Food safety and quality practices prompt proactive approach to milk products distribution.
I recall my uncle owned a small milk delivery operation when I was very young. We would get our milk in glass bottles with paper disc caps delivered into our galvanized, insulated milk box on the back porch. In the New England winter this worked well as the box kept the milk from freezing until my mom could bring it into the house. In the hot days of summer sometimes the milk warmed up slightly, very likely beyond what is now considered good practice. While it was a good memory, we got to see the operation and his talking pet crow at times, there was one downside: My dad would “steal” the cream that had separated to the top to put into his coffee. In a way dad led the way to introducing low fat milk to my diet before it became a supermarket mainstay.
Fast forward to today. Food production, distribution and retail businesses are very aware of issues dealing with proper handling and storage of their products as major health related news headlines proliferate in recent years. Food distribution and service personnel receive training to insure HACCP compliance in a variety of settings from warehouses, refrigerated trucks, shipping and receiving platforms, refrigerators and freezers, and food service counters and kitchens across the U.S. to help insure proper refrigeration of perishable products.
Then and now: milk home delivery compared to modern milk packaging and refrigeration.
(Link to Sources Left to Right: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4)
These businesses know very well which products are most sensitive to temperatures outside of recommended limits. Seafood comes to the top of the list of perishable products that are highly sensitive to improper storage temperatures, and special care is taken by seafood handlers to insure proper temperatures are maintained. Dairy products are high on the list of products sensitive to temperature extremes. So it was not surprising when a major dairy product distributor known for their high quality fresh milk and cream products wanted to insure they were safe during storage.
Like many such operations where seasonal changes can make inventory levels rise or fall, the company employs portable and mobile refrigerated containers and trailers to store products when refrigerated warehouses become full. These units are well equipped to handle the additional products and keep them in the recommended temperature range. However, because these units are not typically integrated into the warehouse automated control system, insuring the refrigeration units are operational and doing their intended job becomes a challenge. This is especially true during warm summer months when failure of the remote refrigeration unit or an open door can quickly lead to unwanted temperature rises that threaten or damage products.
Milk distribution in the 1950s and today (Link to Sources Left to Right: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3)
Employing Temperature@lert’s patented cellular gateway and ZPoint wireless sensor modules, company management is able to monitor that proper operation and temperature levels are maintained in the remote storage units. When problems occur that lead to an unwanted rise or fall in temperature, the device triggers an alert that results in email, text and phone messages being sent to operations personnel to take action. Over the course of four months the ZPoint Cellular unit sent three separate alert messages when storage units exceeded customer defined levels. And as temperatures continued to rise, an escalation set of messages was received by management to insure action was taken.
During this period the ZPoint Cellular unit was able to help the company avoid damage to three refrigerated storage unit contents, saving an estimated $15,000 per unit for a grand total of $45,000 during a four month period. Management and operations personnel are very pleased the device paid for itself in a matter of days. Additionally, the ruggedized ZPoint temperature sensors have been integrated to the air brake locks on refrigerated truck storage units to help streamline operations and prevent wireless sensor nodes from inadvertently leaving the facility.
In partnership with the dairy distributor, Temperature@lert is developing a low cost Android tablet to help manage wireless ZPoint sensor nodes and automatically facilitate check in and check out.
For information about Temperature@lerts Cellular Edition and ZPoint sensor products check the company’s website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/Temperature-Alarm.aspx or contact the company at 1-800-524-3540.