Steve Knuth
FST Soapbox

The Role of Temperature Monitoring and Reporting Technology in Food Safety

By Steve Knuth
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Steve Knuth

The No.1 priority for food manufacturers is ensuring their products reach customers in a healthy and safely consumable state. One of the key factors in ensuring safety is maintaining proper temperature in storage and transportation. Connected data loggers are cost-effective technology options that can save thousands of dollars and hours of hassle by alerting users to temperature issues before the only safe course of action becomes product disposal.

The traditional process for ensuring food safety in storage and transportation focuses on maintaining temperatures that are safe for the types of food or beverage the organization sells. Doing this without data logging technology means that the organization needs to appoint an individual to check refrigeration temperatures on a regular cadence and record that data by hand in case of an audit by the FDA.

Unfortunately, this method lacks 24/7 accountability of temperatures and allows for human error/neglect. If a refrigeration unit goes down outside of the regularly scheduled temperature monitoring cadence, the product can quickly fall outside of the designated safe temperatures. If the food is outside of the safe temperature range for an extended period, that food must be disposed of and will cost the organization a tremendous amount of time and money.

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This problem is equally apparent in transportation. Companies often utilize third-party transportation companies, which means they are relying on someone outside of the organization to responsibly manage and record temperatures and report back to the necessary parties. But the risk of human error and equipment failure can come into play. Temperature issues can even stem from drivers shutting off refrigeration while they sleep to save diesel fuel.

The most effective way to maintain quality control within storage and transport is by utilizing real-time data monitoring with a connected high-precision data logger. Multiple types of data loggers can be used to monitor temperatures in different scenarios. These includes traditional data loggers connected by Ethernet and wireless data loggers with Bluetooth or cellular connectivity. Each version has its role in food and beverage safety.

Connected vs. Manual Loggers

In fixed cold storage, such as within a restaurant or storage facility, an Ethernet or Wi-Fi-connected data logger is a great choice due to its affordability and reliability. For users who’d like to check temperatures on their mobile device while moving around the facility, a Bluetooth logger with mobile application support can be a strong option as well.

These loggers allow the user to get a 24/7 view of their refrigeration unit and correct issues before they lead to food disposal. For instance, if a food storage unit goes down over the weekend when no one is staffing the facility, or a restaurant is closed for a holiday, and temperatures within a refrigerator fall outside of the norm, these connected loggers will alert the user via email or text to correct the issue so they can save the product from spoiling.

One tip for using a connected logger is to set the alert feature to notify the user when temperatures reach the high and low end within the safe temperature spectrum for the food or beverage being stored. This provides an alert before the unit temperature falls outside the safe range, allowing the user to take corrective action before the product falls into unsafe temperatures.

In food and beverage delivery, transport companies are liable for temperature issues, especially if corrective action is not taken. This is where a cellular-connected data logger becomes critical. With a traditional data logger, there is no way for a consignor to know whether a temperature issue has occurred, unless it is checked manually by the driver. At that point, it may be too late to save the consignment. However, cellular-based technology allows consignors to do real-time monitoring without any interaction with the transport company.

Because many shipments are made using third-party transporters, cellular-based data loggers are becoming increasingly popular for maintaining trust between the transporter and all other segments of the supply chain. These wireless loggers also allow a trusted driver to monitor conditions while in route, allowing the driver to take corrective action before temperatures reach critical ranges.

Connected Data Loggers and FSMA

Transporters must also be fully aware of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). These regulations make quality data loggers even more important as transporters may have to verify at any given moment that food was handled properly while in their possession. FSMA also emphasizes the importance of data logging technology. The act requires food handlers to develop a plan that meets the guidelines for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), which should involve an advanced data logger. Issues with data entry, misreading and misinformation are the responsibility of the transporter, and failure to comply with these guidelines can result in seizure, injunction and recalls, all of which can damage the reputation of the entire supply chain.

With all things considered, connected data loggers are extremely cost-effective technology options that can save thousands of dollars and hours of hassle. Because they can be monitored by multiple parties, the transporter or manager of a storage unit/restaurant can become aware of issues regarding temperature before the only safe course of action becomes product disposal.

Loggers help save money in the form of legal fees, compensation and premiums, while also drastically reducing the risks of consumer illness and public relations disasters. Some data logger companies also offer free cloud storage, allowing monitoring and analytics tracking in all locations, at any time of day.

With the high costs of noncompliance in the food industry, it is important for storage managers and transporters to understand that implementing high-precision, connected data monitoring tools can help put these issues to rest.

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Steve Knuth

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