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.

Corvium and SafeTraces Launch Partnership

Corvium and SafeTraces Partner to Automate Management of Sanitation Verification Diagnostic Testing for Food Supplier Organizations

Date: June 29, 2020

RESTON, VA. (PRWEB) 

Corvium Inc., the leader in automation of food risk intelligence, announced today that it is partnering with SafeTraces, Inc. leaders in next-generation DNA-based technology solutions. The partnership will enable food suppliers and processors to schedule, manage and deliver diagnostic testing and results from SafeTraces groundbreaking rapid sanitation verification solution, saniDART™, through CONTROL-PRO™– Corvium’s automated environmental monitoring platform.

Available today, SafeTraces customers can seamlessly integrate their current EMP process into Corvium’s award-winning solution that is used by more than 100 food supplier operations in North America. The integration will allow customers to schedule, manage and analyze results collected with the saniDART solution — the first rapid solution for verifying sanitation effectiveness at a microbial level to receive certification from the AOAC Research Institute (AOAC-RI). Corvium’s CONTROL-PRO manages the entire process, from scheduling and mapping test locations, to automatically collecting results and presenting sanitation verification results within a single web-based platform that can be accessed through any browser-enabled device.

“The key to enabling a new era of smarter food safety is technology” says Erik Malmstrom, SafeTraces CEO. “SafeTraces has responded to the food industry’s need for better, faster, and more cost-effective solutions for sanitation verification and traceability by harnessing the power of DNA technology. Similarly, Corvium has delivered best-in-class software and data technology for environmental monitoring. Our two platforms together provide tremendous value to customers and make the new era of smarter food safety a reality.”

“The food safety, quality and sanitation functions within the food and beverage industry are experiencing a digital transformation”, states David Hatch, Corvium’s Chief Growth & Partnership Officer. “Organizations are seeking to integrate and consolidate the technologies and devices that help streamline their environmental testing processes. The partnership with SafeTraces meets this need with the integration of SafeTraces saniDART™, the most innovative sanitation verification solution available today, to Corvium’s food risk intelligence platform, and the CONTROL-PRO EMP workflow and analytics application. This provides customers with one system on which all of their EMP, Product Testing and Sanitation workflows can be managed, visualized and analyzed.”

About Corvium Inc.
Corvium’s mission is to use data to make the world a safer place to eat. Our food risk intelligence platform continuously aggregates and analyzes risk and quality data generated during food production and distribution. Corvium’s fully integrated solution is used by food safety professionals and executives to streamline and optimize product testing, environmental sampling, and sanitation workflows. Our workflow and analytics technology helps food producers and processors prevent pathogenic contamination, comply with federal regulations and internal safety and quality programs, while reducing food safety risks and food waste. To learn more about corvium, visit their website: https://corvium.com.

About SafeTraces, Inc.
Founded in 2013, SafeTraces is a mission-driven team of entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and food safety practitioners dedicated to using nature’s DNA to make food production safer, more transparent, and more sustainable. Our rapid, easy-to-use, and cost-effective testing solutions for sanitation verification and traceability build on groundbreaking and patented DNA-based technology. We developed the first and only on-food traceability solution, the miniDART, which leverages natural, edible, invisible, DNA-based barcodes (FDA-GRAS) that are applied directly to the product and that downstream purchasers can read with a rapid, inexpensive test in order to verify product source, authenticity, and purity in minutes. Additionally, we developed the first rapid solution for verifying sanitation effectiveness at a microbial level, the saniDART, that uses FDA-GRAS, AOAC-certified abiotic bacterial surrogates in order to enable in-process corrective actions, evaluate sanitation crew accuracy and proficiency, and support environmental monitoring, continuous improvement, root cause analysis, in-house validation, and FSMA and SQF audits. To learn more, visit their website at https://www.safetraces.com

 

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SafeTraces saniDART™ Receives AOAC Approval

saniDART Receives AOAC Approval

Date: April 2, 2020

PLEASANTON, Calif.April 2, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — SafeTraces, Inc. announced today that it has received approval from the AOAC Research Institute (AOAC-RI) for its groundbreaking rapid sanitation verification solution, saniDART™.

