temperature@lert blog

  • Vaccine Transportation: Challenges & Innovation in Developing Countries

    Some of the most important vaccines in the world are heat-sensitive, thus requiring custom transportation and storage to ensure their integrity and effectiveness. The process involving the transportation and storage of heat-sensitive products has been defined as the cold chain. It requires reliable refrigeration technologies to successfully move the vaccines from their manufacturers to the end user. Maintaining cold chain operations becomes a challenging quest for developing countries without reliable or limited access to electrical power.


    The following presentation will offer an overview of the cold chain; look into some real life limitations of cold chain logistics in developing countries and present some of the new technologies being used to overcome the situations where electricity isn’t readily available. 


    Temperature@lert, vaccines, monitoring, Ebola, Africa, cold chain, technology


    Over the next few weeks, we will publish four articles that provide greater insight into cold chain operations. The themes that will be covered:

    (1) cold chain: what is it and the logistics surrounding it

    (2) cold chain's relevance to the current outbreak of Ebola in Africa

    (3) past cases and challenges with cold chain operations

    (4) the innovations in transportation, storage, and monitoring of vaccines



    Lorena Sifontes, Content Marketing Intern

    Lorena is a senior international student at Endicott College, pursuing a degree on Integrated Marketing Communications with a minor in Psychology. Born in Venezuela and raised in Panama, she has helped companies manage their social media accounts and marketing. Currently, she’s a content marketing intern at Temperature@lert, and her ideal temperature is 75°F for walking and hiking outdoors.

    Lorena Sifontes

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  • Your HACCP Plan Could Be Undermined by Trucking Companies


    Not all refrigerated trucks are created equal.

    Every day we see hundreds of trucks on our roads and highways.  Many of these are refrigerated trucks transporting foods for human consumption.  If the refrigeration were to fail would jeopardize not only the quality but potentially the safety of the products.  Fortunately our truck transportation system is generally reliable, but occasionally problems occur.


    Besides the obvious truck breakdowns, traffic tie-ups and the occasional unfortunate accident, there are other ways food can be put in jeopardy. Trucks that have been on the road a while may have cooling units that fail or do not function well allowing all or part of the load to be exposed to elevated temperatures.  Additionally, doors may not seal well allowing cold air to escape and be replaced by hot air.  Food packages near such areas can see temperatures beyond the required range.  Likewise, given the state of roads and highways in the US, the integrity of the insulated box may be somewhat compromised by damage due to excessive or continuous vibration, thermal stress and every constant flexing.  Over time seams can open up or insulation crack, break, and potentially crumble allowing cool air to escape, creating a warm zone near the breach.



    Catastrophic events such as the accident this beer truck suffered are easy ways to compromise food safety. (Link to Source)  Less catastrophic events can compromise all or part of a shipment.


    One such cause can be leaks caused by insulation gaps or degradation from poor design, manufacturing flaws or road wear and tear over the life of a refrigerated trailer.  Fortunately refrigerated trailer manufacturers have made investments to help insure that leaky reefers are not shipped and that insulation stays in place despite the continuous pounding they undergo while in use.  One such trailer manufacturer is 100 year old Utility Trailer Manufacturing Company that claims to be the largest producer of refrigerated vans in the U.S.


    Employing their “Foam-in-Place” trailer assembly and insulating process, Utility Trailer has developed a process to help eliminate all thermal gaps in the assembled unit.  Refrigerated trailer and shipping containers have historically been made by insulating panels and assembling them.  Newer insulation products displaced older ones in new designs; glass wool and vermiculite were replaced by foam  core panels with tough skins for the truck body.  These panels are bolted or welded together to make the trailer.  This process has the potential to leave gaps in the insulation at the corners where panels meet.  


     


    Utility Trailer and other manufacturers have fine tuned the process by developing a completely assembled trailer enclosure (minus the doors) with gaps between the inner and outer panels of the walls, floor and roof.  Comparison of assembled insulated panel trailers (left) and foam-in-place trailer (right) shows potential for gaps in insulation can be minimized or eliminated by spraying foam insulation to the hollow cavity of trailer walls after assembly.  Panel and trailer manufacture and assembly of the continuous foam insulation envelope requires new designs and materials to insure foam will enter every cavity and the structural integrity and durability of the trailer walls, floor and roof are maintained.  Images are video screenshots.  (Source for images above and below)




    Utility Trailer manufacturing process uses external forms (left) to help stabilize sidewalls during foam insulation application through predetermined fill points (right).


