Keeping foods and beverages at recommended temperatures is a critical factor while they are in storage. But how do we make sure they are continuously stored correctly and are safe for the consumer? Any company that handles food must meet mandated requirements to safely store, move, and ship their goods. This requires checking temperature data at frequent intervals to make sure they meet FDA regulations for continuous storage conditions and provides proof that those thresholds weren’t exceeded.
When monitoring technology isn’t available, temperatures must be checked by someone who, with a clipboard or computer, walks to each freezer, refrigerator, or container, to make sure those storage places are kept at the correct temperatures. But human data collection also introduces the potential for human error. If a refrigeration unit goes down outside of the regularly scheduled temperature monitoring cadence, or if someone forgets to make the rounds, the product can quickly fall outside of temperature range that is designated to be safe. If the food is outside of the safe temperature range for an extended period, it must be disposed of, which could cost a food processor a tremendous amount of time and money.
Temperature Data Logging Devices
With an internet-connected data logging device, human error is far less of an issue. Technology-controlled data loggers help eliminate the miscalculations or errors that come with real-time monitoring. These data loggers allow warehouse and restaurant managers to easily collect temperature data without having to physically check in on storage. In addition, this data is stored on a server, which allows the user to show immediate proof of compliance with certain temperature-related regulations during audits.
Data loggers include a temperature monitoring sensor and data recorder that can send information to a cloud that is accessible to warehouse and restaurant managers. Monitoring schedules can also be set to any given interval specified by the individual setting up the logger—hourly or daily, for example. The logger can be set to send an immediate alert via text or email on anything that goes wrong, including specifics on what happened and identifying which storage facility or appliance needs attention.
There are many different types of data loggers and different functions that they serve. Portable data loggers allow you to monitor without a computer; some loggers come with a probing sensor that can be inserted into items such as meat to check internal temperatures and humidity monitors for food items such as certain types of produce that can be negatively affected by arid conditions, as well as those foods that require humidity to remain in peak condition.
Many data loggers can be ethernet connected, but they are also available via cellular, wifi, or Bluetooth connectivity. The communication type used will be based on the type of storage: transportation, warehousing, or in store. A Bluetooth or 4G data logger might be best for transporting goods and ethernet or wifi would be best for stationary storage, like that found at warehouses, restaurants, or grocery stores.
A recent case from a U.S. meat distributor shows how temperature data loggers can help improve the efficiency and safety of a food handling operation.
To ensure the premium quality and safety of its inventory, which averages approximately $60 million worth of meat at one time, this distributor was required to manually measure its entire inventory frequently throughout the day. This process included having employees walk around the company’s storage facilities roughly 15 to 20 times per day to manually check and record multiple temperature gauges both inside and outside the facility’s freezers and refrigerators.
The many flaws of this approach included wasted time due to inefficiency and the introduction of human error, which included potentially missing a measurement cycle or misreading the gauges, leaving a refrigerator door open after reading a measurement, and other mishaps. All of these factors threatened the security and quality of the company’s inventory. It also made the required reporting of all temperature measurements to regulators, quality inspection organizations, and the grocers who purchase the meat more difficult.
The company engaged a data logging provider to leverage its technology to automate the storage/temperature management process. They purchased multiple wireless data loggers, which continuously measure temperature data and automatically uploaded it to a cloud service to be stored and viewed from computers and mobile devices, at any time and from anywhere. This data was simultaneously collected from multiple data loggers deployed in various locations, providing real-time reports to the company’s employees.
Using the data loggers, the distributor virtually mapped out each freezer/refrigerator to determine the temperature settings that are ideal for each room’s layout. The wireless functionality of the loggers allows employees to check the status of each loggers using an accompanying app. They can even tell immediately if a freezer or refrigerator door has been left open, causing temperatures to rise. This allows the company to ensure that proper conditions are being continuously maintained in real time.
One of the key activities in handling meat is taking inventory from a frozen to a thawed state safely. The temperature of the meat must be closely monitored throughout this process. With a data logger outfitted with a food probe made for measuring internal temperature, the company is also able to dial in on the exact parameters of this process. Overall, the company found a solution in which data loggers drastically improve the efficiency and accuracy of its inventory management.
Improve Productivity and Reduce Error
Making the relatively small investment in a data logger, which pales in comparison to the potential costs of product loss, can help eliminate errors and drastically improve productivity. The inaccurate data that can lead to spoiled food is no longer a threat. Protecting the consumer is the most important aspect of the food industry and data loggers can be a simple, cost-effective upgrade that fortifies safety procedures.
Knuth is president of TandD U.S.
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