How Often to Check Product Temperatures?
A big challenge in the cold chain is maintaining temperatures that keep products safe. Whether these products are medical, cosmetic, or food products, all products need regular temperature checks to verify their safety.
The real question is, how often should you be checking your products’ temperatures?
As you might guess, the answer really depends on the type of product in question. Yes, regular temperature checks are necessary as long as you’re dealing with heat sensitive products. However, how often you should check them for safety will vary depending on what your product is. Food products that need to be refrigerated, such as meat, dairy, or seafood, need to be checked at different intervals than vaccines, for example. Often, if these intervals do overlap, it’s simply coincidence, and shouldn’t be taken as a given.
Next, let’s address temperature check intervals for each type of product. Keep in mind that these intervals are simply the minimum reqjuirement. Whenever feasible, it’s much better to check temperatures more frequently to be on the safe side.
The food products category encompasses a vast array of different items. To put it simply, food products can include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Frozen fruits and vegetables
- Meat (refrigerated and frozen)
- Dairy (refrigerated and frozen)
- Prepared and packaged food products
In short, if you can eat it and it’s not a supplement or medication, chances are it fits into this category.
For most service establishments, such as a restaurant or deli, the minimum time interval for checking temperatures is four hours. However, the best practice among restauraneurs is checking with more frequency, often at intervals of about every two hours. This is because it prevents the possibility of food spoilage should it go outside of safe ranges in the four hours between temperature checks.
The time intervals for other establishments are much the same; for instance a grocery store should also have at least one staff member in each department checking temperatures every four hours or less.
When temperature sensitive products are in transit, ensuring they get regular temperature checks is somewhat trickier. In many cases, it simply isn’t possible to conduct these checks every four hours- or at least to have a driver take those temperatures every four hours.
When it comes to safe food temperatures there’s one rule you can always count on:
Over 41 degrees fahrenheit and under 135 degree fahrenheit is the danger zone.
In this temeprature range, bacteria and other harmful pathogens are much more likely to start growing. As you might assume, the longer your food is in the danger zone, the more opportunity you give these harmful microbes to start growing exponentially.
Pharmaceutical Products (Medication and Vaccines)
Much like food products, many pharmaceutical products need regular temperature checks. However, where the majority of food products that don’t need refrigeration are non-perishable items only, there is a large portion of medications that are shelf stable (within reasonable temperatures, like room temperature).
In fact, pharmaceutical products that do need refrigeration are somewhat in a category all their own. Retail pharmacies may only need a single refrigerator and freezer to store their typical supply of medications and vaccines. Hospitals and clinics will naturally need more cold storage units, although when pharmaceutical products are in transit, they also need proper temperature control.
How often to check temperatures for vaccines and medications?
According to regulations, you must verify the temperature of your medication and vaccine refrigerators or freezers at least twice daily. Realistically, this means doing a temperature check at the beginning and end of the work day.
However, a temperature check twice daily doesn’t necessarily ensure that your cold storage units are maintaining a steady, regulated temperature throughout the day and night, when nobody is checking the temperature. Because of this, the VFC and CDC recommend using a digital temperature logger, which can take temperature readings throughout the day.