    There are several lessons that can be applied to all reefer trailers when considering this information.  First, existing trailers may or may not have gaps in their insulation that create areas where refrigerated products could be exposed to excessive heat or cold.  Thermal imaging can be a cost effective way for truck and fleet owners to inspect their rigs. Since these devices can cost several thousands of dollars, small fleet owners may want to use a service for such inspections.  The good news is that most insulation gaps can be filled relatively easily with the same type of foam insulation used during construction.  Many of us are familiar with such products from local hardware stores when we need to seal air leaks around windows.



    Thermal video cameras are used by Utility Trailer to inspect foam installation to insure no gaps exist that would allow hot or cold points within the load.


    The second lesson is after insulation gaps are addressed insuring perishable, temperature sensitive cargo is not subjected to out of specification temperatures for extended periods due to chiller breakdown or poorly sealed doors is still needed.  Automatic monitoring of reefer temperatures during transit can help insure that the refrigeration unit is working and door ajar conditions are not present.  Dairy, seafood and pharmaceutical supply companies have used devices such as Temperature@lert’s Cellular Edition with ZPoint wireless sensor data logging and alarm system to continuously monitor box temperatures and send alerts to the driver as well as fleet office when out of specification conditions occur.  This allows corrective action to be taken in real-time and provides a full log of cold chain assurance that products arrive in good condition.


    Refrigerated transportation has been and will continue to be the backbone of our food and pharmaceutical industry.  Insuring both that the refrigerated transport is sound and that when events do occur they are noted and addressed quickly has become more important as regulations about Cold Chain Custody are implemented.  Companies with an eye toward the future can be early adopters and position themselves for market share gains as laggards decide whether or not to take the inevitable action needed.


    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a food processor, distributor, wholesale or retail outlet into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular and SensorCloud offerings, visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.

    temperature monitoring ebook, best practices for monitoring and sensors


    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

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  • From Production to Patient: Vaccines for Patients

    Today we’ll illustrate how vaccines are kept and highlight the most important aspects of long-term vaccine storage. We’ll be examining these all-important regulations in the advent of the recent Ebola outbreak spreading through Nigeria, Guinea, and other West African countries. Because of similar symptoms, more individuals are susceptible to illnesses like malaria than ever, and death tolls continue to rise. Luckily, promising new vaccine trials could stem the influx of victims in these disease-ravaged countries.


    vaccines, vaccination in Africa, vaccine for Malaria


    Once vaccines have been created, and then carefully packaged; they’ll be shipped to countries such as Sierra Leone, which is known for having the world’s highest rate of child and maternal mortality rates –often from preventable diseases. This stock of vaccines need to be kept at the appropriate temperatures and safely sealed until the moment they’re needed. Using the correct freezer and/or refrigerator can help prevent costly vaccine losses and the inadvertent administra­tion of compromised vaccines. Freezers and refrigerators come in a variety of sizes, types (standalone vs. combination), and grades (household, commercial, and pharmaceutical). The CDC strongly recommends stand-alone freezers and refrigerators because they have shown to maintain stable temperatures better than combination units.

    Any freezer or refrigerator used for vaccine storage should have its own exterior door that seals tightly and properly, as well as thermostat controls and temperature monitoring devices. Good air circulation around the vaccine storage unit is essential for proper heat exchange and cooling functions, and the unit should be in a well-ventilated room with space around the sides and top and at least 4 inches between the unit and a wall.

    Because of high temperatures in most regions of Africa, vaccine storage equipment should be selected carefully, used properly, maintained regularly (including professional service when needed), and monitored consistently to ensure that recommended temperatures are maintained.

    A variety of techniques can be used to retain the appropriate temperature inside storage units. Such as using bottles of water labeled “Do Not Drink” can be placed on fridge doors to improve circulation. Buffer vials are especially important in maintaining proper monitoring data, because the sand/glycol solution assists with more accurate temperature readings and prevents false alerts.

