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The 5 biggest challenges of food cold chain management
Changes within the food industry are rampant, spurred on by movements to deliver goods even faster to consumers while accommodating even stricter regulations by agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For many companies, these shifts are introducing additional challenges in food cold chain management.
Here are the five biggest food cold chain challenges to hit the market:
1. How you choose a carrier
One of the most significant hurdles in cold chain management for the food sector is carrier selection. While many businesses focus on the cost of their choice, they learn in a short amount of time that low-cost carriers often cost more by mismanaging products, causing spoilage and in some cases, incurring fines from overseeing agencies. That’s why it’s vital to choose a dedicated carrier that meets all your criteria and provides the following:
- On-time service
- Reliable transportation equipment
- Compliant protocols
- Knowledgeable drivers and dispatchers
It’s also recommended to evaluate your courier on a continual basis. Over time, many can become lax and decrease their level of service, which risks your product and consumer safety. While you can assess your carrier yourself, you can also entrust a third-party logistics (3PL) firm with the task. If you’re unfamiliar with carrier selection, 3PL firms are a sound investment. They’ll compare carriers in your area, as well as their capabilities, plus negotiate their rates for you, which ensures your company receives a competitive price from a trusted shipper.
2. How you manage cold chain information
Data is a critical part of food cold chain management, yet 75 percent of food waste occurs during production and distribution, indicating a substantial gap in communication and supervision by the parties involved. That’s why federal agencies, such as the FDA, are demanding the extensive collection and analysis of electronic records.
In addition to the requests outlined in Part 11 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) — better known as 21 CFR Part 11 — it’s recommended that suppliers in the food industry inspect the facilities of their distributors and wholesalers to ensure they’re producing the necessary information for cold chain records.
During your inspections, review the following factors:
- Pest control
- Standard operating procedures (SOPs)
While some features, such as temperature histories and SOPs, should be available via digital records, others are only accessible through visiting the facility. Third-party firms can conduct these audits on your behalf and check for evidence of information mismanagement, such as the absence of audit trails or modification of records.
3. How you meet regulations
A continuous challenge of the food cold chain is complying with regulations. Each year, domestic and foreign agencies develop new standards that companies must meet if they wish to continue offering their products to consumers and avoid substantial fines.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) poses a significant hurdle too, as it places the responsibility of compliance with the supplier, versus the carrier — unless the contract between the two parties specifies otherwise. Thus, if your carrier violates an FSMA standard, your company is liable.
As a way to counter stricter regulations for food cold chain management, companies are incorporating the standards of agencies into their SOPs, thus requiring every member of their supply chain to adhere to them. Businesses are also certifying their facilities and partnering with accredited couriers, distributors and wholesalers.
4. How you monitor products
One of the food cold chain challenges that have plagued the food industry for years is monitoring goods. Due to existing technology, it was cost-prohibitive and ineffective to follow a shipment on its journey through your supply chain. The downside of not doing so was an inability to see where and when a product became spoiled.
With wireless technology, however, it’s now feasible for companies to track the condition of their products from beginning to end. Bluetooth™ temperature data loggers, for example, are often sent with shipments as they provide real-time status updates to you and your courier’s drivers.
Technology has also entered cold chain food storage facilities. Newer temperature-controlled warehouses, for instance, feature self-contained refrigeration units that offer increased energy efficiency and zero water requirements, plus convenient monitoring systems that use wireless data loggers.
5. How you deliver goods
Amazon’s entry into the food sector signals a shift in how consumers receive their groceries — it also represents a new challenge in food cold chain management. Companies are now preparing for the growing preference of shoppers to buy direct, as well as opt into curbside pick-up, home delivery and more.
These changes lead to new hurdles that challenge the industry to innovate the cold chain even further. Examples of new challenges include ensuring customers pick up or receive their food within an appropriate window for maximum freshness, as well as optimizing routes and expanding distribution locations to access more consumers.
While solutions to this movement are underway, it’s inevitable that the market will need to enhance their infrastructure and streamline their food cold chain management to deliver food that’s safe, fresh and compliant with domestic and international agencies.
