Recent food product recalls due to potential health hazards have created the need for detailed monitoring of food safety at every step along the supply chain. As a result, the market is seeing the introduction of new pathogen testing technologies, novel packaging, intervention technologies and advances in electronic tracking systems, according to recent analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Mountain View, Calif.

The study, “Breakthrough Technologies Enabling Food Safety,” examines technologies for pathogen detection in food at various levels of processing, intervention technologies for microbial reduction, packaging technologies, robotics and automation, technologies with electronic traceability and sensor technologies.

"Highly publicized cases of foodborne illness have created much awareness among common people on the need for improved food safety," says Arpita Mukherjee, technical insights industry analyst. "Companies across the food supply chain are thus looking to adopt novel technologies to obtain third-party certification to demonstrate their compliance with legal food safety requirements to promote customer confidence and brand value."

The changing nature of pathogens due to mutation and the risk of unknown contamination from indefinite sources means that robust food safety technologies are required on both the supply and demand side of the market. The next five years will see substantial growth in food safety technologies, as the food sector tries to meet the escalating demand for high-quality, affordable products.

The industry is also seeking safety technologies that are low cost, customizable and enable rapid detection and source identification. Primary technologies such as physical separation of contaminants, thermal and non-thermal interventions, packaging and protection coatings, biosensors and automated food processing have gained acceptance in the industry. The need is for more precise, reliable and user-friendly technologies and materials that supplement these primary measures.

"Nanomaterials and nano-based technologies are attracting interest for rapid pathogen testing," adds Mukherjee. "Sustainable technologies such as edible coatings or edible pathogen detection composition will gain industry attention beyond 2022. Advances in electronics and software application, involving electronic traceability, smartphones and mobile applications, will also have significant effect in food safety application in long term."

However, confusion over food standards and regulations among nations has made it difficult to establish truly harmonized global food safety norms, creating uncertainties on the optimal set of food safety products to adopt. This, along with the high cost of food safety technologies, is a major challenge for the market in the short term. These challenges will subside in the next 3-10 years with further technology advances.

Overall, the industry's key focus is to develop and adopt safety technologies to prevent food contamination and counterfeiting before these problems actually occur. To achieve this goal, an integrated effort in technology development, safety assurance and management strategy formulation will be essential.