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A cloud-based solution to strengthen the food supply chain protection during the COVID-19 outbreak

10. September 2020

BioFreshCloud PRIMA projects are redirecting their activities in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

The current health crisis due to the coronavirus SARS-CoV2 is producing a tremendous impact across the world, causing millions of confirmed cases, and high mortality rates. The economic losses and production decline due to the COVID-19 lockdown are foreseen to lead to the worst economic crisis after the 1930s depression. COVID-19 has also greatly affected food chains all across Europe with food supplies being disrupted, producing unavailability or scarcity of certain food commodities. In addition, the current fire-fighting action to find sufficient food suppliers and to assure food security is relegating food safety and quality aspects to a second place. On top of that almost all national food safety audits in Q2/2020 were canceled or postponed. With private and public food safety and quality controls in a weekend state, the integrity of the food chain is at risk. To minimize these risks, todays risk-based approach should be adopted, and digital food risk management systems should be reinforced. According to FAO/WHO (2020), to minimize these risks, today, a risk-based approach should be adopted to optimize and reallocate the available resources to control the high-risk food premises and food supply chains. The employment of electronic resources is also proposed to improve the performance of food risk management systems, at industrial and governmental level, making possible food safety and quality data exchange and on-line or remote inspection and control activities.

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BioFreshCloud technologies will strengthen the transparency of food supply chain, providing logistic tools able to increase the efficiency of finding alternative routes, improving food supply channels and ensure food availability. These tools, based on cloud computing, will incorporate a risk-based perspective, by including prediction models able to generate risk maps of food logistics from farm to fork based on data gathered in real time, thereby determining the risks steps or factors, and applying timely and suitable mitigation interventions. Predictive models of SARS-CoV 2 in food and environment, currently available, can be included in the prediction system to consider the impact of the food chain conditions on the virus transmission.

The concept of dynamic shelf-life presented in BioFreshCloud becomes even more relevant under the COVID-19 outbreak, where the logistic and food safety and quality problems due to a disrupted food distribution chain can impact product durability and increase food loss. The project brings together different digital technologies, built on the IoT paradigm, aimed to facilitate interconnection between food players and increase data availability through the food supply chain. This BioFreshCloud solution will be able to integrate retailers and consumers in the management of shelf-life, making possible a more flexible and adaptative shelf-life to attain better performance under strained food chain situations like the current global crisis caused by  SARS-CoV2.

BioFreshCloud will be able to connect the food logistics to the pandemic information, by  integrating and cross-check food traceability data collected in real time and epidemiological data from public sources, identifying products, regions and routes that can be more susceptible to the disruption of the food chain or that can be related to a higher risk due to COVID-19. With the IT solutions in BioFreshCloud, food supply data and information can easily flow up to food suppliers, making them more responsive to changes in the food demands and stock capacity due to COVID-19 events. The IT solutions in BioFreshCloud will offer cloud-based instruments to manage the negative impact of COVID-19 in the food chain, allowing remote monitoring of logistic processes and suitable risk management actions, beneficial for both food safety authorities and food suppliers. In the long run, we aim to achieve that food companies that contribute with their data to BioFreshCloud receive recognition as high trustworthy food supplier by food safety authorities despite a reduced frequency of on-site control. This benefit in time and costs would also motivate other food operators to join the initiative, making the European food system more resilient for the future.

Reference: FAO/WHO, 2020. COVID-19 and Food Safety: Guidance for competent authorities responsible for national food safety control systems-Interim Guidance. Available here.


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