New advancements in mobile data collection and data gathering methods have spurred U.S. regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increasingly adopt these technologies in order to improve tracking and operational efficiencies in food distribution.
According to the USDA, increased productivity is a main contributor to economic growth in U.S. agriculture. Recent reports show that while farm output has slightly increased in recent years, input has decreased, suggesting new methods are being used in which data is collected and used throughout the supply chain. In keeping with these trends, the FDA has recently begun using mobile data collection devices to help farmers detect tainted eggs and notice other health violations faster, according to Government Technology. By employing mobile data collection, the FDA marks a substantial shift in workflow procedures that were previously performed manually with notebooks. Moreover, other major benefits include FDA personnel having the ability to use mobile devices during farm inspections and report contaminated eggs and other health hazards in real time.
"This saves a considerable amount of time during the inspection process and helps ensure that regulations are being applied to the deviations uncovered by our investigators," said FDA's Patricia El-Hinnawy.
Perhaps most importantly, by employing these new collection methods, investigators are now able to better expedite the tainted food recall process to lead to the removal of spoiled eggs and other potentially harmful foods from store shelves, restaurants and home kitchens throughout the country, stated Regulatory Focus. While the benefits to consumers are obvious, the FDA's latest initiative will also positively impact the U.S. taxpayer with an estimated $70 million expected in savings.
Other regulatory agencies following suit
While the FDA expects to expand its mobile data collection systems for uses beyond egg inspection, other regulatory agencies like the USDA are taking steps toward adapting data collection practices to track marketing channel diversification. According to a report by the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, the official U.S. farm survey has traditionally tracked only three forms of market differentiation: direct-to-consumer sales, organic sales, and the number of community supported agriculture farms, limiting both an individual farmer's and the agricultural industry's comprehensive understanding of the supply chain. By improving data gathering, agricultural producers are better able to understand and expand upon the information gathered through the manufacturing and distribution process.
From the regulator to the manufacturer to the consumer and everyone in between, developments in data collection stand to benefit all involved in the supply chain, as integrated collection and analysis solutions continue to improve supplier efficiencies and an optimized end product.