The Future of Temperature Control and Food Safety

Temperature control has always been a major food safety issue and regulators continue to turn up the heat, particularly with the new FSMA rules  around transportation. Technology plays a critical role in prolonging shelf-life and addressing other quality issues, but it also helps prevent food safety failures caused by temperature mismanagement, one of the top reasons for foodborne illness. Improper storage and failure to reach and maintain minimum cooking temperatures are key examples of what can go wrong here.

Regulatory compliance and an effective HACCP plan mean food establishments must control the temperature of products and processes, particularly for “potentially hazardous foods” like meat, fish, dairy products, and some produce, among others. Temperature matters in different ways: heating kills pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, and others; keeping temperatures low controls the growth of microbes such as Listeria monocytogenes; Clostridium perfringens or botulinum can be prevented during the cooling process for meat and seafoods.

Temperature control is relevant to the entire supply chain and to the bottom line of any food business, and requires constant monitoring and logging. It is therefore important to ask: are you using the technology that can deliver the most benefits when it comes to this critical food safety issue?

Introducing Automated Temperature Logging (25 Years Ago)

Devices that automatically monitor temperature became the industry standard some 25 years ago, replacing manual data collection on paper or spreadsheet. A little outdated today, they require manual data entry into a food safety program, which costs time and money and puts a business at risk of human error.

Today, It’s About Integration with Food Safety Software

Automation delivers greater value when it is integrated with your food safety software, so devices can automatically upload temperature data directly into the system at specified intervals. For example, freezer sensors will periodically send data to your food safety program, which is then logged for review by internal food safety experts. This also means that your data is ready-to-go for any inspection or audit, at any time.

Complications can arise over the timing and frequency of logging, particularly during transportation. It’s not sufficient– from a safety or quality standpoint– to only log temperatures at the start and end of a shipment; intervals during which temperatures were not monitored pose a food safety risk, and there is no way to prevent risk and loss before the damage is done. The problem of prevention remains if you use data loggers that upload information after-the-fact. Yet maintaining real-time records across air, land, and water requires constant access to wifi, cellular networks, or satellite. This can be difficult to accommodate.

Now and in the Future: Smart Automation of Temperature

Whether you’re monitoring product at a facility or in transit, technology now offers the next step in automation. Instead of merely collecting data, your sensors can now talk to your food safety program and your food safety program can talk back. When temperature nears pre-set thresholds, automatic notifications are sent and incident management features are launched to ensure rapid response – before a problem becomes a Problem. This not only increases efficiency, but dramatically reduces risk of spoilage and other hazards associated with temperature abuse.

Regardless of your current food safety temperature solution, it’s clear that technology will continue to deliver ever more sophisticated responses. As these solutions become more affordable and more widespread, prevention becomes key to reducing the incidence of food-borne illness.

A slightly modified version of this article was featured in Global Food Safety Resource as a guest blog. Check it out here.

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