Food Safety and the Internet of Things

Over the course of the winter of 2015 and spring of 2016 ITaaU undertook a collaborative venture with the Food Standards Agency (FSA). This page brings together information about the pilot projects and academic literature review together with the original aims of the collaboration and the final recommendations. A number of workshops were held over the course of this initiative and these are also listed.

The work was led by Prof. Jeremy Frey of the University of Southampton on behalf of ITaaU and Dr. Sian Thomas from the FSA.


Whilst certain elements of this work will be maintained and updated over time, it was felt to be useful and valid to publish a series of findings and recommendations which we trust will be of benefit to others seeking guidance whilst navigating this emergent field.


  1. Data is the most important aspect and the implications of the data and the use made of the data generated, needs to be reviewed before more sensors are placed everywhere!
  2. More small-scale projects investigating the sensor deployment in the home, restaurant, shop etc. to establish what measurements are useful, what measurements are achievable.
  3. Investigation of smart utensils to see if even in special cases these will help capture information on people and food in a reliable and acceptable way.

Behaviour (People):

  1. The roles the people play in all aspects of the food system is difficult to capture but needs to be addressed directly otherwise interpretation is too ambiguous. To this end the economic aspects of the “What’s in it for me?” questions need to be addressed for all stakeholders.
  2. The integration of different commercial and open systems, whilst avoidable and unnecessary in a single farm, or a unified manufacturer, is a concern in the downstream parts of the supply chain: the need for agreed standards must be addressed to facilitate scalability and interoperability.


  1. Data sharing infrastructure is needed. IoT systems can provide additional data, which is often already recorded but not shared. Once that data is shared and can be integrated, it will be clearer what data an IoT system should provide.
  2. Value of IoT to the logistics and farming aspects of the food network has been demonstrated in the B2B context and can be applied using commercial systems and these should now need to be tested in an extended environment though to the customer.
  3. The food industry is a collection of large and very many small business and lots of consumers, which is ideal for a horizontal IoT integration but the vertical solution seems to be gaining ground. The issues of vertical vs. horizontal integration in this sector need to be studied and addressed and are likely to benefit from regulation.

For realistic IoT deployment there is a need for low-cost sensors running widely agreed and interoperable standards and connected with widely available wireless coverage. To ensure consumer trust the IoT systems must be secure, must have demonstrable accuracy in event trending, tracking and monitoring, and be able to cope with failures of the devices, networks and system. The data modeling is key to the use of IoT systems, so that the ability to undertake data integration and fusion is essential while avoiding “Data Obesity “. Consumers will expect that Industry – Government data is available for sharing under appropriate secure conditions, the extent to which this can be extended to consumers highlights the need to address and bridge the “Digital Divide”.  Managing consumer expectations following all of the above will be essential if the valley of doom in the Gartner Hype Cycle is to be circumvented for the useful deployment of IoT in the food network.

The projects

The workshops

  • Showcase for the Food Standards Agency Internet of Things programme that ITaaU are running – London 7-8 March, 2016
  • Projects workshop for those participating in the Food Standards Agency/ITaaU Internet of Things programme – Southampton – 18 January, 2016

ITaaU has run previous events relating to food safety, most notably a 2-day event in Northern Ireland in 2013:

  • Adoption of ICT to improve security and trust in the UK food chain, 2-3 Sept 2013 County Antrim, Northern Ireland

The Literature Review

A survey was made of academic literature in the area of food safety and the Internet of Things (IoT). This has been written up in a comprehensive which will be available here. An executive summary is also available. The emergent recommendations, also influenced by the projects and workshops, are repeated above. For a fuller, contextual description, please see the executive or full report.

Food Safety and the Internet of Things: Executive Summary (The Internet of Food Things – executive summary – Word version | The Internet of Food Things – executive summary – PDF version)

Food Safety and the Internet of Things: full report (Internet of Food Things – Word version | Internet of Food Things – PDF version) (Note all documents are shared under the Creative Commons BY licence:

The core information discovered through the research is also available in a public Mendelay group: The Internet of Food Things

Other links have been brought together using Scoopit:

Further information

Please contact for further information or to follow up on this work.

The contact details for the partners who led the pilot projects are as follows:

  • Peter Edwards (University of Aberdeen)
  • Maddeleine Smith (University of Birmingham)
  • Derek McAuley (University of Nottingham
  • Simon Pearson (University of Lincoln)

Sian Thomas (Food Standards Agency)

Citing and referring to this page:

This page was originally published – 18 July 2016: