The challenge within the cold chain is to keep track of every point in the lifecycle of a refrigerated and frozen product. The Baker finds out what technology is available for the tracing and secure delivery of temperature-sensitive baked goods to client – Thea Fox

The safety and just-baked goodness of fresh, refrigerated and frozen baked items depend on proper product storage and the monitoring of storage temperatures throughout distribution.

Storage temperatures

Baked goods must be received and stored at the temperature specified by the manufacturer; otherwise at 4°C. The same applies to ready-to-eat refrigerated foods. If labelled frozen, ready-to-eat foods must be received frozen at -14°C and stored at between -14°C to -12°C. Frozen processed foods must be received and stored at -18°C to -12°C.

The stipulated product temperature must be maintained from the manufacturer’s ware-house through to refrigerated transport and the retailer’s warehouse and display cases.

Manufacturer storage

After packaging and accurate labelling of refrigerated and frozen products, they must be moved into a store room or warehouse kept at the recommended temperature as quickly as possible.

To prevent product from gaining heat, operations such as boxing and palletising should be carried out in the cold store room or warehouse. Sufficient space must be allowed between stacks and walls to allow for proper air circulation.

Storage areas must be equipped with two or more accurate and calibrated thermometers reflecting the correct average air temperature, as well as an audible or visual alarm system that activates when refrigeration failure occurs. Warehouse staff must record and date air temperatures every day.

Recipient receipt and storage

A warehouse operator must record the product temperature of each lot of delivered baked items and accept receipt only if correct temperatures and product integrity are observed.

If product temperatures are found to be warmer than recommended and / or product cases are damaged or soiled the warehouse operator must immediately notify the manufacturer and request instructions for corrective actions. These may include rejecting the shipment or applying available temperature recovery procedures such as blast freezing or placing product in low temperature areas with proper air circulation.

Retail storage

Food storage facilities should be of ample size to provide for sufficient air circulation, space between pallets and walls, and easy access for stock rotation and inventory control.

Display cases should provide proper air circulation and be equipped with accurate and calibrated thermometers located in one or more places so as to register the representative air temperature of the unit. Air outside the display case should not exceed 24°C and 55% relative humidity.

Transportation – product tracking

In the Volume 17 Number 6 issue we discussed vehicle and loading specifications in detail. This time we look at how product tracking is used to safeguard delivery.

The use of telematics in the form of GPS / GPRS is well entrenched in protecting fleets and their consignments. But what exactly is a product tracker and how does it work?

Sensors in tracking systems – either radio wave or Internet (cloud) based – monitor the temperature and humidity of products and can detect if the temperature for a specific food item goes above or below the ideal temperature at any given time, and record it. Monitoring is continuous – from the manufacturer to the retail store.

Radio frequency identifi-cation (RFID) is a wireless tracking system using a tag attached to an object. Two-way radio transmitter-receivers, called interrogators or readers, send a signal to the tag and read its response, which may be a unique tag serial number only, or product-related information such as a stock number, lot or batch number, or production date. The reader then transmits the information to a computer system.

Active RFID tech¬nol¬ogy com¬bined with a GSM /GPS /GPRS loca¬tion is considered the most suit-able to trans¬mit real-time information. (Active versus passive RFID: The active tag is battery-powered and thus always operational. It is constantly “looking for” for a reader’s signal. The passive tag is dependent on energy conveyed by a reader to power up and transfer its data.)

Cloud-based tracking systems make use of a remote wireless temperature data logger (RDL) installed at a facility. The RDL samples data every 10 minutes and automatically uploads it via the local cellular network to the Internet. Using a standard internet browser, users log in to the cloud provider’s portal to view, download and print current and past temperature data.

In both RFID and cloud applications, information can be viewed 24/7 via the internet, from anywhere in the world. Temperature and other performance violations are reported immediately via SMS and/or email to enable pro-active management.

Suppliers

ColdCloud, a cold chain management solution from Beyond Wireless Technology, allows the user to remotely log the temperature at every point of the cold chain, and to receive alerts should the temperature deviate outside the specified range.

Ikhaya Automation Systems, a member of the Serco Group, provides GPRS-controlled real-time temperature monitoring for industrial refrigerators and freezers, cold rooms and refrigerated vehicles.

RFID Institute SA provides expert services to all organisations and companies wanting to implement the system. RFID tags and readers are available from Cooltrax, Taggit, Techsolutions and Zetes.

Cooltrax is a global provider of RFID technology and internet-based tracking software providing real-time cold chain monitoring and tracking of temperature-sensitive products, display cases, warehouses and reefers.

Taggit customises RFID solutions through a choice of low, high and ultra-high frequency active or passive tags.

Techsolutions tracking and asset management solutions utilise barcode, active and passive RFID, RTLS (real time locating systems) and GPS. The company also offers integrated RFID tags, RFID readers, scanners and printers from leading international vendors. The barcode and RFID tags are suitable for tagging assets made from various materials including metal, plastic glass and wood.

Zetes provides low, high and ultra-high frequency active and passive tags, and RFID readers and printers.