    Prior to storing vaccines in a unit, determine where the most reliable and consistent temperature readings are and store your vaccines there. The probe should be placed amongst where the vaccines are being stored. This should be in the main body of the storage unit, away from walls, ceiling, cooling vents, doors, floor, and back of the unit.

    Many vaccines also need to be diluted before administration, and mistreatment of diluents can make vaccines not administrable to patients. Diluents must be clearly labeled so that they are not confused with other additives or vaccine, and all pharmaceutical products should be 2-3 inches from the walls or door of the fridge.

    When budgeting for vaccine fridges, freezers, and monitoring equipment, remember that sensors used to monitor temperature must be calibrated and NIST-certified in order to meet CDC and/or VFC compliances.  This is to ensure temperature readings are always accurate and vaccine is never wasted. While NIST is now a requirement, coping with the hassle of sending sensors back and all the necessary paperwork doesn’t have to be. Temperature@lert’s NIST Management Program has an option to provide you with new sensors when it’s time to replace the old ones, and all the active certificates are stored online for you.

    While deaths are still steadily increasing, every vaccination draws us a bit closer to stamping out dangerous, rampant diseases like malaria. New vaccine trials could severely hinder transmission of diseases on multiple levels, and gives hope for a solution. But results require many complex moving parts -of which temperature monitoring is a vital component. That solution is still a ways away but until then: keep hoping, keep inquiring, and keep monitoring.

    temperature monitoring guide, monitoring best practices


    Written By:

    Robert “Bobby” Rejek, Dreaming Dramatist

    Boston local, Bobby is Temperature@lert's resident fitness and nutrition expert. Majoring in English and having earned Suffolk's Recognition Day Award for his contributions to Suffolk University, Bobby joins the Temperature@lert team as a content writer. He creates health-related blog posts, aids in marketing team initiatives, and helps maintain the technical content database. Outside of Temperature@lert, Bobby is a certified Personal Trainer through the NCSF and is working on his first fantasy novel. Because he's always on the go, Bobby's favorite temperature of 65°F reminds him to keep cool and stay breezy.

    Robert Bobby Rejek

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  • Points to Monitor in Your Hotel: Kitchens


    It's been a long day of swimming and sunbathing and blended margarita drinking for your guests, and now, as the sun begins to set, they're ready to eat. Lucky for them, they don't have to travel far as your hotel offers several dining options, ranging from a fine dining restaurant to a casual patio cafe to pre-made sandwiches at the hotel convenience store. 


    Certainly, you've got a lot on your plate with monitoring the temperature of almost every point in your hotel, from the pool to the gym, but when it comes to food storage and safety, you can never be too cautious. After all, you don't want to be responsible for a food born illness outbreak that ruins the vacation that your guests have been planning for months. We promise that this is not a shout out on Yelp or a review on Travelosity that any hotel owner or manager wants to read about their hotel. 


    Don't let the fancy linen napkins, spotless wine glasses, and impeccable service mask potentially poor practices in the back of house. All the polished silverware in the world can't possibly make up for unsafe refrigeration and storage practices of your dining establishment. Actually, the cleanliness and attention to detail in the in the front of house should be a reflection of the standards and practices of the back of the house, not a cover-up. 


    That's not to say that just because the pre-made salads that are sold in the lobby store must meet lower standards because of their less-than-high-end packaging and presentation, because actually, the truth is, that they were probably made in the same kitchen as the Duck a l'Orange that's served in the high end dining room. The bottom line is that safe food storage and refrigeration practices must never be comparable to the dollar amount on the price tag. Salmonella is salmonella, whether it's contracted in at your five star restaurant or your casual lobby convenience store. As a hotel owner or manager, it's your job to make sure that your guests are consuming safe food, because it's not worth the consequences that could erupt if safe practices aren't adhered to.


    In a previous blog post, we discussed the complexities of temperature monitoring in hotel kitchens. It's obviously crucial that hotel kitchens practice safe, clean and cold storage of perishable food items. But as a hotel owner or manager, there's a lot more to think about in terms of temperature in your kitchen. It would be simple if food safety and storage were all you had to think about in terms of of temperature, but the truth is, it's just the beginning. 