Counter Food Cold Chain Challenges With OCEASOFT
At OCEASOFT, we bring more than 15 years of experience to the table. Our ISO-certified company, which specializes in delivering innovative solutions for a safer world, develops compliant wireless products for temperature monitoring and more, providing your business with essential information in real-time.
Explore our product line-up to learn more about our innovative and compliant solutions.
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After several years of development following its passage in 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is now in effect. As the legislation transitions the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into a law enforcement authority, versus regulatory agency, it’s critical for shippers and couriers within the food industry to understand its impact on temperature-controlled transportation.
Carry Responsibility for Food Safety
One of the most significant changes ushered in by FSMA is how it delegates the responsibility of food safety. Instead of placing accountability with the individual or organization in possession of a shipment, such as a courier or a distributor, the burden is almost always with the producer or shipper.
Exceptions to this food safety transportation standard are contractual agreements. You may, for example, sign a contract with your courier that states they are responsible and liable for the safety of your food items during transportation. It’s essential to note that accountability can shift back to you. If your contract, for instance, assigns compliance responsibilities to a party not covered by FSMA — thus, anyone other than shippers, receivers, loaders and carriers — your company is liable for their non-compliance.
Develop a Temperature Monitoring Mechanism
In 2011, FSMA required companies to use temperature indicating or temperature recording devices during transportation. That changed, however, and the FDA now mandates that shippers and carriers implement a temperature monitoring mechanism. This requirement is perhaps one of the most critical factors in food safety transportation, as it ensures parties keep products at an optimal temperature for freshness, flavor and texture — which avoids the potential financial losses and brand damage of spoiled food entering the marketplace.
As a part of your temperature monitoring mechanism, your carrier must maintain a record of temperatures. The reason for this requirement is that FSMA mandates that couriers produce documents upon request from either you or the FDA. The most trusted method for fulfilling this food safety transportation standard is via data loggers.
Create Sanitary Procedures
Per FSMA, food transportation must follow the shipper’s established sanitary procedures. For every product your company produces, you will need to develop a set of sanitary protocols, which can detail how to load, store and transport your goods, as well as clean the transporting vehicle.
Provide your instructions in a physical format to your courier — and loaders if the procedures apply to them. If your sanitary requirements change over time, ensure your team revises the existing standards and provides them to your courier and loaders before the next shipment.
If your carrier deviates from your sanitary protocols, it’s vital your company acts, as you’re liable for their non-compliance with food safety transportation standards. Potential actions you can take include modifying your instructions to be more concise, as well as terminating your contract.
Implement a Food Safety Training Program
With FSMA’s passage, it’s critical to review your existing carriers. FSMA requires carrier personnel to undergo food safety training, which ensures drivers, loaders and other staff possess the necessary knowledge and experience to handle temperature-sensitive goods.
The FDA asks that drivers, in particular, undergo a one-hour course before starting. While the FDA is in the process of collaborating with trusted organizations to develop a set of certified classes, there are none available now to accommodate the FSMA’s food transportation standards.
It’s recommended, however, that your couriers direct their drivers and staff to similar courses. This act demonstrates to the FDA that your company and its partners are committed to educating their staff about food safety practices.
Establish Recordkeeping Protocols
As Title 21, Part 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) emphasizes, recordkeeping is significant to the FDA. As a result, FSMA mandates extensive recordkeeping by shippers and carriers. The specific focus of documentation in food safety transportation is temperature.
Carriers must provide temperature documentation on request, as well as maintain records regarding vehicle maintenance and performance, fleet movements and routes. Documents like these can often serve as evidence that your drivers understand and comply with FSMA’s food transportation requirements.
Define Preventative and Reactive Controls
Via FSMA, the FDA asks companies to be proactive and reactive. That’s why your business, as a producer and shipper, must establish a food safety plan and risk-based preventative controls, as well as evaluate hazards in your facility and supply chain.
As a part of your hazard analysis, you should identify how your company will manage these risks and counter them if they become an active hazard. You may also implement some corrective actions to alleviate specific hazards. Separate from your hazard analysis, your team should also develop a plan for recalling products.