SafeTraces’ saniDART™ is the first rapid solution for verifying sanitation effectiveness at a microbial level to receive AOAC certification. saniDART addresses major shortcomings of two commonly used methods for verifying sanitation effectiveness in food production, the Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) test and the Aerobic Plate Count (APC) test. The ATP test measures the effectiveness of the sanitation processes in removing organic matter but is not a reliable indicator of bacterial inactivation. Meanwhile, the APC test is a reliable indicator for bacterial inactivation, however the 48-hour wait period for results precludes making in-process corrective actions. saniDART is a powerful tool for monitoring bacterial inactivation with APC-like test quality and results available at a speed closer to that of ATP tests.

“Now more than ever, consumers and regulators are demanding high standards and visibility into food safety practices throughout the supply chain,” said Erik Malmstrom, SafeTraces Chief Executive Officer. “There is a significant unmet need in the food industry for a better, faster, and cheaper solution for sanitation verification at a microbial level. SafeTraces responded and innovated, which is what we do best. Receiving AOAC validation, the gold standard for proprietary testing methods in food safety, is a major milestone for saniDART™. We look forward to delivering this groundbreaking solution to the food industry in a big way.”

Results in the AOAC validation report (Performance Tested Method #032001) provided evidence that saniDART is effective at detecting the presence of saniTracers™, proprietary abiotic bacterial surrogates and a key component of saniDART, on stainless steel surfaces representative in food processing and manufacturing facilities. saniTracers are manufactured by encapsulating short, non-coding DNA sequences within food-grade material particles and are applied on food contact surfaces in processing facilities, including Zone 1. saniTracers are degraded and removed in a similar manner as microbes during cleaning and chlorine-based sanitizing. saniTracers levels can be quantified by a simple swabbing and on-site qPCR test that provides results in 25 minutes. By measuring saniTracers levels before and after sanitation, saniDART provides powerful, actionable information in a pass/caution/fail format for verifying sanitation effectiveness.

The saniDART rapid sanitation verification solution includes saniTracers consumables, test kits, an off-the shelf qPCR reader, and a tablet with a cutting-edge augmented reality (AR) feature to identify sampling points in food processing facilities. saniDART is supported by market-leading environmental monitoring software to manage floor plans, scheduling, corrective actions, reporting, and analytics.

AOAC International (formerly the Association of Analytical Chemists) is an independent, third-party, not-for-profit organization that develops standards on measuring and determining the safety and integrity of food and other products worldwide. An AOAC-Research Institute (AOAC-RI) validation means that the manufacturer’s claims have been verified by a trusted third-party laboratory.

Founded in 2013, SafeTraces is a mission-driven team of entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and food safety practitioners dedicated to using nature’s DNA to make food production safer, more transparent, and more sustainable. Our rapid, easy-to-use, and cost-effective testing solutions for sanitation verification and traceability build on groundbreaking and patented DNA-based technology. We developed the first and only on-food traceability solution, the miniDART, which leverages natural, edible, invisible, DNA-based barcodes (FDA-GRAS) that are applied directly to the product and that downstream purchasers can read with a rapid, inexpensive test in order to verify product source, authenticity, and purity in minutes. Additionally, we developed the first rapid solution for verifying sanitation effectiveness at a microbial level, the saniDART, that uses FDA-GRAS, AOAC-certified abiotic bacterial surrogates in order to enable in-process corrective actions, evaluate sanitation crew accuracy and proficiency, and support environmental monitoring, continuous improvement, root cause analysis, in-house validation, and FSMA and SQF audits. To learn more, contact us at https://www.safetraces.com/product-inquiry.

SOURCE SafeTraces, Inc.

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

SafeTraces Awarded Thrive Top 50

SafeTraces Awarded THRIVE Top 50

Date: March 26, 2020

PLEASANTON, Calif. (March 26, 2020) – SafeTraces is honored to announce that it has been ranked in the “THRIVE Top 50” by SVG Ventures — an annual ranking of leading global AgTech and FoodTech companies exemplifying the best in agriculture and food-focused innovation — for the third consecutive year in recognition of its leadership in food safety and traceability solutions. 

