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Listeriosis highlights traceability in food supply

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The outbreak of Listeriosis according to the WHO not only highlights the importance of quality control in the food manufacturing process, but also through the food supply chain, says NEVILLE LEVINTHAL, head of business development at Braintree.

Traceability in the feed and food chain falls under the ISO 22005 standard that provides general principles and basic requirements for system design and implementation. Underpinning this, is the ability to follow the movement of various foods and animal feeds throughout the different stages of production, processing, and distribution.

As such, adherence to the standard makes it possible to locate any product, anywhere in the food chain. Since this [traceability] contributes to searching out where non-conformity to regulations has taken place, it becomes easy to withdraw or recall products when and where necessary.

Track and trace

There are two kinds of movement vital to the success of a traceability system – tracking and tracing.

As the name suggests, tracking is the ability to identify the destination of the product and to follow its path as it moves from the manufacturing unit towards the final point of sale, service, or consumption. It is therefore a forward-moving process.

Tracing, on the other hand, is having the ability to recreate the history of the product in the food chain and identify where it originated from and where its movement went. As with tracking, the information can be for a single unit or a batch of food within the supply chain. It is a retrospective process.

In essence, these are the elements that constitute traceability. However, these systems still need to be practical to apply while complying with the applicable regulations. They can only be effective if the information and systems are verifiable, applied consistently and equitably, result-oriented, and cost-effective to implement.

Negotiating a highly complex web

Ultimately, traceability must be standardised because the entire supply chain is interdependent with numerous stakeholders involved. Without standardisation, the complexity of the food supply chain would mean there would be no common ‘language’ or system to track and trace goods.

One product can involve several companies from where the ingredients, content, and packaging have been supplied. It begins with the origin of the food and its ingredients, and continues with elements such as processing history, definition of the batch, links between manufacturing batches, methods of production, methods of analysis, storage, personnel involved, the entire supply and distribution chain system, and so on.

It is critical that product integrity, authenticity, and identification at all the stages of the supply chain (including food inspection and certification) are  completed and traced to build consumer confidence.

Notably, a spin-off benefit of using a traceability system is to prevent unfair trade practices by putting in place Food Safety Management System (FSMS) and record maintenance.

Harnessing new technology

Arguably, traceability plays an important role in consumer safety through swift and targeted recalls and withdrawals. These can only be performed effectively if a compliant system is implemented. Not only does it protect the health of consumers, but also the brand image/reputation of the organisation.

Developing a traceability system needs something that supports food safety and quality, meets customer specifications, can determine the history or origin of the product, and facilitates the withdrawal and recall of products.

It must also be able to identify those organisations in the animal feed and food chain that were responsible; verify specific information about the product; and communicate information to relevant stakeholders and consumers. Finally, it must fulfil local, regional, national, and international regulations, and help improve the effectiveness, productivity, and profitability of the organisation.

The past month has seen many organisations in South Africa scramble to do damage control and protect the reputation of their brands. While some have been able to mitigate risk and brand damage, the impact on the industry would have been more significant had it not been for traceability systems.

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Samsung clears the table with new monitor

For those who like minimalism and tidy desks, Samsung’s new Space Monitor may just do the trick, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The latest trends of narrow-bezels and minimalist designs have transcended smartphones, spilling into other designs, like laptops and monitors. 

The new Space Monitor line by Samsung follows in this new design “tradition”. The company has moved the monitor off the desk – by clipping it onto the edge of the desk.

It can be put into three configurations: completely upright, where it sits a bit high but completely off the desk; half-way to the desk, where it is a bit lower to put some papers or files underneath the display; and flat on the desk, where it is at its lowest.

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The monitor sits on a weighted hinge at the edge of the desk, providing sturdy adjustment to its various height configurations. It also swivels on a hinge at the point where the arm connects to the display. This provides precise viewing angle adjustment, which is great for showing something on screen to someone who is standing.

Apart from form factor, there are some neat goodies packed into the box. It comes with a two-pin power adapter, with no adapter box on the midpoint between the plug and the monitor, and a single cable that carries HDMI-Y and power to prevent tangling. 

