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Is AI Used for Food Safety a Good or a Bad Thing?

Posted in Food Safety,Our Blog on May 26, 2024

Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over many aspects of our daily life. From how we interact with technology interfaces, to help with projects, and even our entertainment. Even AI used for food safety is becoming more mainstream. But is it a good thing or a bad thing?

Only time will tell.

But what exactly is AI and how can AI be used for food safety to improve production processes?

What is AI?

According to IBM, one of the leaders in early AI technology, “Artificial intelligence, or AI, is technology that enables computers and machines to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities.”

This technology can operate on its own or paired with other technologies “that would otherwise require human intelligence or intervention.”

The software is modeled after the human brain, including aspects that allow it to “learn” from available data and make increasingly more accurate predictions over time.

While it may seem like a new and novel technology, AI has been around in some form for nearly 75 years.

A Brief History of AI

The birth of AI happened around 1950. Alan Turing published a famous test, answering the question, “Can machines think?” It is now known as the “Turing Test” help a human interrogator to distinguish between and human text response and a computer text response.

While this “Turing Test” was designed to identify a computer and used the concept of AI, the term, “artificial intelligence” wasn’t coined for another six years.

By the 1980’s, its use increased in a lot of behind-the-scenes applications.

It wasn’t until the mid-1990’s that AI really took off.

In a 1997 public showing, IBM’s Deep Blue AI took on World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov and one both the first match. And the rematch!

Later, IBM’s Watson stole the show beating both Jeopardy! Champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

AI technology has become more and more mainstream and is now accessible to the general public with the inception of ChatGPT and other AI platforms.

The technology has only improved and has infiltrated many aspects of our everyday life.

More and more applications benefit from AI, including food safety.

Benefits of AI Used for Food Safety

The benefits of AI used for food safety applications are plentiful. Some of the tasks previously managed by people have transitioned to AI assisted practices.

Using AI to analyze data, understand patterns, and improve performance over time by learning from and adapting to those patterns are some of the many tasks perfect for AI. Repetitive tasks can hard on human bodies but is no problem for AI assisted tools.

When it comes to AI used for food safety, some key applications can make food production safer.

Inspection and Quality Control Automated by AI

Automating inspection and quality control using AI facilitates catching errors that could be missed by human eyes. Using “computer vision” to inspect food or test for non-food items. AI has infrared or near infrared spectroscopy capabilities outside of the human perception that can assist with analyzing chemical composition, ripeness, freshness, and even potential contaminants. Smart sensors can keep an eye on temperatures, humidity, and monitor for foreign materials such as metal. They can enable instant alarms when these key factors are out of range. This early warning system benefits food safety by catching problems when they are small instead of reacting to an existing issue, costing productivity and lost product.

Traceability Assisted by AI

Traceability is extremely important when it comes to quick response to potential food contamination and recalls. Automating this traceability using AI simplifies the tracking process and can be implemented throughout the supply chain. Data can be available as quick as a key stroke.

AI Can Assist in Maintaining Regulatory Compliance

AI can help adapt to potential changes in regulations, allowing for site-wide compliance updates at the touch of a button. Document management is a big problem for some companies. Keeping track of all the pertinent information required of manufacturing firms is often the job of a whole department. This task is a cake walk for AI. Accessing this information with a moment’s notice may be a challenge for the human counterpart. AI, however, can easily retrieve this data nearly instantaneously.

Unfortunately, AI Used for Food Safety Isn’t a Perfect Solution

Unfortunately, AI used for food safety isn’t a perfect solution. The biggest concern is manipulation of food safety data. Unfortunately, malicious entities are everywhere, and no area is safe. Including the food safety arena. Sabotage, ransomware, and deepfakes are also concerns when it comes to AI used for food safety.

Manipulation of Food Safety Data

Malicious entities can potentially manipulate food safety data, which negatively impacts food safety.

When AI algorithms and training datasets are altered or false data is generated, potential contamination could be missed, leading to spoilage or widespread foodborne illness.

AI Is Potentially Vulnerable to Sabotage

Hackers can potentially sabotage AI by altering demand forecasts, redirecting shipments, or halting the supply of critical ingredients. Firms that rely solely on AI technology to manage these aspects can streamline their processes to put human brainpower to other aspects of production. However, if these key processes sabotaged, productivity can be negatively impacted.

Ransomware is a Concern for AI Powered Food Safety

When AI is exclusively used to run a company’s supply chain, ransomware can disrupt production and distribution activities. Online attacks and holding data hostage can put a company in a position where they are forced to comply with demands to avoid costly delays.

In the Age of AI, Deepfakes Can Negatively Impact a Company

While deepfakes are more known for political or celebrity impersonation, this nefarious technology can make it look like a company is engaging in harmful practices. Deepfakes can also fabricate harmful statements and make them appear legitimate.

Alternatively, on the consumer side, deepfakes can also make it appear that a company is doing something good that they are not. Fraudulent representations of sustainable sourcing, ethical treatment of animals, or food safety practices can dupe consumers into believing false information about a company that might have influenced their buying decisions.

Cyber Security is Key in Mitigating These Risks

When AI is used for food safety, cyber security is key in mitigating these risks.

A multi-faceted approach involving protections against breaches, system infiltrations, and regular audits of AI systems. Built-in safeguards, employee training, and encryption to protect data are also key.

Do The Benefits Outweigh the Risks for AI Technology Used for Food Safety?

So, do the benefits of using AI technology for food safety outweigh the risk?

While food companies will need to evaluate this technology for its strengths and weaknesses, as well as their ability to protect it against bad actors, the most logical answer is yes.

Yes, the benefits likely outweigh the risks for AI technology used for food safety.

Stay in Touch with Make Food Safe!

If you’d like to know more about food safety topics in the news, like “Is AI Used for Food Safety a Good or a Bad Thing?” check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more! Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)