Introduction  

Increasingly complex chains struggle to guarantee safe food supplies, particularly for a growing and vulnerable population [1]. Alarmingly, foodborne outbreaks continue to threaten public health, with over 1,000 cases reported in the Netherlands alone in 2022 [5], underscoring the need for stronger solutions. While standards like GMP and HACCP are common, their effectiveness varies [4]. Additionally, declining consumer trust demands greater transparency [9].  

Can Big , IoT, Blockchain, and advanced analytics revolutionize food safety and boost consumers' trust in the food industry? This article explores this potential, drawing on the findings of a project with QAssurance that researched the impact of digital technologies on food safety.

Why Consumers Doubt the Food Industry 

Consumer trust in the food industry is eroding due to several factors: lack of transparency [9], concerns about [6], and quality/safety issues [6] (Figure 1). Growing misinformation further fuels this mistrust (US). 

trust
Figure 1: Drivers contributing to trust in the food industry from consumers, Source: [8]

Key Technologies for Food Safety and Trust 

Digital technologies are all electronic tools, devices, and systems that use digital to create, store, manage, and transmit data. According to the EIT, digital technologies will be in the food industry in 2024 [8].  Examples of digital technologies that are being increasingly adopted in the food industry include [3]:

  • Big Data – large, complex data sets (e.g., food safety database records, data from sensors, multimedia content) 
  • Internet of Things (IoT) – a network of connected physical devices that to share data (e.g. sensors, embedded devices)
  • Blockchain – a tamper-proof shared record-keeping system  
  • (Big) Data analytics – innovative analytics transforming raw information into actionable insights for better decision-making. (e.g., Machine , AI)

-> Digital technologies are fueling a more proactive approach to food safety thanks to [2]:  

  • Real-time data: Big Data and IoT devices capture information throughout the food chain
  • Secure data recording: By ensuring the integrity of collected data, they enable reliable analysis and informed decision-making
  • Advanced data analytics: Innovative techniques identify patterns and trends allowing for targeted interventions and risk mitigation strategies. 
The New Era of Smarter Food Safety
Read more about digitalization and food safety here.

Understanding Consumers Take on Digital Tools 

Digital tools promise to revolutionize food safety, but consumer trust in the industry remains low [8]. Since consumer preferences drive change, neglecting these concerns could stall progress. Can digital tools not only enhance safety but also rebuild trust? 

To explore consumers' behaviour, a survey conducted within a QAssurance project on investigating the impact of digital tools on food safety, aimed to assess their trust in the food industry and then introduced the concept of digital tools for food safety . Read on to discover the survey's findings. 

The Broken Trust

Building on the earlier discussion of declining consumer trust, the survey revealed that: 

  • A strong majority (59%) of consumers expressed distrust in the food industry, while a staggering 94% desired greater transparency (Figure 2)
  • In fact, transparency topped consumer concerns when buying food products, with 78% worried about false information and undeclared ingredients
Figure 2: Responses to the question “Do you think that the food industry should be more transparent?” Source: Author  

Consumers Perception and Trust of Digital Tools in Food Safety

Consumer awareness of digital tools was explored in the survey as well, together with their perception of them:  

  • While most consumers use to buy food and find nutritional information (53%), they remain largely unaware of the potential these tools hold for
  • However, a strong majority (91%) of consumers believe digital tools can improve food safety and prevent foodborne illness (Figure 3)
  • This potential for improved safety also translates to trust, with 81% indicating that it could improve their trust in the food industry
Figure 3: Responses to the question “Do you think digital could help improve food safety and help prevent foodborne ?” Source: Author 

The Trust Gap: Consumers Skepticism

While consumers see promise in digital tools, some concerns remain. The survey delved into these concerns, revealing that: 

  • Reliability of digital tools topped consumer concerns (78%), followed by job displacement due to automation (53%). 
  • Data privacy emerged as another concern, with 66% of consumers fearing companies might misuse digital tools for data collection. 

iMIS Food – Real-Time Food Safety Compliance  

iMIS Food platform empowers food businesses to manage food safety with confidence. Validated over 1000 times, it supports compliance (EU & ) with a user-friendly QMS and the promotion of continuous improvement. The iMIS Food Compliance portal keeps you informed of food safety issues, ensuring real-time food assurance for the future, fostering transparency and therefore also improving your relationship with customers and consumers.  

Digital Revolution : Are you ready?

The food industry is changing, and the way food safety is managed is evolving, but are you and your company ready for this change?  
Take the test to see if you are ready for a better change, with the “Digital Transformation Calculator” and explore digital solutions for food safety management:  

Food Safety Digital Transformation calculator
Receive results directly after completing the Calculator.

Conclusion  

In conclusion, digital technologies are increasingly revolutionizing the food industry and their adoption could potentially:  

  • Improving and resolution of food safety incidents  
  • Improving and food prevention  
  • Boosting consumer trust 

-> However, to unlock the full potential of digital tools and rebuild consumer trust, addressing their concerns is crucial. 

Sources 

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