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However, it’s slightly disappointing that there isn’t a Mini Display Port and power cable “in one cable” option for Mac and newer graphics card users, who will have to run two cables down the back of the screen. Even worse, the display doesn’t have a USB Type-C display input; a missed opportunity to connect a Samsung device to the panel.

A redeeming point is the stunning, Samsung-quality panel, which features a 4K UHD resolution. The colours are sharp and the viewing angles are good. However, this display is missing something: Pantone or Adobe RGB colour certification, as well as IPS technology. 

The display’s response rate comes in at 4ms, slightly below average for displays in this price range. 

These negatives aside, this display has a very specific purpose. It’s for those who want to create desk space in a few seconds, while not having to rearrange the room. 

Final verdict: This display is not for gamers nor for graphic designers. It is for those who need big displays but frequently need to clear their desks.

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Can mobile fix education?

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By Ernst Wittmann, global account director for MEA and country manager for Southern Africa, at TCL Communications

Mobile technology has transformed the way we live and work, and it can be expected to rapidly change the ways in which children learn as smartphones and tablets become more widely accepted at primary and high schools. By putting a powerful computer in every learner’s schoolbag or pocket, smartphones could play an important role in improving educational outcomes in a country where so many schools are under-resourced.

Here are some ways that mobile technology will reshape education in the years to come:

Organisation and productivity

For many adults, the real benefit of a smartphone comes from simple applications like messaging, calendaring and email. The same goes for schoolchildren, many of whom will get the most value from basic apps like sending a WhatApp message to friends to check on the homework for the day, keeping track of their extramural calendar, or photographing the teacher’s notes from the blackboard or whiteboard. One study of young people’s mobile phone use in Ghana, Malawi and South Africa confirmed that many of them got the most value from using their phones to complete mundane tasks.

Interactivity

One of the major benefits smartphones can bring to the classroom is boosting learners’ engagement with educational materials through rich media and interactivity. For example, apps like Mathletics use gamification to get children excited about doing mathematics—they turn learning into a game, with rewards for practicing and hitting milestones. Or teachers can set up a simple poll using an app like Poll Everywhere to ask the children in a class what they think about a character’s motivation in their English set-work book.

Personalisation

Mobile technology opens the doors to more personalised and flexible ways to teach and learn, making more space for children to work in their own style and at their own pace. Not very child learns in the same way or excels at the same tasks and subjects – the benefit of mobile phones is that they can plug the gaps for children seeking extra enrichment or those that need some additional help with classroom work.

For example, teachers can provide recommended educational materials for children who are racing in ahead of their peers in some of their subjects. Or they can suggest relevant games for children who learn better through practical application of ideas than by listening to a teacher and taking notes. 

In future, we can expect to see teachers, perhaps aided by algorithms and artificial intelligence, make use of analytics to track how students engage with educational content on their mobile devices and use these insights to create more powerful learning experiences. 

Access

South Africa has a shortage of teachers in key subjects such as mathematics and science, which disproportionately affects learners in poor and rural areas. According to a statement in 2017 from the Department of Basic Education, it has more than 5,000 underqualified or unqualified teachers working around the country. Though technology cannot substitute for a qualified teacher, it can supplement human teaching in remote or poor areas where teachers are not available or not qualified to teach certain subjects. Video learning and videoconferencing sessions offer the next best thing where a math or physical science teacher is not physically present in the classroom.

Information

Knowledge is power and the Internet is the world’s biggest repository of knowledge. Schoolchildren can access information and expertise about every subject under the sun from their smartphones – whether they are reading the news on a portal, watching documentaries on YouTube, downloading electronic books, using apps to improve their language skills, or simply Googling facts and figures for a school project.

Take a mobile-first approach

Technology has a powerful role to play in the South African school of the future, but there are some key success factors schools must bear in mind as they bring mobile devices into the classroom:

  • Use appropriate technology—in South Africa, that means taking a mobile-first approach and using the smartphones many children already know and use.
  • Thinking about challenges such as security – put in place the cyber and physical security needed to keep phones and data safe and secure.
  • Ensuring teachers and children alike are trained to make the most of the tech – teachers need to take an active role in curating content and guiding schoolchildren’s use of their devices. To get that right, they will need training and access to reliable tech support.

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