Sponsored by Testo North America
“Bending the curve of foodborne illness” is a phrase coined by current FDA Deputy Commissioner of Food Policy and Response, Frank Yiannis, which best sums up the overarching goal of FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety. Over the past 15 years, there have been many advancements in science and technology to improve food safety; however, little has changed in the number of people annually affected by foodborne illness. FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety represents a new approach to food safety that is intended to leverage modern methods and technologies to better protect public health.
FDA will be pushing industry (in some cases incentivizing digital adoption) to leverage digital tools and systems that monitor key food safety risk factors. One specific area of interest that will directly impact the retail and foodservice industry is automated temperature monitoring. This new focus on automation comes with challenges. There is little guidance available to the industry on how to properly set up and use these automated systems at the operational level. These systems are intended to continuously monitor and record real-time data for air temperature, product temperature, and even door openings. For an industry accustomed to using paper-based logs, this is a significant change to temperature monitoring that needs to be understood.
Electronic temperature monitoring systems can not only monitor and record air and simulated product temperatures, making regulatory compliance a snap, but they can also alert responsible/local employees to take actions that preserve and protect temperature-sensitive foods. Industry and regulatory food safety professionals are now looking to identify and understand what research is available or needed to support these systems' adoption and use over more traditional paper-based temperature monitoring programs. Making this change may seem simple to most; however, for large multi-site operations with a defined temperature monitoring program, several changes need to be considered. These changes include revising and updating standard operating procedures, monitoring programs, and corrective action roles and responsibilities. How often should a temperature data logger collect temperatures? What is an acceptable accuracy range for this type of thermometer? When should employees be alerted to take action without creating unnecessary work? What is a meaningful alarm? How can meaningful alarms reduce workloads and improve food safety, food quality and lower unnecessary food waste? Do our historic corrective action steps even apply when data can be used to make more informed science-based decisions?
In 2010, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) completed a refrigerated storage temperature monitoring research project. The study involved the use of various electronic data loggers to continuously monitor temperatures under different storage conditions, like doors being left open, power failure, and even how adding water bottles to see how adding mass to the refrigerator(s) impacted temperatures. The study found that air temperature changes faster than products that have thermal mass. The authors go on to state that “it is clear that choosing the right thermometer and correctly positioning it inside the refrigerator is critical to obtaining meaningful temperature monitoring data.” In practice, this means that operators should not exclusively use a basic air probe when installing temperature data loggers in refrigerators for data collection. Instead, the use of a probe that is ‘buffered’ from the swift changes in air temperatures will more closely reflect the actual changes of the monitored product’s internal temperature.
To learn more on this study and how to better leverage electronic temperature monitoring of your refrigerated storage areas please download the full white paper here: https://www.testo.com/en-US/saveris-food-refrigeration-monitoring