What is Cold Treatment?
One of the biggest headaches for fruit exporters and importers is the Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly or Moscamed). Cold treatment allows the fruit fly infestation to be dealt with whilst the goods travels in containers before they arrive at their destination.
Who would be interested in cold treatment?
Cold treatment is of interest to exporters and importers of fruit, particularly citrus and some stone fruit. The exporter is responsible for ensuring treatment is carried out, whilst it is in the interest of the importer to alert the exporter to the fact that treatment is required in order for the fruit to be accepted into their country.
Types of cold treatment
There is no one single treatment that is suitable for all destinations and products. However, the phytosanitary authority in each country sets a protocol which covers the conditions that should be met in terms of temperature and duration.
In any event, all cold treatment protocols should uphold two conditions depending on the destination country and the type of product:
These are some of the countries that require certain citrus and stone fruit products to undergo cold treatment, and their protocols:
- 10 days ≤ 0ºC
- 11 days ≤ 0.55 ºC
- 12 días a ≤ 1.11ºC
- 14 days ≤ 1.66ºC
- 16 days ≤ 2.22ºC
- 14 days ≤ 1.11ºC
- 16 días a ≤ 1.67ºC
- 18 days ≤ 2.22ºC
- 15 days ≤ 1.1ºC
- 17 days ≤ 1.7ºC
- 21 days ≤ 2.1ºC
- 17 days ≤ 2ºC
Cold treatment gets rid of fruit fly infestation and stops it spreading to parts of the world where it does not exist, all without the need to use insecticides that can damage the fruit.
How can we find out what the cold treatment conditions are?
The exporter should contact their client to find out about restrictions and legislation in the destination country relating to the product to be exported (including those relating to cold treatment). The client in the destination country can obtain said information from the phytosanitary authority or relevant authority in their country.
Other options are to try to get the information from the shipping company, the phytosanitary authority or the Ministry of Agriculture in the source country, although they may not necessarily have this information.
The cold treatment process
For the treatment to be effective, the fruit must be maintained at the temperature stipulated in the protocol of the individual country. Therefore, being able to control the temperature is vital.
- The exporter should pre-cool the fruit at the temperature indicated in the protocol for at least 48 hours before loading.
- The empty reefer container undergoes an inspection known as a pre-trip inspection in which:
- The refrigeration unit is checked to ensure that the temperature control and measuring and data recording equipment are functioning correctly.
- It is checked for structural damage.
- The cleanliness of the container is checked prior to goods being loaded.
- The container is prepared and set up with the temperature, humidity and ventilation requested by the supplier or loading company via email.
- The exporter checks the functioning and cleanliness of the reefer container. If it is not in perfect working order, temperature spikes could cause erroneous readings and the cold treatment process would have to be repeated.
- A plant health inspector from the Ministry of Agriculture goes to the client’s warehouse where loading takes place to ensure the three probes are correctly introduced into the fruit (a probe is an instrument which is introduced into a body or substance to explore a part of it or to extract or introduce substances). The probes record the temperature of the fruit at three particular points within the container which are specified in the individual protocol.
- Before being inserted, the probes are calibrated to ensure they function correctly. This is done by submerging the probes in ice until they reach 0ºC. They are left to warm up before being placed in the ice again several times to ensure that they are working perfectly.
- Once calibrated, and the fruit is loaded into the container, the probes are pushed into the fruit until they reach the flesh as the important thing is the temperature of the fruit and not of the container. In each cold treatment the three probes have to be below the required temperature.
- Once placed, the technicians record the fact that the probes are functioning correctly, they certify that the requirements are met and they attach this information to the phytosanitary certificate.
Cold treatment probe
What happens if cold treatment is not completed?
In order to find out whether the treatment has been carried out successfully, the temperature of the fruit needs to be recorded. This information is logged in the container’s datalogger, an onboard computer that records and stores and (on those containers adapted for the purpose) remotely monitors the container’s temperature, humidity and ventilation data.
Hence, the three probes’ temperatures are recorded throughout the treatment and they are transmitted to the shipping company which, in turn, sends them to the Ministry of Agriculture’s plant health department. Our reefer transport specialists are committed to giving our clients peace of mind. They request the temperature readings from the shipping companies in order to allow our clients to see them for themselves and be sure that they come within the established thresholds.
If there is a break in the treatment due to the temperature rising above that stipulated, the process must be repeated from scratch. The container temperature must be re-adjusted, always being careful not to freeze the fruit.
The aim is that the treatment should have been completed by the time the container reaches the unloading port regardless of how many times the process has had to be re-started. If the port is reached before treatment has been completed, the goods will not be able to be unloaded from the container causing concern, delays and problems with connections, etc.