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Cold chain industry's mandate for food-safe practices

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A major development in Australia’s cold chain industry within the last five years has been the ability to remotely monitor the temperature of storage facilities and vehicles while in motion, ensuring food items are transported and stored correctly at all times.

According to the Refrigerated Warehouse and Transport Association of Australia, the accurate monitoring of products, product traceability, correct handling and on-time delivery and pick-up, are the main areas covered in the Cold Chain Code of Conduct that ensures perishable food items move along the supply chain safely and efficiently.

The ability to monitor temperature throughout the transport cycle is particularly important when it comes to traceability and accountability in the supply chain and knowing, or being able to prove, that a specific food item has been transported and stored at a certain temperature.

Monitoring equipment

According to Global Cold Chain Solutions, a cold chain service provider, challenges faced by the cold chain and food industry include the use of older temperature monitoring equipment and equipment not being calibrated or read correctly, presenting a higher risk of foods being stored at incorrect temperatures.

“From a basic thermometer to a sophisticated wireless monitoring system, food manufacturers and suppliers must ensure that equipment used can be calibrated to ensure it is always measuring accurately,” Global Cold Chain Solutions director Laura Wills said.

“It must also be ensured that a refrigeration unit bears the correct rating for the Australian climate, such as sub-tropical or tropical ratings, as some European brands and new, low-cost refrigeration units imported from Asia are unsuitable for Australian conditions.”

Global Cold Chain Solutions’ flash link wireless temperature monitoring system provides continuous monitoring and complete management reporting capabilities for temperature and humidity.

It meets HACCP, quality assurance standards and other regulatory guidelines for the maintenance of environmental monitoring records, offers non-restrictive sensor placements for areas including freezers and refrigerators, and requires no human intervention, resulting in significant labour savings and reductions in human errors.

Storage and transport solutions

Global Cold Chain Solutions also offers the food industry a range of temperature-control transport solutions, including wireless in-transit temperature monitoring and thermal insulated cold chain boxes for shipping small food samples or bulk shipments for domestic and international use.

The disposable cold chain boxes are made from high-density polyurethane, an effective thermal insulation material.

Combined with gel bricks that freeze at specific temperature points, the shipments do not require dry ice, which is classed as a hazardous item and attracts a handling charge when used.

Due to polyurethane’s light weight and the thickness of the insulation panels, fewer gel bricks are required than in polystyrene boxes, which are typically loaded with an excess quantity of gel packs.

“This means less weight, reduced distribution costs, and gives the box the ability to perform in challenging situations, such as extreme heat, for long periods of time,” Wills said.

Global Cold Chain Solutions also supplies reusable refrigerated boxes that, utilising Kodiak Thermal technologies, are able to protect perishable items without the use of dry ice or power.

Containing a phase-change refrigerant and patented temperature-regulating thermal switch, the Kodiak lid is frozen in a standard commercial freezer, and a green light indicates when the lid is fully frozen.

At this point the container is packed and the lid closed.

Being a temperature-regulating technology, the Kodiak will respond to any external temperature variances, maintaining internal temperatures for the duration of the shipment.

When the internal temperature rises above the mid-point of the specified temperature spectrum, the thermal switch connects the frozen refrigerant to the patented thermal shield surrounding the payload and cools the interior.

When the internal temperature falls below the mid-point of the specified temperature spectrum, the system isolates the payload from the refrigerant and the cooling stops, ensuring ultimate temperature control.

“The refrigerated boxes do more than just store frozen material, they regulate the temperature within the cold boxes and the vacuum insulation panels protect temperature-sensitive foodstuffs,” Wills said.

Traceability

As part of the suite of information technology they provide to clients, Swire Cold Storage, a cold-chain logistics service provider, operates the Translogix Sapphire Transport Management System and Swire Warehouse Inventory Management System across all its fleets and warehouses, providing customer-specific transport and warehouse services including electronic data interface, timely and accurate information, and instant trace and track capabilities.

“Traceability throughout the supply chain is increasingly important, particularly in a situation where there is a product recall and stock needs to be located and identified promptly,” Swire Cold Storage business development manager Stephen Lanham said.

Tailored cold storage facilities

The overhead refrigeration tunnel links to an abbatoir run by Australian Country Choice.Swire Cold Storage also provides clients with tailor-made solutions, collaborating with customers in storage facility design to ensure optimum efficiency.

The company’s facility located at Cannon Hill, in New South Wales, is linked via 230m of overhead refrigerated tunnel to an adjacent abattoir operated by Australian Country Choice, the main meat supplier to Coles supermarkets.

“We have created a unique paddock-to-plate solution where cattle is slaughtered at one end and a series of automated and highly safe processes are then employed to chill, freeze, sort and store products that are destined for local and export markets,” Lanham said.

While the cold chain may not be heavily regulated in Australia, standards including HACCP and the Food Standards Code, as well as quality assurance measures implemented by food companies themselves, set a mandate for food-safe practices in the industry and must be followed.

With transportation and storage of food items being an integral part of the supply chain, food companies must ensure that a high standard of refrigeration and monitoring equipment is met by the service provider.


 

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