The transport of food implies much more than one might realize at first glance.
It encompasses everything from meats, fruits, and vegetables of all types to various food ingredients.
It can also come in several forms, including powders and tankers full of liquid.
Food transportation safety is of paramount importance regardless of the type of food, however, and there are four important factors that affect it:
- temperature control
But first, let’s talk about refrigerated transportation
What Is refrigerated transportation and how did it start?
Refrigerated transportation or reefer freight is a shipping cargo with advanced temperature adjustment features.
It is built and designed mainly for climate-sensitive goods such as vegetables, fruits, meat, all-prep meals, bread, etc.
It was first introduced way back in the 1800s, in which the freight is loaded with ice and salt to maintain the food’s quality at a particular temperature.
Although the method was used for a long time, it was not as efficient as courier companies expected it to be and eventually, they stopped using it due to significant losses in profit.
But the idea did lead to a modern and efficient way to ship perishable goods without contaminating them and losing their quality.
The emergence of cold chain logistics
After this rocky start to refrigerated transportation (and following advances in refrigeration technology) authorities developed a safer and much more effective way to ship temperature-sensitive products in the form of cold chain logistics.
Cold chain logistics is the transporting of perishable produce and temperature-sensitive goods through thermal and refrigerated storing and packaging methods with logistical planning to protect the cargo’s integrity.
Cannon Logistics, for instance, offers advanced climate-controlled freights and implements strict protocols and safety measures when shipping cargo.
The chain also requires that all products be handled correctly and with care by authorised individuals only.
Why is the cold chain a key element in food safety?
The cold chain is the set of necessary steps after the process of cooling or freezing food so that it reaches the consumer safely.
It includes a whole set of elements and activities necessary to guarantee the quality and safety of food, from its origin to its consumption.
It is very important to protect food by keeping it at the required temperature during transportation to avoid the multiplication of microorganisms that may affect the quality and safety of the food.
The loss of the optimum temperature of refrigeration or freezing in any of the stages impairs the safety and quality of the food.
When the food needs to reach its destination at service temperature, (65º) heated transport can be carried out.
In this case, it will be key to keep the food with minimum temperature variations.
Transport is carried out in vehicles that are prepared to maintain the temperature of the product with the minimum variation.
The four most important factors in safe food transport
Distance from source
Safe food transport can require multiple steps over very long distances and may involve diverse modes of travel along the way from the point of origin to the point of consumption.
While some modes are relatively short-term, such as by plane or truck, others can take much longer.
Trains often travel cross-country, and food may be inside a shipping container or freighter’s cargo hold for weeks or even months.
Minimizing the distance the food will travel can go a long way to ensuring safe food transport, but that is not always possible.
The issue with long distances can be mitigated by proper regulation of temperature.
While some food and food ingredients may be transported at ambient temperatures, that is usually not the case, especially in hotter environments like deserts.
More often to ensure safe transport of food it must be frozen, or at least refrigerated, to prevent the growth and spread of microorganisms such as:
- E. coli
Issues with those same microorganisms can be exacerbated by other factors than temperature.
Imagine raw meat being stored next to fresh produce in your kitchen or the supermarket and the danger that might pose, and then imagine those same food products travelling next to each other across the country.
Cross-contamination can also occur even when a single food product is transported, however, and not even just from foodstuffs.
There have been incidents of food transportation safety where food had been compromised by chemicals that had been transported just prior to food, including even supposedly helpful chemicals such as fungicides.
Training is the most important factor affecting food transportation safety, as it plays a significant role in each of the other factors.
Those transporting food should be familiar with and able to comply with regulations that help prevent cross-contamination, which prevents materials labeled as poisonous from being transported in the same vehicle as food.
Training is also important in terms of both distance and temperature, especially in cases where, say, freezing temperatures are necessary over miles and months.
In conclusion, we have discussed what is refrigerated transportation and how did it start.
Moreover, we also mention the emergence of cold chain logistics as well as why the cold chain is a key element in food safety.
Finally, we covered the four most important factors in safe food transport.
These are some common questions on why food transportation safety is important.
A graduate (Business) from KDU, Jason Tan, is the current Business Director (Sales) for MGS Icestorm and has been associated with the company for the past 10 years.
With over 13 years in the shipping industry, he has had a significant contribution to Malaysia’s oil and gas industry in the engine and boat supply sector.
His expertise includes managing offshore catering business, offshore reefer containers, AI technology, offshore gas tanks, A60 pressurized cabins, etc. His contributions have helped establish MGS, in partnership (joint venture) with Thermo King and Honeywell to produce state of art Offshore Reefer Container products.