    A commercial kitchen, whether in a hotel or not, is a complicated environment of machinery and manpower. If you've ever been in the back of house of a restaurant kitchen, you might have noticed how hot it runs. It's a concern, not only because of the potential that food is sitting in temperatures that are qualified as unsafe, otherwise known as the “Danger Zone”, but also because of how hot kitchens can affect staff productivity, employee turnover and, consequently, profit loss. 

    You may not even realize it, but temperature has the potential to greatly affect productivity. Research has shown that when temperature increases of up to 10° F above comfortable levels, employee productivity was shown to drop as much as 30 percent! Imagine having to staff your kitchen with extra bodies, increasing your payroll, just to make up for that 30 percent of work that wasn't able to be done with the staff you already had because of poorly maintained ambient temperatures. It's an easy problem to fix that can save you space in your kitchen and dollars in your payroll account. 

    But beyond productivity losses in your kitchen, which let's be honest, your large-scale hotel with hundreds of rooms full of hungry, and perhaps impatient guests can't afford, high temperatures in the kitchen have been shown to contribute to high turnover rates. If you were working in temperatures that made you sweat like you were running on the treadmill when you were really just tossing a salad, we wouldn't blame you for wanting to quit. It can be difficult enough to retain kitchen staff, as on average, four people a year are hired and trained for the same job. Did you know that according to the National Restaurant Association the single most critical issue facing the restaurant industry is hiring and retaining professional kitchen staff? It seems like a no brainer that if all you had to do was simply  set and monitor ambient temperatures in your hotel kitchen to minimize turnover rates, you wouldn't hesitate to do it. 

    When money is being allocated to the constant hiring and training of unproductive kitchen staff, it seems like an obvious waste of time and resources that could be easily avoided with the simple adjustment of the air conditioner thermostat. But with the radiation of heat from multiple ovens, stove-top burners and other kitchen appliances, it's more complicated than just setting the thermostat and walking away. Still, that doesn't mean that achieving ideal temperatures in your kitchen needs to be a nightmare either. Although temperature monitoring is frequently overlooked, it would be unwise to overlook the effects caused by lack of monitoring. However, this is when a fault-tolerant system comes in handy. 

    A fault-tolerant, automatic, and continuous alert system would be able to alert you of temperature issues before they arise. Not to mention, it would alleviate the pressure of frequently hiring, training and holding on to staff, when there are, without question, more important things you could be doing with your precious time. And what's more, is you'll be running a kitchen that's much more energy efficient, cost effective and productive. As the smart hotel manager or owner that you are when it's as easy as setting thresholds that will alert you when temperatures fall out of range so that you can take preventative action, why wouldn't you? 

    Temperature@lert ebook


    Written By:

    Kate Hofberg, Epicurean Essayist

    Temperature@lert’s resident foodie from sunny Santa Barbara, Kate Hofberg, creates weekly blog posts, manages the content database, and assists with the marketing team's projects. Balancing a love for both the west and east coast, Hofberg studied at University of California Santa Barbara, where she received a Bachelors in Communications, and Boston University, where she is currently a Masters candidate in Journalism. Before coming to Temperature@lert, Hofberg trained in her foodie ways through consumption of extremely spicy, authentic Mexican food with her three brothers and managing a popular Santa Barbara beachside restaurant. Through her training and love of great food, she brings fresh methods of cooking up content. When Hofberg is not working on Temperature@lert marketing endeavors, she serves as a weekly opinion columnist for the Boston University independent student-run newspaper, The Daily Free Press. If time permits, Hofberg enjoys long walks, reading, playing with her cat, and eating pizza. Her ideal temperature is 115°F because she loves temperatures as hot and spicy as her food.

    Kate Hofberg

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  • HACCP Lessons for Consumers

    Safe food means safe practices all the way to our tables.


    We’ve taken a look at HACCP from several viewpoints, but consumers can’t count on the food industry to do the part of job they need to perform, safe food handling and preparation practices at home.


    Phrases such as “Farm to Table” and “Farm to Fork” have been showing up in recent food industry publications.  The idea of Farm to Table has been used by those promoting the purchase of local produce and food products, but in the industry both terms apply to the Chain of Custody that insures that the food that is grown, processed, packaged or otherwise made ready for the consumer is treated with safe handling methods and procedures to insure that consumers are receiving and eating safe products.