Amid sky-high concerns about COVID-19 as well as on-going risks to food safety and authenticity, consumers are demanding greater visibility into food chains and corresponding safety measures from food companies. According to an extensive global Nielsen study, “the product benefit consumers were most willing to pay premium for were those with high quality assurances and verifiable safety standards,” with 49% of consumers globally saying that “they were highly willing to trade up in price for this benefit.”

Recognizing an unmet need in the food industry, SafeTraces developed the first and only on-food traceability solution called safeTracersTM – edible, invisible, FDA-GRAS, DNA-based barcodes that are applied directly to food and that a downstream purchaser can read with a rapid, inexpensive, on-site test. safeTracersTM are especially valuable in food chains with elevated risk of pathogenic contamination, counterfeiting, and environmentally destructive sourcing practices, where rapidly verifying product provenance and authenticity is vital and where traditional packaging and paper documentation-based methods of tracking and tracing have proven to be ineffective, slow, and vulnerable to tampering and error.

Additionally, SafeTraces has developed a groundbreaking, AOAC-certified rapid sanitation verification solution, saniDART™, to quantify the microbial load reduction of cleaning and sanitation on Zone 1 surface in food processing facilities through the use of FDA-GRAS, non-living bacterial surrogates. While traditional solutions often require sending samples to a third-party lab and waiting days for results long after product has left a food processing facility, saniDARTTM provides results on-site within 20-25 minutes, enabling food processors to make in-process corrective actions and ultimately mitigate the risk of contaminated product reaching consumers.

“It is an honor to be recognized with the THRIVE Top 50 Food Tech award for the third year in a row,” says SafeTraces CEO, Erik Malmstrom. “Now more than ever, consumers are demanding food safety and traceability from their food companies, rewarding leaders and punishing laggards. As the global food system evolves, we are here to empower industry actors with market-leading technology and data to ensure that they are delivering the safest, most authentic, and most sustainably sourced food to their consumers.”

Over the past year, SafeTraces has significantly expanded its market reach into food chains exposed to significant risks related to food safety, fraud, and sustainability — including produce, bulk commodities, and protein. SafeTraces has partnered with leading food companies and technology solution providers in order to advance the mission of food traceability and safety.

About SafeTraces

Founded in 2013, SafeTraces provides the only patented on-product food safety solutions that protect the food industry and consumers from food recalls, adulteration, and fraud. The company is committed to providing complete, low-cost solutions that deliver results in minutes. Its traceability solutions enable customers to gain full transparency, protect their brand, and reduce processing and recall costs. SafeTraces sanitation verification solutions provide insight into the effectiveness of the sanitation process – on-site and in minutes. The company is led by an expert team of entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers dedicated to using nature’s own DNA to make food production safer, more transparent, and sustainable. Learn more about SafeTraces at www.safetraces.com

 

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The Companies Trying To Track Everything We Eat

Featured in Fast Company

Date: September 8, 2019

For a startup founder, Charlie Sweat carries a particularly heavy burden. In 2006, he was CEO of Earthbound Farm, the California-based farm and factory that produces the majority of the country’s packaged organic salads, when an E. coli outbreak struck the company’s spinach. Three people died, and 200 more were sickened. The source, investigators later surmised, was likely at the source of the spinach: an Angus cattle ranch that had leased land to a spinach grower.

The experience left Sweat unnerved, but it gave him an idea, too. Preventing outbreaks was a matter of knowing where the tainted food came from. But for legacy food companies, supply chain transparency is a daunting task, complicated by a vast number of suppliers, plants, distributors, and products. Different producers use different tagging systems and different sensors to track different things. Piecing together the details of what comes from where and goes where from seed to table had never really been done successfully before. If it could be, the implications for both public health, corporate transparency, and anti-counterfeiting efforts would be huge: Between food and pharmaceuticals, the market for tracking technologies is expected to grow to an expected revenue of $14.1 billion by 2020, according to a report by Allied Market Research in 2014.

