Artificial intelligence system used to catch unhygienic chefs in action in China

  • Cutting-edge technology recognises poor habits caught on camera and sends an alert to administrators via a mobile app
  • It was developed for local authorities in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province
PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 January, 2019, 5:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 January, 2019, 11:01pm

Chefs who smoke in the kitchen or fail to wash their hands are being targeted in eastern China, where local authorities are using artificial intelligence technology to catch them in the act.

The system works by recognising poor hygiene habits that are caught on camera and sending an alert to the administrators via a mobile application, news site reported on Friday.

It was developed for authorities in Shaoxing, a city in Zhejiang, based on a six-year project in the province called “Sunshine Kitchen” that allows consumers to see how their food is prepared by caterers, restaurants, hotels and school canteens.

Zhou Feng, director of the Food Service Supervision Department in Shaoxing, told the news site that if the Sunshine Kitchen project were a pair of eyes, the city’s new system would be like giving it a “super brain”.

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Combining artificial intelligence algorithm analysis and Internet of Things technology, the system searches camera footage for 18 “risk management” areas.

It can identify eight kinds of misbehaviour such as smoking and playing with mobile phones. It also recognises four positive habits, like regular hand washing and disinfecting the kitchen. And it helps to monitor environmental factors such as temperature, humidity and pest control.

At the Xianheng Hotel, where the system is in use, a large screen with a dashboard shows footage of any irregular behaviour caught on camera and data including the number of misdeeds detected in the kitchen that day, Youth Times reported.

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Eighty-seven catering companies in the city have trialled the system since last year, and the authorities plan to roll it out to more kitchens this year.

They aim to equip more than 1,000 large-scale caterers and school canteens with the system in 2019.

Zhou said it would help businesses to improve their operations as well as the regulatory authorities to effectively enforce the law.

China continues to grapple with food safety issues and the industry has been hit with scandals ranging from fake eggs to diseased pork, recycled cooking oil and mislabelled meat. Parents are still wary after melamine was found in domestically produced infant milk formula in 2008, killing six children and sickening 300,000 babies.