The Real Impact of Cold Chain Failures

The cold chain is crucial to our food supply, pharmaceutical industry, in addition to countless other consumer markets. Temperature excursions, wherein a product reaches temperatures outside of the optimal range, are one of the largest issues in the cold chain as a whole. A small temperature excursion may mean products are still safe and usable, provided that the issue is corrected in time. Unfortunately, these temperature excursions often go undetected for extended periods of time, resulting in vast amounts of waste. 

Equally damaging is the possibility that an undetected temperature excursion results in unsafe products that still go on shelves for consumers to purchase. Put simply, temperature issues in the cold chain affect everything from ROI to consumer safety. 

Food Waste

Perishable products, such as food items, are as susceptible to spoilage due to failures in the cold chain as any other product. The FDA and USDA set strict guidelines for each type of food and agricultural product meant for consumption. When these products aren’t kept in the conditions specified by these organizations, they can’t be sold to customers. This means that food suppliers and distributors are subject to regular inspection to verify their products’ safety. 

Not only that, but retailers such as grocery stores also check temperatures of the shipments they receive to ensure they’re fit for sale. If temperatures are too high, the food goes to waste, and a lot of money can be lost in the process. 

In 2019 alone, the FDA Food and Inspection Service had to recall more than 20 million pounds of food products that weren’t suitable for consumer purchase. Globally, ⅓ of all food products go to waste. In monetary terms, that adds up to an astonishing $35+ billion every year

Some of this cost impacts the supplier, and much of the cost impacts distributors that bring the perishable goods to their destination. Ultimately, these trucks do have insurance to help cover the cost, although it damages all sides of the business whether a single shipment is thrown out, or several are. 

Reducing Rejected Shipments

One way to improve cold chain efficiency is starting with the facilities that products are stored in before they’re shipped. Many storage facilities do experience issues maintaining consistently cold temperatures, and may need to be updated to maintain proper conditions. Another area that can impact the cold chain is the trucks and trailers that transport perishable goods. These trucks may have aging cooling equipment, lack proper insulation, or driver errors may occur which ultimately cause temperature excursions. 

Once products leave the storage facility, there’s a distinct lack of clarity on what’s really going on. Are the products in conditions consistently at 32 degrees? Was there an undetected temperature excursion? Will the products still be acceptable when they arrive at the retailer?

Without having some sort of presence in the transport unit, these questions are nearly impossible to answer, even for the drivers. Of course, you can’t keep personnel inside the truck with the shipment, taking temperatures every few minutes. 

So, what can you do to reduce rejected shipments?

Use the technology that’s bringing transparency and clarity to the cold chain industry. Temperature sensors for the cold chain are more relevant than ever. Imagine the global impact if that $35 billion in wasted food could be properly monitored and salvaged before high temperatures make them unsuitable for consumption. 

These temperature meters can do the work of personnel recording temperatures, and with greater accuracy, greater frequency, and at a significantly lower cost. The end result? More transparent, profitable, and efficient cold chain transport. 

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