That year, Sweat stepped down from Earthbound, capping a 16-year stint at the company, but he took his idea with him. A few months later, with money from the owners of Earthbound, friends and family and investors, he founded Frequentz, a Palo Alto-based startup that touts a comprehensive “track-and-trace” system for food safety—like FedEx tracking, but for each piece of the food supply chain, from seed to table.

Sweat says that by uploading and integrating any kind of data collected from any kind of tag or sensor, the system can discover the source of a food-borne pathogen, be it a contaminated farm or a broken refrigeration unit. The data could not only help companies identify inefficiencies on their supply chain, but also meet a rising crop of food safety regulations, and help satisfy our growing hunger for more transparency about the foods we eat. Named for the frequency of updates required for a transparent food supply chain, Frequentz aims to slash the number of food-borne illness outbreaks—and make a killing among efficiency- and transparency-conscious food companies.

“Since it is possible now to know everything about your product, the stakes are much higher if you haven’t done everything you can to validate what you sell,” says Sweat.

The food safety problem alone is immense and costly. Last year, Food Safety magazine counted 622 food safety recalls globally due to contamination, with each recall estimated to mean losses on average of $10 million. Food-borne pathogens affect as many as 48 million Americans a year, and according to research by Robert Scharff, an associate professor at Ohio State University, the annual cost of medical treatment, lost productivity, and illness-related mortality is $55.5 billion.

There’s also the threat of illegal practices like unregulated fishing or adulteration, in which suppliers might add something to food to lower their costs. Said to be most prevalent in liquids such as olive oil and in powders such as spices, this form of fraud is estimated to cost the industry $10 billion to $15 billion a year. In one example last year, ground cumin had been covertly mixed with peanut protein, prompting about 20 recalls and leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue a consumer warning.

The Frequentz software, custom-designed for each client, depends in part on a growing transportation “internet of things,” including sensors on food crates, in trucks, and on packages. It’s built to accept mobile data from sensors measuring the condition of produce, such as freshness and temperature, as well as scanners picking up packing label data and geographic coordinates. Unlike its handful of competitors, including HarvestMark and FoodLogiQ, Sweat says Frequentz has been designed to combine any data collected from any sensor.

Data from even the smallest farms and fishing vessels can be uploaded on the fly. Eventually, says Sweat, consumers at supermarkets will be able to access that data on their smartphones, including whether a product is fair trade, was harvested or made by workers earning living wages, or contains GMOs or gluten.

 

This post originally appeared in Fast Company. Read it here.

UL and SafeTraces Transform Palm Oil Sustainability Practices

UL and SafeTraces Transform Palm Oil Sustainability

Date: August 1, 2019

PLEASANTON, Calif.Aug. 1, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — UL, a leading global safety science company, today officially announced a strategic partnership with leading traceability solutions provider, SafeTraces. This collaboration launches a ground-breaking traceability solution, combining SafeTraces state-of-the-art, DNA-based traceability solutions and UL’s scientific leadership and trusted supply chain verification capabilities. The solution offers businesses a transformative and efficient approach for palm oil traceability and purity assurance and helps to alleviate significant and increasing pressure to deliver on commitments to enhance sustainability practices.

While the 2017 Ceres’ Reporting Guidance for Responsible Palm notes serious issues around palm oil production such as tropical deforestation, increases in greenhouse gas emissions, and worker’s rights infringements, discontinuing the supply and use of palm oil altogether is not the answer. Palm oil production is an essential contributor to the economies of many countries, and the production of alternative, less efficient oils would result in more deforestation. Global efforts to prevent environmental and labor abuses commonly associated with palm oil production have failed to keep pace with consumer demands for sustainable sourcing. The appropriate and most effective response to the problem is a consolidated effort from all stakeholders to produce and source sustainable palm oil across the entire supply chain.

