A first-of-its-kind feasibility study into how kitchen equipment can be monitored remotely has been carried out by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
The study was conducted using temperature sensors and data management software provided by Telemetry Ltd, a smart monitoring kitchen specialist based in Kent.
Researchers set out to demonstrate that digital sensors can be relied upon by operators and regulators to automatically monitor the temperature of key kitchen equipment and store live data – as well as ensure compliance in a manner that is more efficient than the current paper-based system.
Eight different food businesses, including a high street restaurant, contract caterer and a number of street food traders, trialled the sensors for a two-month period in three different London boroughs.
Telemetry Ltd’s sensors are typically inserted into refrigerators and freezers to automatically read temperatures. Data is transmitted either via a standalone SIM-enabled gateway or via a wireless network – neither of which requires an internet connection – and is stored in a secure cloud environment.
Food safety officers from each borough were involved in evaluating the reliability and accuracy of the data, with oversight provided by the Food Standards Agency.
They concluded that when comparing automated data to the parallel paper-based records that were maintained by one company during the study, the electronic data was more extensive, more accurate, less reliant on human input and likely to lead to increased accuracy.
Piers Skinner, managing director of Telemtery Ltd, said: “We’re delighted that the Food Standards Agency chose us to take part in their first ever Feasibility Study into the use of standalone equipment temperature sensors, and that we have successfully demonstrated across a wide range of different foodservice environments that automating this part of the HACCP process can be done more accurately and reliably than human checks.”
Mr Skinner said the true art wasn’t just in accurately recording temperatures, but in how data is extracted from small, enclosed spaces and transferred to the cloud, reliably and in real time.
“The secret to our sensors is that they use multiple platforms to transmit the data, depending on what you need to know, how often you need to know it, and where you are. Cash-strapped food operators and EHOs are a tough audience to please, but the feedback we received from them about our sensors was extremely positive and encouraging.
“With the potential staffing issues that the new Brexit deal might bring, they have all recognised that there is a place for a cheap and reliable system that can save valuable administration time and allow businesses to concentrate on being customer-facing without compromising food safety.”
The FSA concluded that the feasibility study successfully demonstrated the value of using real time sensors for the purposes of regulated assurance of food safety.
It said that further scientific research on sensors, and emerging technologies as a whole, by the FSA, would provide more confidence to food businesses that will use them, and competent authorities who will need to take regard when undertaking their official control duties.