April 26, 2022
iFoodDS and Cornell University Partner on a Solution to Improve the Resiliency of the Food Supply Chain
New COVID Modeling Tool Helps Food Processors Mitigate COVID Risk in Their Facilities
Seattle, Wash., April 2022 — As part of its commitment to pursuing a better, more resilient food supply chain, iFoodDS has partnered with Cornell University to offer a no-cost modeling tool for companies in the food industry. The agent-based model projects the spread of COVID-19 infections in a food industry workforce.
Users can create a free account at foodcovidcontrol.com/FOODCTL/ and input the details of their operation to receive customized projections. The model accounts for the specific conditions users enter, as well as interventions like temperature checks and COVID testing. Reports include projections on infections, absences, production capacity and economic analysis.
The first release of this tool focused on farms. Now, iFoodDS and Cornell are releasing a new version that expands the scope to processing facilities. This version also includes:
- An economic analysis that shows the total costs for each COVID intervention
- Updates for new variants and booster vaccines
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted some vulnerabilities in the global food supply chain and has added new responsibilities for food safety leaders to protect employees while maintaining essential production activities,” says Claire Zoellner, Ph.D., Food Safety Scientist at iFoodDS. “Collaborating on this USDA project has allowed us to continue our work on bringing new data tools and research to the food industry. We’re excited to share this model and see the impact it has for food producers and processors navigating in this new normal.”
The modeling tool was created with funding from a USDA grant. A team from The Ivanek Epi Lab at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine created the infectious disease model. Another team from the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business developed the economic analysis portion of the model. The iFoodDS engineering team developed the website that hosts the tool. Claire Zoellner, Ph.D., and Diane Wetherington, Founder of iFoodDecisionSciences (now iFoodDS), guided the development of all parts of the modeling tool and interface from the food industry perspective.
“This collaboration with iFoodDS is a great example of a successful and timely academia-industry partnership where each of us is contributing with what we do best in the most creative and effective ways, to provide the U.S. food industry a modeling tool that will aid their contingency planning in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” says Renata Ivanek, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Cornell University and The Ivanek Epi Lab’s Principal Investigator.
The project also benefited from the guidance of an advisory council of food safety executives from several major food processing companies.
The disease transmission dynamics are based on research studies about COVID-19 and the most current knowledge of its epidemiology. Employee characteristics and social contact networks are based on U.S. population and labor reports and expert opinions. Individual model results are calculated by running thousands of simulations based on the data each user provides. The iFoodDS and Cornell teams validated the model for various food industry sectors by running test simulations on public data.
For more information about iFoodDS and its digital food safety and quality solutions, visit iFoodDS.com. For more information on The Ivanek Epi Lab at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, visit https://blogs.cornell.edu/ivaneklab/team/.
iFoodDecisionSciences was founded by Diane Wetherington to address the food safety needs of the fresh produce industry after the 2006 E. coli outbreak associated with spinach. The company now operates as iFoodDS and offers connected food safety, quality and traceability solutions that make it easier to deliver wholesome, fresh, high-quality food to consumers. Claire Zoellner is a Food Safety Scientist on the Product team at iFoodDS and holds a Ph.D. in Food Science and Technology with minors in Epidemiology and Systems Engineering from Cornell University.
About the Cornell University Teams:
The Ivanek Epi Lab at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine is led by Associate Professor Renata Ivanek, DVM, MSc, Ph.D. This version of the infectious disease model was written by Christopher Henry, Ph.D., with support from Dr. Ivanek; Ece Bulut, Ph.D., and Sarah Murphy, Ph.D.
Aaron Adalja, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Food and Beverage Management in the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration. The economic analysis model was written by Dr. Adalja and Daisy Tang, M.S. student.