UL and SafeTraces are solving critical challenges and removing barriers to access markets by offering brands a uniquely robust and innovative solution to the problem. SafeTraces patented DNA-based traceability technology provides actors across the palm oil supply chain with the source information they need to make sustainable choices. UL’s objective, science-based assessments confirm the accuracy of that information. With the ability to accurately identify the source of palm oil, leading food companies, processors, and producers can significantly strengthen sustainable sourcing systems and simultaneously drive trust within the industry and with consumers.

“SafeTraces has developed a game-changing first-mile traceability solution that links the physical food product to its digital ID,” said Simin Zhou, Vice President and General Manager for UL Ventures. “Through our integration with the SafeTraces solution, we can jointly accelerate and validate the supply chain’s efforts toward fully traceable, more sustainable sourcing practices. As a 3rd party audits and inspections provider with a worldwide presence, we will work together with SafeTraces to tackle the palm oil sourcing problem on the ground, delivering unprecedented control of and insight into a critically important food supply chain at the global level.”

“Palm oil is ubiquitous in the world’s most popular consumer food and household products, yet its supply chain has a well-documented track record of troubling environmental and labor practices that sadly continues today,” said Anthony Zografos, Founder and CEO of SafeTraces. “The human, environmental, and financial toll of this problem is enormous. The first-mile, from plantation to mill, is where the risk of deforestation and labor exploitation is greatest and where traceability is weakest. SafeTraces is thrilled to partner with a global leader like UL to securely trace palm oil back to individual plantations in a way that is operationally and financially attractive for our customers.”

About UL
UL helps create a better world by applying science to solve safety, security and sustainability challenges. We empower trust by enabling the safe adoption of innovative new products and technologies. Everyone at UL shares a passion to make the world a safer place. All of our work, from independent research and standards development, to testing and certification, to providing analytical and digital solutions, helps improve global well-being. Businesses, industries, governments, regulatory authorities and the public put their trust in us so they can make smarter decisions. To learn more, visit UL.com.

About SafeTraces
SafeTraces provides the only patented on-food safety solutions that protect the food industry and consumers from food recalls, adulteration, and fraud. We are committed to providing complete, low-cost solutions that deliver results in minutes. Our traceability solutions enable customers to gain full transparency into the origin, protect their brand, and reduce processing and recall costs. Our sanitation verification solutions provide insight into the effectiveness of the sanitation process – on-site and in minutes.

SafeTraces was founded in 2013 and has grown into an expert team of entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers dedicated to using nature’s DNA to make food production safer, more transparent and sustainable. Learn more about SafeTraces at www.safetraces.com.

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SOURCE SafeTraces, Inc.

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

SafeTraces Granted U.S. Patent

safeTracersGranted U.S. Patent

Date: May 8, 2019

PLEASANTON, Calif.May 8, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — SafeTraces, Inc. announced today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the company a U.S. Patent titled DNA Based Bar Code for Improved Food Traceability. The patent discloses a novel method for encoding and decoding digital information to and from DNA strands. The SafeTraces technology uses DNA strands drawn from seaweed and allows the food and agricultural industries to create and apply unique, edible, flavorless DNA barcodes directly to the food, not the packaging. These barcodes carry complete source data, stay on the food throughout the supply chain, and can be read in minutes to confirm provenance and purity of any food item.

The result is a highly scalable, cost-effective way of uniquely identifying the food – not just the box or pallet – that is far superior to conventional DNA tagging. To illustrate the advantages, consider that the same infrastructure that is needed to create just thirty-two DNA barcodes using conventional methods allows SafeTraces to create and deliver over four billion DNA barcodes, representing a cost advantage of many orders of magnitude. The SafeTraces DNA barcodes, marketed as safeTracers™, can be read anywhere, anytime by minimally trained personnel in minutes, while conventional DNA barcodes require specialized laboratories, clean rooms, and highly trained personnel – a process that normally takes days and thus offers no practical operational value.

