Chipotle restaurants recently announced that they will begin testing a drone delivery service at Virginia Tech, and earlier this year Domino’s began using robots to deliver pizza in New Zealand and Australia. We enjoy seeing creative innovations in the food industry, but we also feel the need to examine these achievements from a food safety perspective. With unmanned delivery drones and robots being tested, we grow curious to see if major food safety training standards such as NFSRP and ServSafe adjust their regulations with growing automation in the food service industry.
NFSRP and Automated Delivery Service
While researching the topic, we found that the biggest hurdle for automated delivery services lie with the authorities that govern transportation. The FAA and local jurisdictions can regulate the airspace used by commercial drone operators, and they have expressed concerns that the possibility exists that the risk of drone failures and crashes will increase in crowded airspaces as these services become more popular. We also see increasing studies into the hazards of driverless vehicles, and we would like to see whether or not a robot can successfully navigate busy city sidewalks and crosswalks without incident. So before we begin carpet bombing college campuses with foil wrapped burritos and calculating how big of a tip to give your favorite delivery robot, we must wait and see what types of regulations will be put in place.
One issue that we can address is the issue of food safety. Under the current food code, delivery drivers who do not prepare your food do not have to obtain any form of food safety certification, so we can probably assume that there is no rush to create droid level NSFRP training courses. One issue that concerns us, especially with prepared products such as burritos that contain highly sensitive beans and rice, is whether or not these prepared food items will spend a significant amount of time in the danger zone. Bacteria in beans, rice and many proteins thrive in lukewarm temperatures, and from what we have seen, delivery drones do not contain any warming equipment. The robots being tested in New Zealand seem to have an interior storage space that possibly contains a heating system, but from some of the test footage we have seen, burrito drones simply carry burritos from restaurant to customer. Given the potential for food-borne illness, we feel that this issue needs to be addressed.
These exciting innovations leave us wondering what is just over the horizon. If the old Jetson’s cartoons were any glimpse into our future, we hope that flying cars will be next. What futuristic innovations are you waiting to see revolutionize the food industry?