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folder Instrumentation and leak detection

Monitoring success

Jason Webb, managing director, Electronic Temperature Instruments (ETI) discusses how supermarket refrigeration temperature monitoring is the future for food safety and preservation.

Amidst rising energy costs and the current fruit and vegetable shortage biting the UK, preservation and avoiding food waste is a prominent challenge for many supermarkets. Many are implementing measures to equip consumers with the means to preserve their food for longer, such as Co-op removing ‘best before’ dates on many of their fruit and veg products. Supermarkets are having to look introspectively at how they store and stock their produce in the safest, cost effective, longest lasting means. 

Due to the cost of living crisis, consumers have changed their purchasing and usage habits. Therefore supermarkets must facilitate these expectations and necessary changes. In another move from Co-op earlier in 2022, it removed ‘use by’ labels on its own-label yogurts. This followed a study from the Waste Resource Action Plan (WRAP) that found 42,000 tonnes – worth £100m – of yoghurt is thrown away from home fridges every year. This response from major supermarkets should help to enforce a change into how consumers approach their own food consumption and wastage. The responsibility of good quality, safe and reliable storage, before reaching the customers refrigerator, depends on the methods deployed by supermarkets to ensure maximum longevity of their fresh produce.

A key factor in this challenge is how produce is stored within supermarket refrigerators and cool rooms. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is a legal requirement for businesses to store cold foods at 8°C or below. This temperature must be monitored and maintained at all times to ensure the prevention of harmful bacteria, such as e-coli and listeria. 

There are steps that must be taken to ensure the consistency of these temperatures as per the recommendation of the UK Food Standards Agency. Things such as not overfilling the refrigerators as a means to reduce the energy consumption, may appear to be an attractive cost-saving initiative, yet it endangers the consistency of temperature within the refrigerator. 

Overfilling reduces the cold air circulation within the refrigerator and can lead to warm pockets forming and spoiling produce, even when the refrigerator as a whole has its temperature set correctly. It is essential that when both economic and environmental discussions are happening, food safety and standards remain at the heart of the conversation.  

An appropriate step to safe, consistent and long-lasting food storage is to have high-quality monitoring equipment placed within the refrigerators. 
Real time temperature monitoring streamlines processes and procedures enabling all catering facilities, from supermarkets to independent cafes, to act immediately should any unforeseen issues arise. Wireless data loggers transmit data via the cloud which is stored locally on PCs and other devices. This means the user can access real, live temperature monitoring data wherever they are saving tremendous time and, in turn, money. 

While it may appear challenging for larger supermarket sites to combat this, technology has advanced to a point where individual refrigerators can be closely monitored and fed back to users and alert them of any inconstancies or changes. This real time live tracking of temperatures streamlines processes and procedures and enables supermarket staff to act immediately should any unforeseen circumstances arise. 

Technology allows for the transmission of data from the wireless data loggers directly to the cloud, which is then accessible remotely and stored locally on PCs and other devices. This means the user can access real, live temperature monitoring data wherever they are. Quick response action such as this can help save any food wastage through unexpected events, and potentially incurring further costs to the businesses. 

At present, supermarkets are grappling with the challenge of maintaining consistent stocking levels in their refrigerators and cool rooms. This poses significant difficulties for their operations and frontline staff. 

Legal requirements mandate that certain activities in the food supply chain must be carried out within specific temperature ranges. Consequently, it is imperative to monitor temperatures across various stages of the process. 

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans stipulate temperature guidelines for delivery, pre-cooking storage, and reheating. It is vital for food handlers to receive proper training, and appropriate measures should be implemented to safeguard the brand, business, staff, and customers. 
Supermarkets are bound by the same food safety regulations as restaurants and other food and beverage service providers. Therefore, stores can adopt the same HACCP-based safety protocols employed in the food processing industry, customised to suit different conditions and production requirements.

The application of HACCP principles is crucial for safeguarding food from various safety hazards including biological, physical, and chemical contaminants. By implementing controls that prevent direct and cross-contamination, food safety risks can be mitigated throughout the entire supply chain, from production on the farm to transportation, storage, and retail processing. 

Raw animal products, like meat, eggs, fish, and shellfish, pose a significant risk due to their potential to carry harmful microorganisms that can harm consumers, particularly poultry. Additionally, hazards to food safety can arise from surfaces and equipment in retail stores. 

Supermarkets and other food and beverage service providers have taken a proactive approach towards their catering operations in order to ensure business continuity and maintain the safety of their customers and employees. They understand that maintaining the quality and safety of perishable goods is a race against time, and any delay or failure to maintain optimal conditions can lead to significant financial and reputational losses, not to mention potential health hazards. 

The ongoing supply chain disruptions, previously a result of Brexit, Covid-19, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, but now due to unseasonal warm weather in parts of Europe, has demonstrated the responsiveness and adaptability of the UK food supply chain. Despite the numerous challenges and hurdles faced, the UK’s food industry has shown remarkable resilience, with stakeholders at every stage of the supply chain working tirelessly to ensure that food products reach consumers. 

One of the unsung heroes is food temperature monitoring, which has played a crucial role in ensuring that perishable goods are stored at optimal temperatures, preserving their quality and safety be it in supermarkets or in transit. 

With the current challenges expected to persist in the foreseeable future, food temperature monitoring will continue to be an essential tool for supermarkets. By providing real-time information on the temperature conditions in storage facilities and during transportation, this technology helps to prevent spoilage and minimise waste. This will ensure that consumers have access to fresh and high-quality food products and will limit any damage to a supermarket’s reputation.


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