The implications of this new model for the food and agricultural industries are profound: Inseparable from the food or product – unlike 2D barcodes – safeTracers represent the connecting link between the food and blockchain or other supply chain systems. Developed for low margin industries, such as fresh produce, tropical oils, and bulk foods and grains, safeTracers offer processors and consumers complete source assurance within minutes. This is particularly critical in times of food recalls, or when questions about authenticity, sustainability, or economically motivated adulteration need to be answered rapidly and accurately. safeTracers offer results in minutes – anytime, anywhere – enabling the industry to improve traceable sourcing with the ability to premium price, defend margins, and enhance brand loyalty. Consumers gain increasing certainty and trust in the quality and brand of the food they buy.

Obtaining this patent further demonstrates SafeTraces’ commitment to the development of next generation traceability and digital food safety technologies that enable our customers to vastly improve tracking when it comes to food. “This patent is a critical component of our IP portfolio that includes many innovations to create a more digital, transparent, and safer food system while also addressing consumer demands for quick access to information about where foods come from, how they’re produced and, whether the food is the subject of an ongoing recall,” said Dr. Anthony Zografos, CEO, SafeTraces, echoing a statement by the FDA Acting Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.

safeTracers™ are affirmed G.R.A.S. (Generally Regarded as Safe) by the FDA. They are part of the complete solutions offered by SafeTraces that include the IoT miniDART™ and D-ART3000 DNA barcoding systems and DNA barcode readers. The solutions use low-cost equipment that easily and seamlessly retrofits into existing production facilities and usher in a new era of food source and safety assurance.

About SafeTraces

SafeTraces provides the only patented on-food safety solutions that protect the food industry and consumers from food recalls, adulteration, and fraud. We are committed to providing complete, low-cost solutions that deliver results in minutes. Our traceability solutions enable customers to gain full transparency into origin, protect their brand, and reduce processing and recall costs. Our sanitation verification solutions provide insight into the effectiveness of the sanitation process – on-site and in minutes.

SafeTraces was founded in 2013 and has grown into an expert team of entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers dedicated to using nature’s own DNA to make food production safer, more transparent and sustainable.

Learn more about SafeTraces at www.safetraces.com

SOURCE SafeTraces, Inc.

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

SafeTraces Launches DNA-Based Solution for Grains

SafeTraces and JBT Launch Partnership

Date: July 2, 2019

PLEASANTON, Calif.May 21, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — SafeTraces, Inc. announced the launch of a first-mile traceability solution for conventional and organic grains, which will be available on a limited basis immediately and commercially available in late 2019. The DNA-based solution leverages the company’s patented, FDA affirmed GRAS materials, currently being implemented across the fresh produce industry.

On-product, item-level traceability has the potential to transform supply chains for dry bulk commodities. With the ability to granularly and accurately identify the source of grain, leading food companies, processors, and producers will be able to dramatically improve food safety, quality assurance, fraud detection, and sustainable sourcing systems.

“The grain industry relies on a 20th century supply chain model that has failed to evolve with 21st century demands for traceability and sustainability,” said Anthony Zografos, Founder and CEO of SafeTraces. “While consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and how it was produced, much of this data is lost the moment grain is transported off the farm. From verifying whether organic grain is truly from an organic source, or whether conventional grain has not been treated with glyphosate, to rapidly responding to food recalls, our ground-breaking first-mile traceability solution addresses these glaring market needs in a powerful, practical, and cost-effective way.”

The launch of SafeTraces’ first-mile traceability solution comes at a time when the global food industry attempts to respond to consumer calls for greater transparency by setting ambitious sustainability goals and modernizing supply chain practices through technology and process innovation. According to the 2016 Label Insight Food Revolution Study, 94% percent of consumers say it is important to them that the brands and manufacturers they buy from are transparent about what is in their food and how it is made.

Across its portfolio of solutions, SafeTraces applies edible, flavorless, odorless DNA-based barcodes directly to food, not the packaging, to deliver unprecedented traceability. safeTracers can be read anytime, anywhere in minutes. Expansion into the grain industry is one of several major launches into new customer segments planned in 2019, along with leafy greens and palm oil, among others.

