Assuring temperature integrity during cold chain transportation in the food industry
Suppliers, carriers, retailers are all responsible for maintaining proper temperature control when perishable goods are being distributed. Cold storage and refrigerated transport ensure and enhances the quality, appearance, nutrients, flavour and also increases the shelf-life of the products. Products like frozen foods, dairy products and medical resources are extremely temperature-sensitive and need extra attention to avoid quality deterioration.
Food supply chains have to be transparent and traceable with their work. This is because the consumers want to know where their food is coming from and how it is been handled. However, knowledge dissemination as a service to cold-chain development is still inadequate. Cold chain training and awareness initiatives should be included in the list as a part of the national cold chain development initiative.
- Why is temperature integrity necessary in the food industry?
Delivering high-quality products especially in the food industry starts with the understanding that everything depends on cold chain transportation and storage. Cold storage not only retains the freshness of the food items but also increases the shelf-life. One of the biggest advantages of cold storage is that it lowers the growth rate of microorganism enzymes in the food. This prevents the food from spoiling in the long run.
Cold-chain is crucial in segments like frozen foods, dairy and pharmaceuticals. It is identified generally with fresh farm produce but there is no substitute for successful cold-chain in case of processed, fresh, frozen and medical resources.
- What are the challenges faced in cold chain transportation?
Problems like labour shortages, climate conditions, pandemics are just the tip of the iceberg. Special design standards for product specific design and delivery transport for storehouse and pre-coolers are not yet developed. Current standards are largely focused on storage instead of integrating aspects of source and market links.
- Temperature integrity consumes a lot of power. The combustion of fossil fuels can result in the emission of certain gases (like HFC) into the environment. Hence, the supply chain management companies have to keep an eager eye on not just the integrity of the goods but also their carbon footprint.
- Sometimes supplier risks are unavoidable. There are plenty of things that could go wrong with cold chain transportation. It is possible that the goods might not be properly pre-cooled before they are ready for shipment. Bad quality or spoiled raw materials or bad packaging are some of the many challenges faced by logistics companies.
- Energy options: Cold chain essentially needs an energy source for maintaining compliance to product-specific environmental parameters. Availability of energy is random and the backup is generally diesel-driven which can prove to be expensive.
- According to NCCD (National centre for cold-chai development), there are no guiding principles to assist transactional bottleneck cold-chain. This means there is an increased risk to cold-chain suppliers while handling perishable products where the service cost is disproportionate to risk and the cost of goods.
- Appropriate skill sets are essential in cold-chain but there is a prominent gap to the access of a trained knowledge base. This leads to problems like no access to trained technical skills, no specialized institutes for supply chain institutes (only on the job training) and no centre body knowledge on good cold chain practice.
- What are the innovations relevant to this scenario?
The safety of the food depends on supply chain management. Along with other technologies, real-time tracking devices and cloud-enabled monitoring systems allow real-time monitoring of the food is done in cold chain logistics operations. With real-time monitoring, the suppliers or customers can keep a track of the temperature, humidity, quantity, location and other factors. Maintaining appropriate temperatures is essential because if the products are not cooled properly, they can start to aspirate in the enclosed containers. If not paid immediate attention, this can result in product degradation. Stakeholders are now able to monitor, track as well as control a variety of factors necessary for maintaining the quality standards at each point
- How can a supply chain company assure temperature integrity is maintained?
Wet or weak packaging can mean that there was a fluctuation in the temperature. Through real-time monitoring, the supply chain company needs to keep an eye on the temperature at all times. They must ensure that the walls are in place, there should be no holes on the roof or the floor. The places where the food is stored and the means of transportation should be clean, dry and odour-free at all times.
Constant temperature monitoring while storage and transportation are critical to prevent degradation and spoilage of the products. These regulations ensure that the products that look safe are actually safe. The cold-chain companies keep an eye on the temperature while loading and transporting the goods with the help of IoT temperature sensors.
The best practices to maintain a cold chain from end-to-end include:
- Checking the packaging at the time of arrival, transport and delivery.
- Proper pre-cool inventory.
- Maintain cold storage temperature.
- Ship the products at the right temperature (Maintain the temperature at the time of loading).
- Monitor the temperature during transport.
- Ensuring that the recipients are storing the goods at the optimal temperature.
In order to ensure that the food is being kept in the best possible condition and of great quality, the supply chain companies need to be on their toes and fix any problem that arises as soon as possible. Cold chain logistics serve as a link between the production centres and the market. The success of cold chain transportation relies on how effectively it is serving as a channel from the origin to the destination for the products that are sensitive to air compression, temperature, microbial load etc with full integrity.