    Many products used by consumers come with instructions for safe storage, handling and preparation.  Some products are more likely to be inherently easier to manage than others, fresh fruit and vegetables for example that can be left out in fruit bowls on the counter without concern other than their taste and texture will change with time as the produce dries out or ripens more fully or becomes overripe.  Personally I like to let bananas get covered with brown spots and golden delicious apples very ripe and slightly dessicated such that the skin begins to wrinkle, but that’s just me.  With products such as meat, poultry, eggs and seafood, control during storage and cooking is critical to insure that foodborne illnesses do not become significant risk factors.


               

    USA milk label Left: (Source) and Australian milk label right: (Source) both with Keep Refrigerated on label.  Australian label denotes safe storage temperature range, 2-4°C (35.6-39.2°F or easier to remember 35-40°F).


    One at risk category is milk or dairy products.  Most of us pay attention to the data on the package to insure that the product is fresh when we purchase it, or at least that the last sale date has not yet arrived.  But many of us, myself included have used products well beyond the sale date.  I can recall giving my six-year old granddaughter a glass of milk from a carton that had been opened in the refrigerator for a while and her saying it didn’t taste right.  My old taste buds found it acceptable but what do I know, I like strong, mouldy cheeses.


    As we’ve been taught from our first experience with food, US milk labels note Keep Refrigerated on their labels.  While useful the information is not as useful as the same warning plus the desired temperature range found on labels in many other countries.  For comparison see the figures above.  Given this lack of information, what guidance should consumers use to determine how to store dairy products and how long they should be stored?  There are many websites that discuss this topic.  In the interest of not being overwhelming, I came across a web post that gives clear guidance.  Clemson University’s Cooperative Extension Service based in South Carolina offers online and phone to provide a source of accurate, dependable and unbiased information” in several areas including food safety and food preservation.  In a post titled Safe Handling of Milk & Dairy Products the Extension Service an extensive description of the various milk and dairy products consumers can purchase.  I was pleased to learn the difference between half-and-half, light cream, light whipping cream and heavy cream here for example.


    More to the point, the table below is an inclusive and informative list of the various milk and dairy products we’re likely to encounter and guidance about storage conditions and shelf life.


    One thing to focus on in this table are the recommended storage temperatures for refrigerated and frozen products.  How many of us know the temperature inside our refrigerators?  I tend to keep my home refrigerator and freezer cold; ice cream comes out hard.  I have performed studies on another home unit and found an interesting but not surprising phenomenon.  Temperatures on the top shelf are warmer than the bottom shelf by a degree or so, but temperatures near the front of the top shelf are four to five degrees higher than the bottom shelf.  In most units the cold air outlet is near the top rear.  


    My unit will freeze items like sour cream and cottage cheese placed directly in front of the outlet.  But the door opening and closing and the proximity to the seal which is not as good an insulator as the side panels means that more heat can enter the unit there more easily, or more cold air can escape.  (In fact both happen.)  Thus items that need to be kept cold like milk are best stored near the bottom and away from the door if possible.  Modern home refrigerators make putting the milk on the door convenient; opt for the lowest shelf and away from the side if possible.  And putting a thermometer in different places in the refrigerator and recording the readings will help inform one as to whether or not the refrigerator control is set correctly and whether or not the location of milk is suitable, within that 35-40°F range or not. And while you’re at it, check the freezer too, noting the table suggests 0°F is the desired temperature.


    Clemson Extension Service: Safe Cold Storage Times for Milk & Dairy Products

    Product

    How to Store

    Refrigerator (35-40 °F)

    Freezer (0 °F)

    Pasteurized Fresh Whole or Skimmed Milk

    Refrigerate immediately in original container. Keep container closed.

    1 to 5 days beyond "sell-by" date

    3 months. Freezing may result in change in texture. Thaw in refrigerator.

    Sweetened Condensed Milk(Opened)

    Refrigerate tightly covered.

    1 week

    Do not freeze.

    Evaporated Milk (Opened)

    Refrigerate tightly covered.

