Cold chain, in its most basic form, is a temperature-controlled supply chain that helps keep food fresh and from spoiling while in transit. Produce, meats, eggs, dairy, and other perishable food items are all moved by cold chain where they are not supposed to have any interruption in their refrigeration while in production, storage, and distribution.
However, due to a number of reasons, there are problems associated with the cold chain logistics process that effect the safety and quality of our food far too often.
In return, one of the biggest problems is the shelf life of perishable foods is they are significantly lowered because of improper cold chain management.
In this post, we will explore the biggest issue with cold chain logistics and management, the effect these issues have on food shelf life, and if there is anything that can be done to rectify this massive problem.
Across the world, there is no single cohesive standard or law that outlines proper cold chain management. As a result, different countries and companies are left to their own devices and must determine how to properly manage perishable foods on their own.
Because they are left to make and follow their own rules, it makes is challenging for the people running these global operations to ensure all perishable food is handled properly – from production to the food then ends up on your table at home.
Technology and available resources different as well. There may be adequate cooling and refrigeration options and technology in the US, but a developing country has far less technology and adequate cooling options to keep food fresh. For instance, temperature-controlled warehouses, low-level storage facilities, or not enough cooling options can make it hard to keep food safe and fresh.
If food is not stored and cooled properly during all stage of the cold chain management process, either food spoils or shelf life of perishable foods in substantially reduced.
In order for your produce, fish, meat, and other food items to be delivered to your local supermarket, they must be transported to that location.
While a temperature-controlled warehouse has a fixed location and temperature (in most cases), a refrigerated truck or other mobile refrigeration unit may not be as reliable. Trucks and airplanes may have delays that are unforeseen, equipment may breakdown and malfunction, or the packaged perishable food item may not have been packaged properly for transport.
If any other these issues happen, or more than one at a single time, and a shipment is stranded in a remote location where help is not easily accessible, loss of food or severely depleted shelf life often occurs.
According to Dr. Noel P Greis:
“A properly maintained cold chain maximizes the shelf life of both food and drug products…the shelf life for cauliflower is approximately halved for every 5 degree drop in ambient storage temperature. The shelf life curve varies considerably across different products. Even short and small deviations from the optimal storage temperature can have a significant impact on shelf life.”
As we can see, it is essential to continuously have a reliable and efficient temperature-controlled environment for perishable foods.
A well-rounded and easy solution for better cold chain management and logistics is to use RFID technology along with sensor tech to help maintain and monitor, in real-time, cold chain.
FRID (radio frequency identification) paired with sensors allow shippers and transport companies to monitor in real-time their cold chain and keep an eye on cold chains in their transport process.
This technology can store data in an easy to access system about the locations of shipments the temperature, humidity levels, and more. Shippers can keep a close eye on their shipments to make sure they are on schedule for delivery and the proper storage and temperature conditions are being maintained.
Overall, this makes it much easier and more efficient for cold chains to be monitored closely to make sure everything is being handled properly. As a result, food is much less likely to rot and spoil and the shelf life of perishable food items can increase, or at least remain at the shelf life expectancy they should be at.