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The three golden rules of successful cold chain supply

Muddy Boots

The advantages to a streamlined and product quality journey created by the digitisation of the supply chain process can have an impact on the industry.

Muddy Boots by TELUS Agriculture are specialists in helping customers produce safer and more sustainable food outcomes, through supply chain management solutions tailored to industry needs.

As the food and beverage industry continues to become more digitised, companies like Muddy Boots by TELUS Agriculture have stepped up to provide cloud computing solutions for critical data points that help ensure quality management.

A new cold chain smart label is one offering from Muddy Boots by TELUS Agriculture, which promises to create a new layer of digital quality management.

The road from paddock to plate can be a long one, especially across Australia’s vast and temperate land.

One in three food products are lost or wasted along the way each year, often because of breaks in the cold chain.

The greater the distance food travels, and the more times a product is transferred between suppliers, transporters, distributors, and retailers, the more likely it is that a break might occur in the cold chain, which can cause food to spoil and lead to recalls and loss of product.

Cold chain conditions are set for foods relating to the maximum and minimum temperature requirements, and the length of time a food product can be allowed to remain unrefrigerated. Rotating stock to ensure that products are sold before reaching their expiry date is the final rule guiding cold chain supply at the point of sale.

An uninterrupted cold chain gives a guarantee that food is safe to eat when it reaches the consumer, which then avoids the headaches that comes with breaks and product losses to manufacturers and producers.

Never warmer than

The ‘never warmer than’ rule governs the maximum temperature at which food should be transported, stored, and handled.

Chilled foods might also have a keep above temperature to ensure that food is not damaged by being frozen.

While food manufacturers and producers are responsible for setting any ‘never warmer than’ and ‘keep above’ temperatures, Australian Food and Grocery Council guidelines recommend that chilled foods are never warmer than 5°C and frozen foods never warmer than -18°C.

The same guidelines recommend that chilled foods are kept above 0°C to prevent damage from ice crystal formation on the product, which can lead to spoiling.

Temperatures must also be detailed in all documents accompanying the food and communicated from each link in the cold chain to the next.

A recent study Muddy Boots by TELUS Agriculture conducted within the food retail sector identified food safety concerns around high-risk products, which were running over temperature guidelines during transit.

More than half of all trips were in breach of temperature guidelines, with 25 per cent of high temperature trips posing potential food safety risks.

Maximum out of refrigeration

The maximum-out-of-refrigeration rule stipulates the length of time a food product can be outside a temperature-controlled environment without breaking the cold chain conditions.

While time limits are set by producers and manufacturers, AFGC guidelines recommend chilled foods are not out of refrigeration for more than 20 minutes.

Frozen foods being unloaded or dispatched in ambient or room temperature conditions, should also have a maximum-out-of-refrigeration time limit of 20 minutes, extending to 60 minutes in air-conditioned environments of 5°C to 15°C and 90 minutes in refrigerated zones of 0°C to 5°C.

As another example, ice-cream, should have a maximum out of refrigeration limit of 20 minutes in chilled zones and never stored at room temperature.

The maximum-out-of-refrigeration rule are designed to help maintain the quality of produce, which can rapidly deteriorate if time limits are exceeded, and temperature limits are breached.

Muddy Boots’ study found products were spending significant amounts of time – 24 hours or more – in trailers during transit, with temperature guidelines breached during loading and unloading and along some supply routes.

First expiry – first out

Foods with an earlier expiry date should be the first selected for dispatch or use. This stock rotation principle helps to limit food waste but requires a proper inventory management system to implement correctly.

Food may be delivered out of the expiry date sequence, and the most recently delivered produce is usually also the most accessible.

This rule extends right down the supply chain from suppliers and transport hauliers to dispatch centres and retailers.

A careful record of the cold chain is the only way of ensuring that cold chain conditions remain intact.

Unclear or fractured record keeping not only fails to assure consumers that food spoilage has not occurred but could itself be grounds for rejecting goods altogether.

Muddy Boots by TELUS Agriculture provides producers and manufacturers with the tools to centrally construct quality attributes they wish to measure as well as building a tiered escalation and system-generated reports that help to create a real-time picture of operations and product quality.

Food waste and food safety

Muddy Boots by TELUS Agriculture’s cold chain solution is designed to simplify cold chain compliance by allowing producers, wholesalers, manufacturers, and retailers to monitor quality, compliance, and temperature data every step of the way.

The most critical result of digitisation would be an improvement to food safety, a reduction in waste, and an increased product shelf-life, all the while managing inventory and following best cold chain practice on one easy-to-use digital platform.

Scan it. Rip it. Stick it. Ship it.

Their cold chain smart label has been specifically designed for temperature analysis within the food industry. It is simple to apply, easy-to-use, disposable and recyclable.

Each tag is the size and thickness of a postcard, allowing it to be stuck either in or on packaging to provide accurate product temperature rather than ambient temperature. Simply scan the barcode and tear the strip for activation.

  • With a highly calibrated temperature sensor, it wirelessly transmits using open-source gateways.
  • Take corrective action of temperature abuse or damage through visible insights reporting and dashboards.
  • Allowing contactless traceability of virtually any product, from source to store.

Some of the major benefits of improved supply chain management are broken down into four key areas.

  • Easier collaboration along the supply chain,
  • Better visibility,
  • Improved efficiency,
  • Improved risk management
  • Reduce food waste
  • Improve food safety

“We plan to use Muddy Boots cold chain management as an ongoing commitment to our food safety and quality,” said Michael Rogers, health, safety, and compliance manager at Sundrop Farms.

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