Temperature and humidity monitoring are critical processes which must be implemented to protect consumers and help businesses run successfully. With more than 250 foodborne diseases known to researchers, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that each year 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, and 3,000 of them die due to complications. To keep those numbers down, governments around the world enforce strict regulations to ensure the proper handling of food from production to distribution.
The basics of proper food handling revolve around time-temperature abuse, which refers to the holding or storing of food in the temperature danger zone (39 °F – 140 °F/4 °C – 60 °C) for an extended period of time. The United States’ Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) states that food that remains in this zone for more than two hours should not be consumed. Whether raw or cooked, bacterial growth in food accelerates at temperatures between 21 °C and 47 °C.
Bake, boil, roast or steam; there are a variety of cooking methods for foods of all types to eliminate vegetative pathogens (Salmonella, L. monocytogenes, E. coli). Cooking temperatures and times vary depending on the product and the heat resistance of the targeted pathogens.
Thermal processing is a common lethality process used to kill microoganisms, including the spores of bacteria, in ready-to-eat products. Through this sterilization technique, products are heated at high temperatures to kill any potential toxins, making them safe for consumption at any point during their shelf-life.
It’s recommended that hot foods are cooled from 140 °F to 70 °F within two hours and to 41 °F within four hours of reaching 70°F. Bacteria can grow rapidly in food left out at room temperature for more than two hours, so the faster foods are cooled, the better. Hot food placed in the refrigerator or freezer may raise the temperature of the other products being held, potentially putting those products in the temperature danger zone.
Perishable products must be maintained at the ideal holding temperature during transportation to ensure quality. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new rules, as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, that require companies to fully disclose transportation temperature records, suggesting that food out of temperature could be adulterated. Since different foods have different storage temperatures, depending on the temperature outside, shipping conditions may need to be cooled or even heated to uphold product stability.
To ensure that such foods not only achieve their required shelf lives, but are safe for consumption by the end user, it’s important to implement proper storage procedures. The FDA recommends refrigeration units be kept at temperatures 40 °F (4 °C) or below and freezers at 0 °F (-18 °C). Temperature fluctuations during storage can trigger the rapid growth of pathogenic bacteria.
Monitoring the temperature of food through each stage of the production process and the supply chain is essential to complying with federal regulations. Maintaining the proper documentation is also required to prove the safety and quality of the product to distributors, recipients and food safety inspectors.
Data loggers are key to cold chain management, providing insurance that a product is being cooked, cooled, shipped and stored at ideal conditions at all times. Whether using standalone or wireless data loggers, the recorded data provides a time-stamped trail of the product from the time it was manufactured up until it is purchased.
To learn more about how data loggers can protect your business and the integrity of the products you produce, click here.