About SafeTraces
SafeTraces provides the only patented on-food safety solutions that protect the food industry and consumers from food recalls, adulteration, and fraud. We are committed to providing complete, low-cost solutions that deliver results in minutes. Our traceability solutions enable customers to gain full transparency into origin, protect their brand, and reduce processing and recall costs. Our sanitation verification solutions provide insight into the effectiveness of the sanitation process – on-site and in minutes.

SafeTraces was founded in 2013 and has grown into an expert team of entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers dedicated to using nature’s own DNA to make food production safer, more transparent and sustainable.

Learn more about SafeTraces at www.safetraces.com.

SOURCE SafeTraces, Inc.

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

JBT and SafeTraces’ alliance to revolutionize food safety

SafeTraces Launches Traceability for Grains

Date: May 21, 2019

PLEASANTON, Calif.July 2, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — JBT Corporation, the top-tier technology solutions provider to the global food and beverage industry, and SafeTraces, a leading food safety and traceability solutions provider, have announced a global alliance to integrate SafeTraces’ breakthrough, patented DNA-based technologies into JBT’s solutions portfolio for worldwide distribution.

The strategic alliance will focus on incorporating SafeTraces’ groundbreaking food safety and traceability technology into JBT FoodTech businesses, including fresh produce technologies, fresh-cut technologies, and coating equipment solutions, enabling rapid verification of sanitation processes and item-level tracking and tracing of food materials. Instead of waiting for days or weeks to verify food safety, sustainability or purity, the integrated solutions will provide the food industry with actionable results in minutes, fundamentally changing the way safe, sustainable food is produced and delivered.

According to The United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), food-related recalls have risen at 10% in the United States from 2013 to 2018. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) also estimates that each recall results in over $10 billion in direct costs not including indirect costs related to long-term damage to the brand reputations of food industry actors. Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has repeatedly called on the food industry to embrace new technologies and innovations focused on improving its ability to secure the food supply chain and engage in more effective tracking and tracing of food from farm to fork.

JBT is committed to continued innovation by applying differentiated and proprietary technologies to meet its customers’ food processing needs. It continually strives to improve its existing solutions and develop new solutions by working closely with its customers to meet their evolving needs.

“Food safety and traceability is a mega-trend that will transform the marketplace over the next generation,” said Carlos Fernandez, JBT’s Executive Vice President and President, Liquid Foods. “Consumers are increasingly rewarding food companies that provide greater transparency on how their food was produced and leaving behind those that don’t. SafeTraces has developed a game-changing technology that has wide-ranging applications across our business. We’re thrilled to partner with them and offer this breakthrough to our customers.”

“On-product, item-level traceability is the holy grail of source assurance, and rapid on-site verification of sanitation process is the holy grain of safety assurance,” said SafeTraces Founder & CEO Anthony Zografos. “We’re the first company to develop a technology that is commercially viable, scalable, and delivers clear benefits and a clear return on investment to customers. Partnering with a renowned market leader like JBT presents a tremendous opportunity to commercialize and distribute our technology at a global scale.”

About JBT

JBT Corporation is a leading global technology solutions provider to high-value segments of the food & beverage industry with focus on proteins, liquid foods and automated system solutions. JBT designs, produces and services sophisticated products and systems for multi-national and regional customers through its FoodTech segment. JBT also sells critical equipment and services to domestic and international air transportation customers through its AeroTech segment. JBT Corporation employs approximately 6,500 people worldwide and operates sales, service, manufacturing and sourcing operations in more than 25 countries.

About SafeTraces

SafeTraces provides the only patented on-food safety solutions that protect the food industry and consumers from food recalls, adulteration, and fraud. The company is committed to providing complete, low-cost solutions that deliver results in minutes. Its traceability solutions enable customers to gain full transparency into origin, protect their brand, and reduce processing and recall costs. SafeTraces sanitation verification solutions provide insight into the effectiveness of the sanitation process – on-site and in minutes. The company was founded in 2013 and has grown into an expert team of entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers dedicated to using nature’s own DNA to make food production safer, more transparent and sustainable. Learn more about SafeTraces at www.safetraces.com.

SOURCE SafeTraces

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

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