It’s essential to note that per these new food safety transportation standards, the FDA can now recall food items without your company’s permission. They may only use this power after notifying a producer about the risk of their product and after the producer does not take action.
Meet Food Safety Transportation Standards With OCEASOFT
At OCEASOFT, we develop innovative solutions for a safer world. With more than 15 years of experience, as well as a unique understanding of the regulations surrounding the pharmaceutical, healthcare and food industry, we’ve established ourselves as a trusted and ISO-certified provider of monitoring solutions for a range of applications.
Explore our solutions today and discover how they support food safety transportation standards.
- Storing data on OCEACloud replaces up front expenses and resources such as planning for, purchasing, installing servers and manually validating the system.
- Data in the physical realm is only available and accessed on the company network. With OCEACloud, users to login with unique credentials to access data from anywhere in the world on their smartphone or tablet by downloading our free mobile apps from the iTunes App Store, or Google Play.
- Due to infinite scalability, companies can grow data storage as business needs expand; aggregate data from research and development, manufacturing, storage and shipping sites, into one cloud network.
The advantages of Cloud data storage for temperature monitoring
With today’s global marketplace and its regulations for goods, temperature monitoring has become an essential component in logistics and transportation, as well as several other industries that depend on precise temperatures and accurate records. That’s why worldwide, companies trust innovative temperature data loggers.
What is a data logger used for?
Data loggers record and monitor a variety of environmental features, from carbon dioxide to temperature. They’re a smart substitute for the manual process of collecting information, plus the data gathered is transferable to a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone for easy analysis and review.
How does a temperature data logger work?
One of the most common uses of data loggers is for temperature monitoring. All temperature data loggers work alike, as they collect data over time. Some factors, however, do depend on your temperature data logger’s model.
Factors that vary among data loggers include:
- Measurement accuracy
- Data access
Accessing your data is essential, as it gives insight into your facility, room or container’s temperatures. You can download your temperature data logger’s data in the following ways:
- USB: This type of logger is considered the least convenient, as you have to plug in your data logger to your device, which requires additional labor and time.
- Bluetooth: With a Bluetooth data logger, you avoid the process of connecting and disconnecting your devices. Instead, you retrieve the information with your mobile device wirelessly – even through packaging – and then review the data via an app.
Once data is downloaded from your temperature data loggers, you’re free to review the latest data and trends, as well as adjust your facility’s temperature protocols.
What types of data loggers do companies use?
Uses of data loggers fall into one of two categories:
- Stationary: Monitoring static areas is the goal of these data loggers. From labs and storage areas to installations and equipment, stationary data loggers keep you informed on essential assets.
- Mobile: Keeping aware of on-the-move products is the priority of these data logs. Whether you’re transporting products by air, land or sea, this data logger moves with your goods and updates you on their condition.
Based on whether a company requires a mobile or stationary data logger, they’ll choose one of the following:
- Wired data loggers: Before wireless technology, companies had to use wired data loggers. The drawback of these data loggers links back to their older technology, as well as complex, time-consuming installations.
- USB data loggers: While more convenient than wired data loggers, USB data loggers still involve some physical labor and time.
- Wireless data loggers: Those data loggers avoid the hassle and inconvenience of wired and USB data loggers. Many, like the Cobalt L3, use the Internet of Things (IoT) protocols such as Sigfox or LoRaWAN, which streamline condition updates. Others use a radiofrequency signal or communicate via Bluetooth.
What industries use data loggers?
Dozens of industries use data loggers to gain insight into temperature, light and carbon dioxide levels. Some of the most common industries include:
- Health care
- Logistics and transportation
For many of these markets, like pharmaceutical, health care and agri-food, a temperature data logger ensures products are compliant, as well as safe for use through every step of the cold supply chain. Without them, companies risk steep losses and repercussions for violating regulations, hence the undeniable importance of data loggers.
At OCEASOFT, we provide innovative temperature data loggers, which feature advanced wireless and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to deliver precise measurements you can trust. Our products also meet the strictest industry standards and regulations, including EN NF 12830 and 21 CFR Part 11.
Learn more about our temperature monitoring solutions by contacting us today.