(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the December/January 2018 issue.)
Food Safety Modernization Act’s (FSMA) Final Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food consists of rigorous demands that leave food transportation businesses vulnerable to error and, in turn, FDA penalties. These penalties are not only harmful to reputation, but can also incur serious financial harm on a company’s bottom-line.
While the law was enacted with the best intentions to prevent food from becoming contaminated, it leaves transportation companies questioning their traditional methods regarding efficiency.
Digital, all-in-one, food safety solutions can assist companies in protecting their products while mitigating the likelihood of recalls, lawsuits, and bad publicity leading to reputation loss.
The final rule calls for shippers, loaders, and receivers to execute best practices as it relates to sanitation, proper refrigeration, cleanliness of containers, and recordkeeping. A breach in these procedures may inflict serious consequence and increase the likeliness of food waste, which is becoming an epidemic within the global food chain.
Companies must ask themselves: What is the best way to execute best practices?
New technologies have become prevalent, allowing businesses to detect, manage, and respond to suspected food safety threats quicker than primitive pencil and paper recording methods.
However, arbitrarily picking a technology isn’t prudent. Every organization needs to agree on expectations and goals in a uniformed fashion—especially true in the food transportation industry, where a myriad of threats occupies the day-to-day operations within this field.
Sanitation. Regulatory controls call for sanitization checks to be implemented under Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines. Maintaining a regulatory sanitation program is important for all businesses within the food and supply chain marketplace to ensure that containers, facilities, and other materials are clean. This process is paramount to eliminating the risk of product contamination, cross-contamination, microbiological issues, pest activity, and mitigating the spread of allergens; as the improper handling, preparation, and loading of food puts both an organization’s employees and its customers at risk.
Consequences of improper sanitation practices can lead to the increased risk of a foodborne outbreak. Take for example, Chipotle, who in 2015 suffered five outbreaks where “three of those five outbreaks were associated with naturally occurring bacteria in food (Salmonella and E. coli) and possible food mishandling.”
Additionally, Chipotle exemplifies another major impact of sanitation neglect: reputation loss. Proper sanitation practice certainly aids efforts, but a larger concept that looms and is challenging to measure is that of “Public Trust.” A company can do all the right things, but one mishap can change its perception instantly.
In order to strengthen reputation, a company must improve its ability to meet expectations. In an age when far-reaching social media channels have significant influence on consumers and the media alike, it is important to monitor public sentiment constantly.
A study by the Harvard Business Review states that “at least 20 percent of stories in the leading media be positive, no more than 10 percent be negative, and the rest neutral.”
While these numbers on the surface don’t seem intimidating, they can inflict a significant amount of brand damage, as reputation damages inflicted an 82 percent profit loss for Chipotle in 2016.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who execute best practices are more apt to meet the expectations of their customers. Studies have shown that the opportunity cost of satisfied customers can result in 2.6 times more revenue than relatively satisfied customers.
Food transportation businesses must ask themselves which side they want to be on.
Temperature control. A prevailing trend in the cold chain is the focus on quality and product sensitivity. With an increase in demand for premium products, shippers must maintain the integrity of these loads, as a change in temperature may jeopardize the quality and taste of these goods. Not only do shippers, loaders, and receivers need to ensure the temperature settings are correct for transport and arrival, but they also have to combat the following factors:
- Exterior heat. When temperatures increase outside, the metal of trailers absorb this heat and transfers it inside. Reefers must be calibrated to handle heat increase or spoilage will occur.
- Residual heat. Once heat rises within a trailer, it tends to remain. The insulating materials within work together with the load to capture and radiate the heat within.
- Infiltration heat. Any opening or holes within a trailer allow for warm air to enter and cold air to exit, increasing the likeliness of spoilage.
- Respiratory heat. Natural heat produced by product respiration is standard; however, certain products give off more than others. Respiration can be mitigated by keeping these items at cool temperatures. If your trailer is compromised, so too will your delivery.
If these types of heat issues end up compromising the shipment, they become known as “excursions”— typically unwanted temperature events that occur during manufacturing, storage, transportation, and distribution.