By Ashley Eisenbeiser, MS, CFS, Senior Director, Food and Product Safety Programs, FMI
We live in a moment of rapid technological change and development. Beyond transforming the way we live our everyday lives, this technological advancement presents profound opportunities for the way the food industry operates each and every day. A perfect example of this is demonstrated by Walmart, this year’s recipient of the Food Safety Innovation Award announced at FMI’s 2023 Midwinter Executive Conference in Orlando last week.
Presented in conjunction with the International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI), the Food Safety Innovation Award recognizes a company for their commitment to the advancement of food protection through performance, practice, creation, sustainability and leadership. In winning this year’s award, Walmart embodies these ideals through their creative and effective use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to transform their approach to food safety.
Over the past two years, Walmart has been building a predictive analytics and monitoring tool they call the Pressure Dial System, which they have designed to monitor the strain that may exist on the company’s food safety program within their facilities. The system is built to alert the company when pressure on their food safety system crosses certain thresholds.
According to Walmart, “The system brings together all data points and monitoring activities relevant to food safety such as first party self-checks, second party internal audits, and third-party monthly assessments. One of the novel concepts of this innovation is that it looks beyond traditional food safety parameters by integrating data from the business such as merchandising, central operations, logistics, facilities maintenance, finance and human resources to build a more holistic view of the state of our food safety program. The system then uses this data to measure leading indicators of food safety culture including infrastructure, execution, food waste, donations, customer returns, sales and associate data.”
This approach allows the company to assess the cause of a food safety issue that has occurred, using the historical data and trends to identify indicators that may have signaled a food safety incident was imminent so they can address issues going forward. But the system also allows Walmart to be able to predict when and where a food safety incident is likely to occur within their stores based on alerts the system’s algorithms generate using real-time data.
This novel approach demonstrates the power that new technologies can have on our industry’s food safety efforts and is a perfect example of the innovation taking place in the marketplace to make sure the food consumers purchase is safe. On behalf of the entire FMI staff and membership, we extend our congratulations to Walmart for earning this year’s Food Safety Innovation Award by leveraging cutting-edge technologies to advance their food safety program.