DELTATRAK White Paper
For the food industry, always matters, ... how to get food from point A to point B before it goes bad.
In the days prior to refrigeration and rapid transit, people were extremely limited in terms of the methods available to preserve food while moving it from one place to another. Of course, today, with the growth of commerce, the burden of keeping food fresh during transport is not only a public health issue, but a legal one.
Each year, some 48 million Americans become ill, and 5,000 die because of foodborne pathogens.
In response to such tragedies, regulation was established to prevent consumer illness, such as requiring that food be kept at temperatures below 40°F (4.5ºC) during transport.
FSMA (the Food Safety Modernization Act) signed by President Barack Obama in 2011, focuses on preventing foodborne illness by requiring specific measures when transporting food by train, boat, aircraft and truck.
Starting on April 16, 2017, shippers, loaders, carriers and receivers with at least 500 employees (and motor carriers) and $27.5 million in sales are required to comply with FSMA. (For smaller entities, the effective date was April 6, 2018.)
Refrigerated Food Transport
Refrigerated transport was created in large part to address the needs of food companies. In 1867, J.B. Southerland patented the refrigerated railroad car, a rudimentary system which utilized large blocks of ice and outside air to cool products being shipped. In 1949, inventor Frederick McKinley Jones patented a refrigeration system which enabled shippers to move food via truck.
Thanks to Jones’ contribution, the trucking industry would go on to have an enormous impact on food transportation, as food was delivered over much longer distances than before, and at much faster speeds. With his roof-mounted cooling system, Jones co-founded Thermo King, a manufacturer of transport temperature control systems which has become an international brand.
Refrigerated transportation takes the following forms: truck, train, cargo ships, reefers and air. With the advent of the interstate highway system in 1956, the trucking industry saw massive growth. An obvious result was that transport of food over long distances was much faster than before.
The Necessity of Transporting Food
Although it utilized an incredibly simple process for keeping food cold, the early refrigerated train was instrumental in the expansion of interstate food sales. Commodities produced in one region of the country could be transported to consumers in other areas.
People were able to enjoy produce from other geographic regions, and although meat was produced primarily in the Midwest and the South, it could now be shipped all over the country.
Global trade has increased substantially in recent years, resulting in the need to transport food over longer distances. The ability to move perishable products over a wide area means that many developing countries are able to participate in global commerce.
In the United States, for instance, imported commodities include crabs, lobster and several varieties of fish, fruits such as bananas, pineapples and blueberries, as well as nuts and vegetables – the majority from Mexico. The U.S. imports red meat from New Zealand, Uruguay and Australia. Providing variety to consumers, at a reasonable cost, is the driving force behind importing these foods.
Food Transport Issues
Perishable food must be refrigerated or frozen prior to shipping for the prevention of unsafe bacteria and pathogen growth. However, it is important to note that different products require different temperature parameters. Guidelines have been established, and the range of temperatures is quite extensive.
For instance, the recommended temperature for bananas is 56-57°F (13 a 14ºC), but for cabbage, the suggested temperature is 32-36°F (0 a 2ºC). For cheese, a temperature of 45°F (7ºC) is ideal. If cooled to under 26°F (-3,5ºC), poultry may be hard-chilled, which extends its shelf-life by several weeks. Typically, fresh meat and poultry must be delivered to the retailer within two days.
Keeping food at the right temperature during transport is not always easy, when consumer demands require that food be transported greater distances than in earlier decades. Studies of land transport show that, where some commodities are concerned, the distance from production to retail can be as many as 1500 miles ((2.400 km), which is definitely far enough for temperature excursions to occur.
Not only do longer distances create problems when it comes to preserving perishable goods, it has also been observed that location within a pallet, as well as the location of the pallet within a truck or container, can pose a considerable challenge. The type of air delivery system –top-air or bottom-air– can also cause inconsistencies in product temperature. The way products are loaded onto a truck (load patterns) affect air flow and cooling as well.
Improper vehicle maintenance is also a culprit because it can cause temperature fluctuations resulting from leaky roofs and door gaps, as well as condensation and ice build-up.While air transport is an effective solution for high-value products, especially those with a short shelf-life, it comes with its own set of challenges.
Not only can air transport be cost-prohibitive, but a considerable amount of time is actually spent in travel “down-time”, where product is either in route to and from the airport, on the tarmac waiting to be loaded or unloaded, or in airport storage (some airports provide cold storage).
These issues and others ultimately create spoilage, which is the greatest concern facing perishable food producers. Managing temperature during transport is one of the most effective ways to prevent spoilage.
The DELTATRAK White Paper also considers:
- Implications of Food Loss and Waste
- Bluetooth Low Energy In-Transit Logger – The Perfect Solution for Produce Shippers