Announcing new open source hub for food safety information
Photo: R. Stone
Open Source Food Safety has launched a new initiative and website opensourcefoodsafety.org for the benefit of regional food systems. Food safety is important to everyone, but the information food-related businesses need to make safe products isn’t always affordable or easy to access. The Open Source Food Safety Initiative is setting out to change that.
A collaboration between the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Humanities, Underground Food Collective, Sarapis Foundation, and open source software developers, the Open Source Food Safety Initiative aims to make information about food safety free, publicly available, and easy to understand. This project emerged out of a Kickstarter-funded campaign in 2014 that has raised $49,000 to date, and received national press on NPR’s Salt, Eater, and The New Food Economy for its innovative approach to helping food businesses navigate the complex world of food safety regulation.
Normally, this information is copyright-protected and food businesses have to pay consultants tens of thousands of dollars to access it. To date, Open Source Food Safety Initiative collaborators have assisted over 20 restaurants and plants with their HACCP plans, thereby bringing the cost of starting a business down and generating for them an estimated quarter million dollars of value.
Now, the initiative’s new website is taking its approach to collaboration around food safety information to the next level. This new hub, www.opensourcefoodsafety.org, hosts Creative Commons-licensed Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans and invites people to share their own plans, commenting on existing plans and adapt plans for their own businesses. The free, familiar, and easy to use online tools makes all this (and more) possible.
“We think this is an incredibly innovative way to help small processors tackle food safety issues,” said Jonny Hunter, project founder and Underground Food Collective co-owner. “We hope processors will not only use this information, but contribute back – strengthening the overall safety of our food system.”
“This project is a delicious example of how widely used free software tools like Google Docs and open source collaboration techniques can be used to improve our food system,” said Devin Balkind, founder of Sarapis Foundation. “This effort not only lowers the cost of starting businesses while increasing the availability of awesome food. It also invites people to imagine other ways food producers can use collaborative technologies to work together and transform their industry.”
Sharing HACCP plans is just the beginning. The Open Source Food Safety Initiative aims to provide food businesses with multi-media guides to navigating food safety regulation, including step-by-step videos that document the process of validating and verifying HACCP plans, interviews with food scientists, and blog posts tackling common food safety issues faced by processors. Their website also hosts a forum for discussion around food safety issues.
Those interested in starting or building a food business, strengthening knowledge infrastructure for regional food systems, or simply invested in the safety of our food system can visit www.opensourcefoodsafety.org to use and modify food safety plans featured on the site, and can share their own food safety plans with others as open source documents by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
For project updates, subscribe to the Open Source Safety Initiative’s blog, join their Google Group, or check out their Facebook page