Our food supply system is extreme historical and complex – it has been developing ever since our civilizations, especially since the globalisation. Within this system, like every other complex system, things could easily go wrong, and they may affect our wellbeing. Our food could be adulterated with innutritious and even harmful substitutions for lowering the cost illegally. There could also be contaminants mixed into the food products due to a lack of hygiene condition during the production and transportation. There are just too many ways our food could be defrauded. (Topics related to allergen, pesticide, antibiotics, pathogen, and aflatoxins can be found in our previous blogs). Thus, who should be responsible to improve our food supply system and prevent these kinds of issues? The question has been greatly answered by one of our previous blogs: it is everyone’s responsibility to secure our food supply chain! Therefore, how can we ensure that the food we consume is safe, healthy, and authentic?
The first thing that comes into mind is by using analytical methods. They are the methods that directly look into food or food samples to examine what biological and chemical components are there presented in the food and food samples to tell if the food is good or not. Sounds profound? It can be as simple as observing, smelling, and tasting of the food by our eyes, noses, and tongues, respectively. For example, does the fruit look bright-coloured and fresh? This kind of observations are fast and do not require any additional device – we are the analytical devices ourselves! Of course, there are other very profound analytical methods as well. Think about those giant and fine equipment as well as some other biological and chemical techniques that require sophisticated synthesises in the labs, these are the analytical methods that can be used to very reliably and accurately analyse the food samples. Recently, there are huge developments toward portable and consumer-friendly food analysers, where these analytical methods can be directly used by consumers to enable early screenings of food and food samples. Our FoodSmartphone project is a great example.
Then, here comes the mysterious Information Technology (IT). By definition, it is the use of methodologies to store, retrieve, transmit, and manipulate data or information. It is actually nearly as historical as our food supply system – it exists ever since human started handwriting. Now, the question has turned into: how can IT be used to help promote our food supply system?
The first and very instinct idea is that IT can be used to automate the analysis of data generated from the analytical methods to make the process faster, more accurate, and user-friendly. How is that possible? The automated data processing can be much faster than manual operations by running programs on emerging and powerful computational platforms like smartphones. And its accuracy can be much improved by applying advanced algorithms (What is algorithm? Check out this blog please). Also, user-friendliness can be enhanced by auto-generation of easy-to-interpret final results, for example, Yes or No results.
Is there any other way that IT could be used to promote our food supply system? The answer is Yes. Within such a complex food supply system, it is hard to trace back to where the problems really took place even with the most advanced analytical methods. For example, where did the food ingredients really come from? And are the workers, for example, farmers, in the food supply system treated well? For these concerns, IT will be able to provide much cost-efficient solutions to tackle the issues by applying data recording related methods. For example, providing approaches for consumers directly tipping farmers if the food they purchase is in great quality.
Thanks for reading this blog! Hope you have gotten an overview of how IT could be used to promote our food supply system by reading the blog. Welcome to leave your idea or comment below for further discussions.
Until next time,