growers who adopt digital strategies today will be not just ahead — they will be the ones that survive. “There will be a new era of food safety.”

THE NEED FOR SPEED

Every shipper’s traceability data should be in the cloud, according to iFoodDS Vice President Minos Athanassiadis.

“The PTI (Produce Traceability Initiative) standard of ‘one up one back’ traceability is too slow to respond to future outbreaks because the fresh fruit supply chain is complex, and the traceability data is locked up in data silos within each organization across the supply chain,” Athanassiadis says.

Hodges concurs: “The lack of complete, rapid, and accurate traceability systems significantly impedes the speediness and effectiveness of traceback investigations during outbreaks and recalls. They also fail to effectively support global sustainability initiatives and prevent food fraud, undermining the public’s faith in global and even domestic food supply chains and creating financial harm to growers and manufacturers.”

Growers should realize that digital supply chains and the benefits they offer are within their reach, McPherson says. New innovations in product labeling, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, radio frequency identification (RFID), and Bluetooth are being built to scale at the levels that growers work in. “Such innovations mean that the cost and implementation are easier to see as an investment, not as an expense,” McPherson says.

iFoodDS is working with packer/shippers to not just be PTI case-labeling compliant but also be PTI compliant in tracking their pallet shipments with Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) pallet tags and submitting advance ship notices (ASNs) to their customers for instantaneous trace forward.

“We are also encouraging the grocery retailers to make the most of our industry’s investments in PTI traceability by tracking cases at the DC (distribution center) and on to the store level,” Athanassiadis says.

END GOAL

Growers continue to make strides in digitizing their supply chains, McPherson says, but they need to continue evolving their operations to meet new demands of the marketplace. This includes complying with the PTI as well as potential new requirements from the FDA under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

“The FDA has been candid about wanting supply chains to be more digital and transparent, and growers will need to consider breaking down supply chain data from current silos and having a unified approach to that data,” McPherson says.

Adds Hodges: “Without incorporating end-to-end traceability back to the source in the produce industry, produce growers, packers, and shippers fail to meet consumers’ needs for food transparency, legal requirements, and potentially increase their risk in the event of an outbreak or recall.”


TECH ROUNDUP

iFoodDS (Kenmore, WA) — The company on May 6 acquired Trimble’s food traceability and quality inspection business, HarvestMark. “We now provide growers and shippers with comprehensive real-time food safety records along with the state-of-the-art traceability,” Athanassiadis says. “This means that, for the first time, we’re linking real-time food safety information, not annual or quarterly audits, with every case of fruit going out the door, to be able to instantaneously access and respond to food safety and trace requests.”

rfxcel (Reno, NV) — The company boasts products that growers can use to digitize — from mobile and web to sensor/IoT tech — all run from the cloud, McPherson says. “We have deep experience creating a single-source of truth for every item in a supply chain, then sharing that data with trading partners to be compliant with current and future needs, such as blockchain integration,” he says. “Our experience working with federal regulatory bodies is another big advantage we bring to our customers.”

SafeTraces (Pleasanton, CA) — The company’s miniDART technology speaks to the problem of packaging that bears conventional barcodes and other digital identifiers being removed or damaged during normal supply chain transactions. The product uses unique edible, invisible DNA-based tags (FDA-GRAS) that are applied directly to the fruit during normal processing and can be read by a downstream purchaser with a rapid, inexpensive, onsite test to verify product source and authenticity in 25 minutes.

 

This article originally appeared on Growing Produce. Read it here.

The SafeTraces Podcast – Episode #2

Date: September 28, 2020

Episode #2
Glenn Fishler, MS

For the second episode, CEO Erik Malmstrom connects with Glenn Fishler, who was a Board Certified Industrial Hygienist for 32 years (1985-2017) and now sits on the Boards of Directors for McMillen Jacobs Associates and Citadel EHS, and is an executive advisor for SafeTraces. They discuss the ongoing pandemic and Glenn offers his perspective on airborne virus transmission as it relates to the environmental, health, and safe space.

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