Keeping products free from contamination and at the proper temperatures throughout the cold chain is critical to maximizing food safety and quality. “Retailers rely on suppliers to keep their frozen aisles and perishable sections stocked with high quality products that continue to result in repeat purchases,” says Doug Thurston with Cold Chain Digital Solutions at Emerson. In recent incidents of foodborne illness, produce was often identified as a primary source of contamination. “Delivering the safest and freshest products possible is fundamental to ensuring consumer safety and protecting the grower’s and retailer’s brand reputation.”
What’s at stake for grower/shippers?
Although the human impact is incalculable, the financial costs of food recalls and foodborne illness outbreaks have significant ramifications to growers and their retail partners. According to a recent food industry study, a foodborne illness incident can tarnish producer’s reputations and increase the risks of legal, financial, and regulatory penalties. The study also revealed the far-reaching consumer impact:
- 44% will avoid the brand for a few months after an outbreak.
- 20% will never return/use the brand again.
- 16% will switch to a competitor’s brand.
- 20% will return once the issue is resolved.
Retail partners may be even less forgiving and seek an alternative provider to mitigate future risks to their customers and operations.
Temperature management and handling procedures
Achieving cold chain safety is a process that starts from the point of harvest and continues through processing, in-transit shipping, and cold storage. To reduce the risks of spoilage or contamination, producers and retailers need tools and technologies to support temperature management and quality control programs. “In-transit monitoring provides visibility to ambient environment temperatures and real-time locations. Historical trip data allows stakeholders to review a shipment’s journey from its origin to its destination, supporting quality control initiatives and validating temperature setpoints,” said Thurston.
In addition to temperature management, proper handling procedures are key. “Producers and sellers must guard against every opportunity for contaminants to be introduced during each step of the perishable cold chain journey.” Cross-contamination in shipping, handling, and storage procedures -as well as poor hygiene– increases the potential for the spread of bacterial pathogens that can cause food poisoning.
Oversight mobile map and sensor report with GO Real-Time tracker unit.
Taking a proactive approach
"In addition to the financial and reputational risks of a food recall or foodborne illness outbreak, ensuring compliance with food safety regulations is more critical now than ever,” shared Thurston. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011 has ushered in a new era of food safety and shifted the focus from reactive responses towards more proactive measures. This is a philosophy that many leading growers and retailers are also adopting as a best practice.
“At Emerson, we are providing a robust technological infrastructure to support stakeholders’ quality control initiatives and help maximize perishable food safety. We’re giving producers the insights they need to see on how food is being handled, shipped, and stored at every step of the perishable cold chain.” This infographic provides more information.