If you don’t maintain optimal temperatures of refrigeration or freezing for perishable goods during transport, it could be harmful to the safety and quality of the goods.
Using cold to preserve goods
The use of cold to preserve goods is one of the oldest techniques in the book. Low temperatures inhibit, either fully or partially, the processes that alter and deteriorate the properties of food (smell, taste, texture).
There are two ways to preserve food by keeping it cold:
- Refrigeration: Used to preserve items for short to medium term (days to weeks)
- Freezing:Used for long term preservation (days to months)
The cold chain
The cold chain is a key element in the logistics of shipping perishable goods. This term refers to the set of actions taken as part of the refrigeration and freezing processes to ensure that perishable goods arrive at their destination in excellent condition. It is important to remember that different goods have different transportation and temperature needs, since shelf life and expiration time will vary from product to product. This means, for example, that you wouldn’t use the same transportation process for strawberries as you would for seafood, or limes as you would for flowers.
“A cold chain includes all the necessary elements and steps to ensure the quality and safety of a perishable product from its point of origin all the way to consumption”
It is called a “chain” because the process includes several different phases or “links.” If the temperature at any of these links is outside of the required range for the perishable product being transported, its quality will diminish, causing losses for the producers and sellers. When the cold chain is maintained properly, it ensures that the product was kept within the acceptable range of temperatures during production, transportation, storage, and final sale.
The links in the cold chain are:
- Refrigerated warehouses located in production areas
- Refrigerated transport vehicles
- General refrigerated warehouses
- Commercial refrigerated warehouses
- Refrigerated warehouses for consumption
- Local refrigerated transport
- Public and private refrigerated chambers and equipment (at wholesalers or retailers)
Although packaging is not part of the cold chain, it is a key component in prolonging the product’s shelf life.
Quality standards of the cold chain
When a cold chain is properly observed, the consumer can be fully certain that the food located at the point of sale comply with the sanitary standards necessary for consumption, regardless of where the goods originated.
In an effort to ensure the operational quality of the cold chain throughout each of its steps, procedures and operations are standardized through the following:
- Cold Chain Quality Indicators. This standard outlines the requirements a company must follow to preserve perishable products and improve the cold chain. It was published by the GCCA (Global Cold Chain Alliance)
- IARW (International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses)