Icicle targets faster food safety compliance

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Icicle Technologies
Picture: Icicle Technologies

Related tags: Food safety

Icicle Technologies has launched a smart suggestion feature for its software to help firms comply with food safety regulations.

The food safety management system (FSMS), called Icicle, offers users algorithms that suggest processes and hazards when creating and managing food safety programs.

Such suggestions should always be verified by a food safety professional, said the firm.

The system does not suggest the likelihood or severity of a hazard but as the data set continues to grow, this will become possible, Icicle creator Steven Burton told FoodQualityNews.

“Icicle has direct applications that can help to prevent food fraud, and this is related to inventory control, process modelling and the traceability function,” ​he said.

“By capturing the flow of ingredients, materials and packaging through the system and the product output, calculations can easily be done to determine if enough inventory has been received to account for the product output by capturing multiple steps within the supply chain.

“It will even become possible to verify or to reconcile receipts against shipments and, in some jurisdictions, especially China, this is a capability of critical importance.”

Accelerate compliance

With the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and other regulations, achieving compliance is increasingly difficult for producers who must identify and control many processes and hazards under HACCP and HARPC requirements.

Icicle generates suggestions for ingredients, materials, packaging, and process steps, helping educate food safety professionals and saving industry time in achieving compliance.

The firm said previously companies had to sort through hundreds of hazards to try and identify the correct ones.

As the system grows, the suggestions will become more comprehensive and complete, said Icicle.

“The next step is to immediately choose whether the hazard is accepted and then to use Icicle’s hazard analysis workflow to allow the system to guide the user to determine how the hazard should be controlled,” ​said Burton.

icicle
Picture: Icicle Technologies

When asked how it establishes ‘normality’, Burton said it has an ingredient database which it uses to data mine its database with propriety algorithms that it has developed to provide guidance.

“We look at best practices from existing organizations, after vetting them, and offer users suggestions based on a number of parameters including facility type and the nature of the ingredients, materials, packaging and process steps involved.”

Burton said attributes like pack size are not inherently related to process steps and there is commonality among processes regardless of individual parameters.

“In other words, if you have a production line producing one liter or four liter jugs of milk, the process steps are actually the same. The purpose of process suggestion is not to capture every outlier but provide suggestions as to the core processes based on facility type.

“If you’re a poultry processing solution, a baking step doesn’t really make sense nor does mixing. If you’re a bakery, a kill step doesn’t make sense either, but if you take a large body of similar facilities, there is commonality between facilities within that facility type.”

This forms the basis for suggesting processes that might be commonly used in each plant, he said.

“If there is something unusual about the facility that is unique to it, we can easily add this in. By adding smart suggestions, we are not limiting users to only those processes which are suggested but quickly providing a large collection of processes from which they can choose from.”

Market potential

Burton said it has ‘barely scratched the surface’ in terms of penetrating the market as the vast majority of small and medium-sized companies do not have any food safety software in place.

“A comprehensive food safety solution has four pillars: 1) food safety, 2) quality management, 3) track and trace (traceability) and 4) inventory management,” ​he said.

“Different establishments generally emphasize one pillar at a time. Ultimately, an effective solution has to incorporate all four because they are intimately related with respect to the flow of products through the production process.

“If you focus on only food safety, for example, you end up doing a lot of duplicated work manually in order to manage other pillars such as traceability. A truly optimized workflow with minimum redundancy needs to touch all four of these areas.”

The nature and character of the workforce is changing especially as the demographic switches towards millennials and gen z, he said.

“Organizations staffed by older workforces often cling to paper systems in much the same way that accountants in the 1970s clung to paper ledgers prior to QuickBooks, but as soon as people that are more comfortable with technology step into those positions, the prospect of perpetuating a paper system will become untenable and undesirable.”

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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