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Food safety app, site to be introduced soon

By Ma. Cristina Arayata

A locally developed android app will soon help food businesses ensure their products are clean, unexpired, and safe to consume, while a website will guide the public on some of the government’s food safety programs.

Developed by a startup software company, the Food Safety Self-Assessment Tool (FSSAT) android app was funded by the Department of Science and Technology in Calabarzon (DOST-4A) for P210,000, Francis Barquilla, DOST-4A’s Management Information Systems Unit head for technical operations said.

Once launched, it can be downloaded by food establishments to assess their compliance with food safety regulations, This app is an online checklist of safety practices among food sellers to guide them on safe food handling and delivery. This is useful, especially for those new to the food processing business.

Barquilla said the DOST-4A’s food safety team benchmarked the FSSAT with the food grading system for food hawkers in Singapore.

The FSSAT has 15 categories and 68 questionnaires that will tell a food business operator if they are complying with the basic food safety guideline. The app will be initially available for download via Google Play, but a version compatible with Apple devices is also in the pipeline.

After answering the questions, the app will automatically show the business operator’s “rating” for the day, as well as the average rating for the month. “This way, the business operator could monitor the progress and the opportunities for improvement,” Barquilla said. He added that food businesses could also request technical assistance and food safety training from the DOST.

The executive said the mobile app is in the pilot testing stage, and the DOST-4A is currently coordinating with an international food delivery service provider so they could pilot test the FSSAT among their merchants.

“Numerous government agencies, as well as private companies, (have been investing in) strengthening the food safety system of the country. Constant reminders and information on food safety, free training or webinars, food safety experts or consultants, and food safety-related technologies are just a few of the facts and data that will be found in the Food Safety Web Application (website),” he said regarding the DOST’s nationwide project, which was funded by The Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) for P3.8 million.

He pointed out that many micro, small, and medium enterprises have shifted to food processing business because of the pandemic, but only a few are well-versed in food safety.

“Usually, people would consult the internet, and in this case, the website will serve as a one-stop shop for food safety information, guidelines and regulations. If food safety information and services are improved, the consumers’ confidence on locally-made products will be strengthened, too,” he said.

He also noted that with this kind of initiative, public awareness on food safety will also increase. This is also expected to improve food handling and minimize foodborne illnesses across the country.

The food safety website can be accessible to the public once launched. The website would show the food safety-related services of DOST laboratories, implemented programs and projects, researchers, technologies that are open for adoption or commercialization, and other materials.

“This website will greatly help in disseminating information to the public that there are many researchers who dedicated their time and effort in finding solutions to some food safety problems. Many of these research studies will be promoted through this web application, thus, its significant contributions to improving our system will be realized. There will be better collaboration among the researchers, and between the public and the researchers,” Barquilla said.

The initial system will be presented to DOST regional offices by the third quarter of this year, according to Barquilla.

DOST-4A Regional Director Emelita Bagsit said both the app and website will be launched within the year. (PNA)


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