Pa Department of Agriculture
Best Application of Technology, Public Service Innovator of the Year, and Technology Product of the Year
Reason for nomination
Inspector-sanitarians utilize the latest mobile technology by carrying a fully equipped tablet PC with a stylus and portable thermal printer. Upon arrival at the inspection site, they use the stylus or mouse to check off compliance with each of the associated items on the inspection list, such as sanitation, worker hygiene, appropriate food temperature, etc. Collected data is then transmitted via a wireless connection to Department of Agriculture centralized inspection database. If a wireless signal is unavailable, inspection data is stored and synched at a later time when connectivity is available. Inspection results become readily available for supervisor approval and the restaurant inspection results become immediately transparent to the citizens of the Commonwealth by posting them on the Department of Agriculture website. To do this would’ve previously been impossible given the previous constraints in technology and manpower.
Another important piece in utilizing mobile technology in the inspection process is that sanitarians-inspectors can now incorporate best practices in enforcing the federal and state food codes by using the system to select the appropriate regulations and any standard commentary for noncompliant items. This drastically reduces inspection time while increasing inspection quality. They can also package food samples for subsequent laboratory analysis without the need for duplicate data entry, further saving time and reducing errors. The person in charge at the facility site then uses the stylus to write his/her signature on the tablet PC, and the sanitarian uses a thermal printer to leave a hardcopy of the inspection report. The report shows the signature, any violations, and all observations recorded by the sanitarian.
At any location with internet connectivity, the sanitarian synchronizes the tablet’s database with the server. PAFoodSafety automatically creates entries in the back-office laboratory information management system (LIMS) for any food samples taken. The LIMS module in turn interacts directly with the PAFoodSafety server to provide full visibility into the testing process and any contamination reported. This integration enables full chain of custody for tracking the food sample from point of collection to final resolution.
Since implementing the software in January 2011, Pennsylvania has seen a 38 percent increase in productivity, measured in terms of inspections executed. LIMS connectivity dramatically reduces cycle time for sample-related inspections and enables health officials to resolve incidents in minutes as opposed to days. In addition, public safety officials can use the geo-coded data to predict and contain food contamination, as opposed to simply reacting to it. PAFoodSafety thus represents a focused integration of best-available technology to dramatically improve public service and, by extension, the safety of the food supply in Pennsylvania.