Leveraging Technology for Safer Food Distribution

By Jaan Koel

With the advent of new rules and regulations driven by FSMA, GFSI, CFIA, FDA, and others, food production is considerably safer than it’s ever been. And the good news is, it will keep getting better.

It’s one thing that food production standards are increasing.  But even if the best practices are being followed, what good is it if food quality and safety are compromised along the way?

One of the main issues is refrigeration. Another is time. Making sure food is kept at the right temperature for the right time throughout the supply chain—from when it’s produced to moment we sit down to eat – is not always easy.

“One of the weakest links in the food safety chain is transport”

“One of the weakest links in the food safety chain is transport,” says Lennart Ahrne, former business development manager at Tetra Pak International, and former managing director of Nordfalks Industri AB of Mölndal, Sweden.

“It’s something that’s left up to drivers of transport vehicles,” says Ahrne. “They have quotas to meet, schedules to keep, and costs to manage. Drivers are well trained to understand how important keeping time and temperature values at a safe level when transporting food products, making sure they get to the dinner table safe and sound.”

Innovations continue. One in particular is the use of solar panels to refrigerate foods in transport trailers, offsetting the need for diesel fuel, minimizing  greenhouse gasses, and saving money. Others involve recent advances in sensors—those that  monitor temperature ranges and adjust as needed while goods are being transported.

While many of these innovations involve the air cargo market, they are also appearing more and more in ocean freight, train, and truck travel. Logistics providers such as DHL, FedEx, UPS, Kuehne+Nagel and DB Schinder all provide solutions that utilize sensors, either based on GPS or RFID, for tracking and monitoring temperature and humidity levels throughout transportation. Web-based, real-time monitoring, including report generation, are another vital part of the picture.

“I remember when 3M came to Tetra Pak years ago and presented their time and temperature monitoring strips that could be applied to pallets.  It was a great step forward, and something that was definitely in the forward thinking of food safety,” says Ahrne.

He also made the point that food safety in transport has a lot to do with the time it’s left on the curb while being delivered. “Obviously, the more time in warm temperatures, the more risk it creates to consumers.”

That’s all part of transportation protocol.  But is it regulated enough?

Many advancements suggest it is:

In the USA, for instance, officials of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) finalized the rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food in 2013.  The goal of this rule is to prevent practices during transportation that create food safety risks, such as failure to properly refrigerate food, inadequate cleaning of vehicles between loads, failure to properly protect food and failure to prevent cross-contamination.

The rule is built on four key areas: Vehicles and Transportation Equipment; Transportation Operations; Training; and Record Keeping.

Meanwhile, the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) requires food businesses to have preventive controls in place to identify and manage food safety risks before products are sold to consumers.

“Strong preventive systems, such as traceability and food safety controls, protect Canadians through the identification and management of food safety risks. They also boost the competitiveness of food businesses across the supply chain, from farm to retail, at home and on the world stage,” says Lisa Murphy, head of media relations for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Food production facilities are safe as ever these days. Warehouses, including those on wheels, which get the food we eat to our tables, have caught up as well.




About the Author

Jaan Koel is a respected food safety writer with a substantial portfolio developed over many years of front line writing experience. He began contributing to GFSR six years ago and is a regular contributor to other industry leading business-to-business publications. Aside from his expertise in the area of article writing, he has developed a strong credibility writing in the areas of corporate communications, public relations, government communications and marketing.


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