Refrigeration standards in the food supply chain

Food products and ingredients of all sorts move through the food supply chain (FSC) daily, and so much of it is quickly perishable, making freezing or refrigeration necessary from the producer to the end user. [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]

But, with such a wide variety of products being transported and often warehoused, a single standard for refrigeration doesn’t apply. There are several standards, and many sources for those standards.

For products in the National School Lunch Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sets the refrigeration standards. The standard is 0 degrees or below for transport and storage of frozen food products, 34 to 40 degrees for refrigerated products, 50 to 65 degrees for products requiring conditioning (an air-conditioned environment with low humidity), and no more than 80 degrees for products that can be moved or stored in ambient (non-conditioned) environments.

For almost all other perishable products in the FSC, the processors themselves set the temperature requirements for transport and storage, with oversight from federal regulators. Those requirements should be outlined clearly in the bill of lading, the document that details the type, quantity and destination of the good being carried.

Examples of temperature requirements include minus-10 degrees or colder for ice creams, 0 to 32 degrees for frozen foods and 33 to 36 degrees for a variety of refrigerated foods. Specialty items such as pasteurized products, drink ingredients and crab meats and seafoods have their own specific refrigeration requirements.

Digital devices, such as imbedded time-and-temperature recorders, or TTRs, are used to monitor and record the temperature of food products during shipping. When perishable foods arrive at a cold storage site, infrared guns can be used to “shoot” the food packaging to gauge their temperature. If any of the packaging is found to be warmer than it should be, best practices call for the shipment to be refused. The shipping container (usually a truck trailer) is closed, the source food processor and proper regulatory agencies are notified, and further instructions are sought.

CREDIT

column by BEN ADAMS, JR.

BIO: Ben Adams, Jr. is an owner and president of Adams Cold Storage, LLC. He has been directly involved in citrus production, warehousing and distribution, as well as state and community support, since 1980. His current facility incorporates 200,000 square feet of multi-temperature warehousing, with an extensive expansion plan on the horizon. [/emember_protected]