Commercializing Technology for Food Safety Planning

How can smaller players in the food industry assure their customers about the quality and safety of their products? Some are choosing Icicle, a cloud-based technology that helps food producers manage their food safety programs.

Icicle walks users through a hazard analysis and helps them decide how they will control those hazards, drawing from a large database of ingredients, products and potential hazards. Resulting food safety plans can help during audits and recalls or meet third-party certification requirements. “Icicle is a solution for small and medium food processors,” says Steve Burton, CEO of Burton Software in Richmond, the company behind Icicle. “They are typically developing a food safety program for the first time.”

While Burton launched Icicle about three years ago, funding from the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program helped the company to commercialize the technology. The project focused on public relations, web content and industry relations, as well as enhancements to the software. Burton learned that food processors with a plan already in place, were the easiest to convert to Icicle. They understood the importance of food safety planning and liked the idea of cloud-based document management. P&S Frozen Foods, a producer of ready-to-bake specialty sausage rolls, is one such example. “P&S operate a federally regulated meat processing facility in Vancouver, so they already had a food safety plan in place, but it was maintained manually,” says Burton. “This was automated with Icicle, and they’ve even granted access to federal inspectors.”

At the other end of the spectrum are the processors with no plan at all, and little understanding of food safety principles in general. This group requires much more support. Burton adjusted their own business model to accommodate this and also developed two webinars. “Chewters Chocolates is a confectionary company in Richmond that specializes in chocolates for casinos,” Burton says. “They’re new to food safety planning and Icicle is growing with them.”

Icicle has not gone unnoticed. Ready to Rocket named Burton in its list of emerging BC technology companies, Frost & Sullivan gave it their award for cloud computing innovations, and it is one of three finalists for the Rising Star Award from the BC Food Processors’ Association. Burton says they now plan to make Icicle more intelligent. “Users will be able to enter a product and Icicle will suggest process steps, hazards and controls,” he adds.

Funding: $21,450 from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.  (INN125)

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