Cold chain is as strong as its weakest link
About 48 million people (one in six Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta. And, with the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the food safety paradigm is changing from a reactive response to contamination to a proactive approach to prevention.
With FSMA changes, food producers and processors are on the frontlines accepting significant responsibility for food safety, yet it will require a collaborative approach throughout the cold chain to ensure safe and sanitary conditions are achieved.
Each partner in the process, beginning with the packing and cooling of fresh foods, moving to food processing and cold storage, to transportation, must uphold FSMA requirements to ultimately prevent foodborne illness.
Today’s cold chain shipping partners are better equipped than ever before with smart technologies that allow carriers to protect the safety of their food supply and document conditions inside refrigerated trailers throughout every step of the transportation process. Under the FSMA, a rule of the sanitary transportation practices requires time/temperature control to ensure food safety during transportation.
With temperature management telematics solutions, shippers today have real-time access to information critical to preventing spoilage and ensuring cargo safety. When these telematics solutions are enabled, carriers have visibility of temperature-sensitive cargo and their refrigeration equipment over the road. By tracking assets, managing temperatures and monitoring refrigeration unit alarms, carriers that use telematics solutions can give food producers and processors peace of mind that the integrity of their products won’t be compromised in transportation.
Intuitive dashboards to remotely monitor temperatures, door openings and fuel levels via a computer, tablet or smartphone provide full visibility into what is happening at all times. Because this technology allows fleet operators to manage their entire fleet from one system, they can change set points and other control parameters, adjust operating modes and respond to refrigeration system alarms in real-time, providing an extra layer of security. It also allows great flexibility to meet different customers’ requirements based on the different needs of the commodity.
Another sanitary transportation rule under the FSMA requires shippers to provide, upon request, a log or proof of compliance that requested temperature conditions were maintained throughout the duration of transportation.
State-of-the-art telematics enables carriers to record pertinent data to meet customers’ needs as well as comply with the new FSMA sanitary transportation rules. With this technology, carriers can easily deliver proof-of-compliance data to their customers for any given point throughout their travels.
With highly reliable data capture and storage capabilities, telematics also has the capability to generate proof-of-delivery reports for food producer and processor customers. Because a web-based telematics system is embedded in the refrigeration unit control system, it integrates with shipper bill of lading systems, so trailer temperature can be maintained within a range of the specified cargo temperature for the duration of transport.
Most robust telematics systems offer mapping, alarm and notification features to improve security and ultimately reduce risk. Systems monitor trailer arrival and departure times, flag trailers with temperatures out of range and detect unauthorized movements, door openings and fuel drops all aimed at preventing cargo loss.
As the food safety paradigm shifts from a reactive to a proactive approach with the implementation of the FSMA, the use of telematics will become a “best practice” among carriers dedicated to ensuring the safety of perishable goods. Telematics’ real-time tracking, monitoring and documenting of refrigeration units is poised to strengthen the transportation link within the cold chain and help ensure food safety from farm to table.