Our expectation for the availability and quality of perishable goods has significantly changed over the years thanks to rapid urbanisation, technological advances and innovations in food production systems. This requires a cold chain network that can handle the demand for products that are easily susceptible to spoilage, and avoid loss due to poor quality or expired shelf life.
Food spoilage is an urgent problem in the food industry. About a third of all global fresh fruits and vegetables are discarded each year because their quality has dropped to below acceptable levels, totalling more than $35 billion a year. A considerable amount of these food losses are caused by ineffective cold chain processes and management.
Why does food loss occur?
Food losses occur due to a reduction in quality and safety standards, driven by consumer preferences, particularly in developed countries. Approximately 50% of losses occur during the packaging, pre-cooling, transportation and storage of these fresh agricultural products.
As food makes its way through the various stages of the cold chain, it becomes more challenging to keep produce at optimum conditions. Each stage has the potential to significantly degrade the macro and micro-nutrients of a product and reduce its shelf life.
Keeping perishable foods at the required temperature (between 0 and 5 degrees for chilled foods and never warmer than -18 degrees for frozen foods) as they move through the supply chain is key to ensuring they stay free from contamination and spoilage. While an uninterrupted cold chain guarantees that food will be safe to eat when it finally reaches the consumer, any breaks in the chain or improper food handling can reduce shelf life and more importantly, seriously impact human health.
Maximising shelf life
Shelf life is defined as the length of time a product may be stored without becoming unsuitable for use or consumption. While several factors determine the perishability of cold chain products, the temperature is the most important since is directly related to the rate of product deterioration.
A properly maintained cold chain maximises the shelf life of perishable foods. For example, the shelf life of cauliflower is approximately halved for every 5-degree increase in ambient storage temperature. Even short and small deviations from the optimal storage temperature can significantly impact shelf life.
Embracing new technology
It is critical to accurately monitor the temperature of perishable foods while in transit to prevent food safety issues and maintain product quality. However, more than 90% of perishable foods are still not refrigerated, representing a huge opportunity for improvement in the global cold chain.
Current solutions are based on the assumption that the ambient temperature products are stored at, equals the actual product temperature—yet ambient temperature can vary significantly from the actual product temperature. Until recently, there has been little innovation in the sector, with marginal advances in monitoring technology.
An integrated solution that combines quality, compliance and temperature will drastically reduce loss and ultimately extend shelf life through real-time alerting and proactive management of temperature abuse. Without the appropriate technology for accurate temperature transparency at every stage, it's nearly impossible to know the state of a product as it moves through the cold chain.
The modern cold chain has been increasingly discussed as an opportunity to close the gap on food loss and carbon emissions, especially in the developing world. 25 to 30% of the food produced for human consumption is lost before it even makes it to market, showing a level of inefficiency that has serious economic, social and environmental consequences.
By improving shelf life and reducing food loss, you can drive additional sales—essentially turning a potential cost into a profit.
If you would like to know more about accurate product temperature monitoring in your supply chain, get in touch for a no-obligation demonstration.