Merging IT and OT Can Improve Food Safety

How Merging IT and OT Can Improve Food Safety

In the food industry, ensuring food safety is of utmost importance. Food contamination can cause severe health problems and even fatalities. Therefore, it is crucial to take necessary measures to prevent food contamination. One effective approach to improving food safety is by merging IT and OT. In this blog, we will discuss how merging IT and OT can improve food safety and how it can help businesses in the food industry.

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The food industry is complex and consists of various stakeholders, including manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and retailers. Each stakeholder has its own set of challenges when it comes to ensuring food safety. With the increasing globalisation of the food industry and the growing demand for safe and healthy food, it has become even more critical to take necessary measures to prevent food contamination. One approach that has gained popularity in recent years is the integration of IT and OT.

Very public food safety issues

Here are some facts about food safety issues that have happened in the UK:

In 2021, there were over 2,000 reported cases of foodborne illnesses in the UK, with Salmonella being the most commonly reported bacteria.

The UK has seen several major food safety scandals in recent years, including the horsemeat scandal in 2013, where it was found that horsemeat had been passed off as beef in some products.

In 2017, the UK experienced a major outbreak of Campylobacter, a bacterial infection that can cause severe gastroenteritis. The outbreak was linked to contaminated chicken and affected over 500 people.

In 2018, more than 30 people in the UK were hospitalised with E. coli infections linked to contaminated salad greens.

In 2015, the UK experienced an outbreak of Listeriosis, a serious bacterial infection that can cause severe illness or death, which was linked to pre-packaged sandwiches and resulted in nine deaths.

Food safety inspections in the UK have declined in recent years due to budget cuts, which has raised concerns about the safety of the food supply.

Brexit has also raised concerns about food safety in the UK, as the country will need to establish its own regulatory framework for food safety and trade with other countries.

In 2020, a UK-based meat processing plant experienced an outbreak of COVID-19, leading to the closure of the plant and concerns about the safety of meat products.

These facts demonstrate that food safety issues are a serious concern in the UK and highlight the importance of implementing robust food safety measures to protect public health.

Understanding IT and OT and how to Improve Food Safety

IT and OT are two distinct domains that have traditionally been separate. IT, or information technology, refers to the use of computers and networks to store, process, and transmit information. OT, or operational technology, on the other hand, refers to the use of machines, sensors, and other devices to monitor and control physical processes. While IT is concerned with data and information, OT is concerned with physical processes and systems.

Benefits of merging IT and OT for food safety

The integration of IT and OT has several benefits for food safety, including:

Real-time monitoring

One of the significant benefits of merging IT and OT is real-time monitoring of food safety. By integrating sensors and other devices with IT systems, companies can monitor various parameters, such as temperature, humidity, and pressure, in real-time. This allows companies to detect potential problems early on and take necessary measures to prevent food contamination.

Predictive maintenance

Another benefit of merging IT and OT is predictive maintenance. By integrating IT and OT systems, companies can use predictive analytics to identify potential equipment failures before they occur. This allows companies to schedule maintenance and repair activities in advance, reducing the risk of equipment failures that could lead to food contamination.

Automated processes

IT and OT integration can also enable companies to automate various processes, such as temperature control and product tracking. Automated processes can help reduce human errors and ensure that food safety protocols are followed consistently.

Better traceability will Improve Food Safety

The integration of IT and OT can also improve traceability in the food supply chain. By using sensors and other devices. Companies can track products from farm to fork, making it easier to identify the source of any potential contamination.

Challenges in merging IT and OT to Improve Food Safety

While there are several benefits to merging IT and OT, there are also some challenges. Some of the challenges include:

Cybersecurity risks

IT and OT integration can increase the risk of cyber-attacks. Cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities in the IT system to gain access to OT systems, which can have severe consequences for food safety.

Integration complexities

Merging IT and OT can be complex, particularly for organisations that have legacy systems. Integration can require significant investments in hardware and software and may require changes to existing processes and workflows.

How to overcome the challenges to Improve Food Safety

To overcome the challenges of merging IT and OT, companies can take the following measures:

Implementing cybersecurity measures

To mitigate cybersecurity risks, companies should implement robust cybersecurity measures, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption. Companies should also ensure that employees are trained on cybersecurity best practices and that they are aware of the risks associated with IT and OT integration.

Standardising protocols

To overcome integration complexities, companies should standardise protocols and adopt open communication standards, such as OPC-UA. Standardising protocols can make it easier to integrate IT and OT systems and reduce the risk of compatibility issues.

Conclusion

Merging IT and OT can improve food safety by enabling real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance, automated processes, and better traceability. However, there are also some challenges, such as cybersecurity risks and integration complexities. To overcome these challenges, companies should implement robust cybersecurity measures and standardise protocols.

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