Across the globe, food spoilage, contamination and recalls are costing brands and cold store operators.
Spoilage costs money in food losses, waste and negative consumer brand perception when a less-than-fresh product hits the shelves. Contamination results in wasted time and effort to double handle effected food and even more significant brand damage if a withdrawal or recall is poorly executed.
The Global Cold Chain Alliance notes in its annual Cold Chain Customer Research Report that 77% of respondents agree,
“My cold chain provider plays an important role in my company’s food safety.”
In our last cold storage blog, we explored three brand threats to your cold store warehouse: spoilage due to incorrect temperature and date insensitivity, untraceable contamination, and the inability to account for a recall.
This month we look at best practices that help brand owners and cold store operators minimise the risks and impacts of spoilage, contamination and recalls to preserve their brand and the brand of their customers.
Keep your cool by implementing these best practices in your cold store to keep food fresh, keep contaminated food safely separated and react quickly to recalls.
Setting, maintaining and monitoring the correct temperature for each product is critical to the quality, safety, and shelf-life of perishable goods. Be mindful of zone temperatures by capturing the product temperature at the time of receipt and knowing the exact temperature of each storeroom, zone, pallet location, and production area. Only putaway product to the correct temperature zone for maximum freshness.
Another source of spoilage is holding inventory too long. In this situation, the older product gets lost in the shuffle and goes bad before being utilised in fulfilment of an order. Often this occurs while product received more recently is shipped by request or mistake.
To avoid this, track what product is received first, its grade, and storage location to optimise shelf life. Leverage system-directed picking to meet first-in, first-out fulfilment, to execute cross-docking and more efficiently fulfil lot-number specific orders.
Being mindful of zone temperature and sensitive to inventory date will keep food fresh, reduce revenue lost due to pitch and waste, and protect your brand and the brand of your customers, and retain customers up and down the food chain.
Sources of product contamination vary, but when detected, invariably result in safety alerts, market withdrawals, and in worst-case scenarios, a recall.
All three outcomes are bad news for any brand. Having effective stock quarantine protocols that will allow you to identify, isolate and track contaminated product in your cold store and further along in the supply chain. This starts by inspecting product when received to determine if it is contaminated or spoiled. If spoiled or contaminated, determine if the whole shipment is affected, then determine if previous receipts from the same supplier are affected.
After determining the extent of the issue, the affected product should be quickly diverted to a separate and isolated zone. Past shipments need to be tracked and traced by lot and batch numbers and quarantined as well. A decision can then be made to destroy or return the product to the supplier. Inventory levels and accounting records should be adjusted appropriately.
Effective stock quarantine protocols keep contaminated food separated from other stock to avoid contaminating other products.
Implementing automated systems for compliance with the relevant standards and regulations allows you to respond to a safety alert or product recall quickly. Tracking product in the warehouse to the storage zone, pallet, and to the carton level will enable you to locate, through track and trace, the affected product.
Moreover, tracking the product further along in the supply chain to the truck, pallet, carton, or receiving customer will allow you to remove the product from the entire food supply chain – from the warehouse to the shelf.
When a contaminated or recalled product is scanned out of the supply chain account for the time, labour and product costs, allowing you to account for the cost impact of a recall fully.
Having the ability to track and trace product to the lot and batch number in your cold store, and downstream to your customers, helps ensure a quick and comprehensive reaction to a recall, exceeding governmental food safety compliance requirements.
Nothing can damage a brand more than a spoiled product, or worse, a public recall.
Regardless of your role in the food supply chain – retailer, refrigerated storage, frozen food distributor or manufacturer – food safety is, and should be, the highest priority.
Confidence in your safe storage and transport processes enable you to go beyond compliance to optimise your operations for safety and performance.
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