I always am happy to be asked to participate in Food+Tech Connect’s annual internet of food editorial series. I am a huge fan of what they have built. Here is the question and answer to the piece I wrote for them this week. You can also read it here.
“How might we use technology, new business models and design to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone?”
Unless you are a farmer or a passionate gardener, the food you are eating has passed through many hands before it got to you. Sure there are laws around how food should be handled, but we have read one too many times about someone getting sick from something they ate.
Technology has made it possible for us to track almost everything. Fast casual restaurants and grocery stores, for example, source products from multiple suppliers. In today’s age, the supply chain should be digitized and nothing should be done on paper anymore. Every grocery store and restaurant should make a pledge to exclusively accept supplies that have been tracked from their source to them. A commitment to using this kind of in-depth platform would make it much easier to track down bad food and in turn bad behavior across the supply chain. This information should be built on an open source platform or be made publicly available, so consumers can see where their food is coming from at, let’s say, Whole Food or Chipotle.
Overconsumption and waste are also big issues. Americans consume nearly one ton of food a year. What is more amazing is that about 40 percent of all food goes to waste. In addition to the health implications of eating one ton of food annually, this amount of food consumption also means more food is wasted at each stage of the supply chain. These stats underscore the need and opportunity for change.
There is a lot of waste across the supply chain, and we have to figure out how to use technology to become more efficient. But a lot of waste comes from consumer behavior. In Europe, for example, the portions are half the size of what they are in the U.S. But over the past 30 years, fast food portions have grown substantially, as have the prevalence of diet related disease. When I grew up diabetes was not rampant and neither was obesity. This is a consumer behavior issue. Using technology to give consumers more information about the food they are eating, the calories they are consuming and the supply chain that it is coming from, as well providing education around food has the potential to shift the insane amount of waste and the health of our nation.
With all of the technology that is available today, there is no reason that we can not guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone.