Food product temperatures

The food cold chain is a temperature-controlled supply chain for the purpose of delivering food safely from the beginning of production to the end user, or from farm to fork as it is commonly known. It is also used to preserve, extend and ensure the shelf life of products such as fresh agricultural produce, seafood, dairy products and frozen food.

An unbroken cold chain is an uninterrupted sequence of refrigerated production, storage and distribution. However, even in the most robust cold chain processes, air and refrigeration temperatures can fluctuate dramatically. The causes for this can vary from defrost cycles in refrigeration systems, door openings in cold rooms and vehicles, refrigeration breakdowns, loading practices, and unrefrigerated or poorly managed loading docks.

In such events, it is not possible to determine whether food product temperatures are still at a safe level, unless the core temperature of the product is actually measured.

For example, the graph on this page shows a report from a continuous temperature monitoring system installed in a refrigerated vehicle on a journey with multiple door openings and fluctuating air temperatures. The average air temperature was 6.8°C, while the products were ≤ 2.0°C - 4.0°C for the duration of this five-hour journey.

If the air temperature had been relied on as the product temperature indicator, load rejections may have occurred and the food shipment would have been lost or taken to landfill.

A benefit and solution

Companies that implement a system such as this save time and money, and avoid food loss. Measuring food product temperatures continuously is the most risk averse way of completing a cold chain process that is compliant to HACCP principles.

Any reduction of food loss and wastage also benefits the environment by lowering greenhouse gas emissions which are harmful to the atmosphere. Global forums on food wastage have long since determined that the global food chain is a process ripe for rapid and dramatic improvement, both in developed and developing countries, and measuring product temperatures properly and continuously is seen as one of the key means for the global industry to achieve it.