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Australia’s Food Cold Chain Challenge

April 8th , 2021 by

A massive $3.8 billion per annum in estimated food waste can be attributed to deficiencies in Australia’s cold food chain, according to a study sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

These losses could be “better predicted, avoided, or reduced” with improved food handling and temperature monitoring practices, the report claims. This includes more accurate measurement of food temperatures and the use of emerging monitoring and reporting technologies.

The report, titled Study of Waste in the Cold Food Chain and Opportunities for Improvement, is the first to calculate dollar losses linked to cold chain practices. It breaks down these losses into the follow product categories:

  • Fruit and vegetables: 25% loss of annual production, valued at $3 billion
  • Meat and seafood: 3.5% loss of annual production, valued at $670 million and $70 million respectively
  • Dairy: 1% loss of annual production, valued at $70 million.

When does food waste commonly occur?

While it’s more likely to occur during transportation and handling than at stationary points, the study highlights that food waste can happen all the way along the supply chain.

The causes are many and varied, however inadequate temperature management during transportation and handling, in loading docks/bays, in cold rooms or when on display in retail display cases is a common cause across product types (fruit/veg, meat, seafood, dairy).

What improvements need to be made?

The report identifies areas for improvement across the following key areas:

  1. People: training and education to ensure practices are well understood and consistently implemented.
  2. Processes: improved loading, hygiene, temperature monitoring and product traceability practices.
  3. Equipment: better repair and maintenance and other factors that contribute to poor equipment performance, such as poor insulation.

Across all food sectors, the report recommends:

  1. Improved traceability throughout the cold chain, including better record-keeping – because “good records enable sound decisions to be made where the cold chain conditions have been broken.”
  2. Improved equipment and insulation standards.
  3. Better performing refrigeration systems  that are “well maintained, easy to operate, easy to interrogate on the shop floor and remotely, and understood by all users.”
  4. Training and educational materials covering storage, handling, temperature measurement, packing and transporting.

The report also provides recommendations specific to each section of the food chain, including transportation, storage/warehousing, retail and foodservice (see pages 23-25).

What technologies are recommended?

Technologies are well suited to performing accurate temperature measurement and recording traceability across the cold food chain. The study recommends the use of core temperature probing and emerging Internet of Things technologies to achieve this.

It acknowledges that “knowing which type of thermometer to use is a skill” and advises against simple technologies such as infrared thermometers, which don’t provide a true indication of product temperature.

It also recognises that optimal temperature varies, depending on the product, and that air temperature – while a useful indicator of equipment performance – is not an accurate reflection of food temperature, which “depends on many parameters such as the food’s thermal properties, packaging and airflow.”

These recommendations are consistent with Monika’s own product development and research over the last 30 years. Our digital food safety system, MonikaPrime, is premised upon the principles of core temperature measurement, equipment performance management, and food traceability – from the point of delivery to the point of service.

Monika’s technologies currently play an important role in the retail and foodservice sectors – and we are developing new ways to integrate our technology with other parts of the cold chain. To find out more, contact us for a demonstration or initial discussion.

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