It’s the dead of summer and a truckload of fresh beef is making its way from the Texas Panhandle to a distribution center in Tennessee. Somewhere around mile 670, in western Arkansas, the truck breaks down.
A quick assessment by the driver reveals it’s a major breakdown and backup is called. In total, the trailer goes without refrigeration for 37 minutes, and for a sensitive product like fresh meat, the quality and safety is severely jeopardized.
“Temperature control is essential to control bacterial growth. If the temperature becomes compromised, then a food safety risk can show up,” said Dave Theno, CEO of Gray Dog Partners Inc.
Preventing that kind of risk is at the heart of the sanitary transportation rule that Congress mandated with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). But compliance isn’t the only reason for those in the food supply chain to keep it cool.
“There is an economic driver for it too. Shelf life is set on maintaining a product properly. If a product withstands a major temperature increase, it may reduce shelf life and cause it to spoil early, which leads to additional charges,” Theno said.
One way for food companies to monitor the safety of their products during transportation and to comply with the FSMA final rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food is by using real-time monitoring devices that track location and temperature.
Doug Morris, director of safety and security operations at the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), said this type of technology is not only essential for food companies to keep and eye on their products, but for truck drivers to do their part in ensuring the delivery was done correctly.
“In the old days when a driver ran out of fuel and the temperature took a spike, he might not have known if the products remained cool in that time period, but could have gotten the temperature back to where it was supposed to be once the truck was fueled up again,” he says.
“But the high tech they are using now can tell if trailer doors have been opened and if it warms up even a couple of degrees.”
In researching a white paper, Par Technology Corp. found that annually between 5 to 10 percent of food companies are subjected to “excursions” — aka unexpected temperature events — in the manufacturing, transportation and distribution chain. The yearly cost to the food industry is dear. According to the white paper, there are four main excursions:
- Exterior heat – A trailer’s absorption of outside heat, which impacts the inside temperature.
- Residual heat – Retention of heat in a trailer after a temperature spike.
- Infiltration heat – A compromised trailer looses cold air or has warm air enter through holes or cracks, making the temperature unstable.
- Respirator heat – Heat created by product respiration.
All of these kinds of excursions can happen during transportation, placing an additional weight on transporters to deliver uncompromised products, and making them the biggest supporters of real-time tracking technology.
“Transporters are the biggest link in food process chain because that is when the food itself can be contaminated or adulterated. A driver can’t just get in a truck and drive from point A to point B. He has to constantly monitor for a lot of things most people aren’t aware of,” Morris said.
“Foodstuffs they are hauling are less likely to be contaminated if the proper procedures are followed and the right technology is used.”
Editor’s note: Watch for Part 4 of this series, which includes information about high-tech solutions to help food companies meet FSMA requirements, scheduled to publish Jan. 30.
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