    1 week

    Do not freeze.

    Cultured Buttermilk

    Refrigerate immediately in original container. Keep container closed.

    2 weeks

    Do not freeze.

    Homogenized, Reconstituted Dry Nonfat and Skimmed Milk

    Keep containers tightly closed. Don't return unused milk to original containers.

    1 week

    Do not freeze.

    Sweet and Regular Cream

    Refrigerate immediately in original container. Keep container closed.

    1 to 5 days beyond "sell-by" date

    Do not freeze. (Change of texture, body appearance. Separation of fat emulsion.)

    Non-Dairy Whipped Topping

    Keep covered.

    3 months in aerosol can.

    3 days if prepared from mix.

    2 weeks if bought frozen and then thawed.

    Do not freeze aerosol cans; others may be stored in freezer up to one year.

    Butter

    Refrigerate immediately in original container. Keep container closed.

    2 weeks

    Butter made from pasteurized cream: 6 to 9 months.

    Sour Cream

    Refrigerate immediately in original container. Keep container closed.

    2 weeks

    Do not freeze.

    Ice Cream

    Store in original container in freezer.

    Do not store here.

    2-3 weeks (Opened)

    2 months (Unopened)

    Yogurt

    Keep covered.

    7-10 days

    Do not freeze.

    Soft Custards, Milk Puddings, Cream and Custard Fillings for Cakes and Pies

    Cool cooked dishes quickly and refrigerate within 2 hours. Refrigerate cold dishes immediately after preparation.

    5-6 days

    Do not freeze.


    Given my granddaughter’s sensitive taste buds my wife and I will have to do a better job making sure the milk is fresh.  And while milk and dairy products do not normally last beyond the recommendations above, I’ll keep them in mind as we decide what to fix for tonight’s supper.  In the end HACCP principles and practices do not stop when the food is in the grocery bag at the checkout lane.  Consumers are responsible for their final custody in the cold chain.

    For more information and to read the study see Temperature@lert’s whitepaper discussing sensor placement: Link to Source.



    Left: Temperature@lert wired (left) and wireless Z-Point (right) sensor in freezer.  

    Right: Two wired temperature sensors with buffer vials to reduce spikes from door openings.


    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a food processor, distributor, wholesale or retail outlet into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular and SensorCloud offerings, visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.


    temperature monitoring ebook, best practices for monitoring and sensors


    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

    Full story

  • What’s New in Food and Technology to Help Meet HACCP Goals (Part 2)

    Can machine vision systems improve detection of product anomalies on production lines?


    In the first piece in this ongoing series exploring new technology that can help meet HACCP goals we looked at Google Glass in a warehouse application and saw how the device can insure correct routing as well as verify the products being shipped are correct.  This is fine for finished packaged products but what about raw foods on a high speed production line?


    Typically human inspectors are assigned to insure that products that do not meet the quality specifications based on size, completeness, color, blemishes, foreign materials, etc. are stationed along production lines in poultry, fruit and vegetable processing facilities and remove or flag products that are marginal or do not meet specifications.  Having worked in the optical inspection industry in the past, I can relate to the tedium and difficulty of such a task which is made even more difficult as line speeds increase, and there is always pressure to get more product out more quickly so line speeds do inevitably increase over time.  In many cases the boredom or “eyes glazed over” factor increased significantly as the operator’s attention span was tested, meaning it is more likely for out of specification products to be passed on without notice.


    The website Food Safety News (Link to Source) recently reported the result of a lengthy study process that led to the recent changes in the USDA poultry inspection rules.  While consumer advocate and industry groups have both praise and criticism of the rule changes the outcome is that USDA inspectors will focus more on plant records and procedures than on-line inspector.  The 140 bird per minute line speed will remain the same for now.  This change puts a more significance on HACCP plans and documentation.



    Poultry inspection in a US processing plant. (Link to Source)

    Despite years of training and experience, human inspectors can only do so much in terms of finding problems when they have less than a half-second to inspect each bird.  A recent announcement was made by Headwall Photonics, a Massachusetts designer and manufacturer of imaging sensors and spectral instrumentation for government and industrial applications.  In cooperation with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Headwall licensed technology for patents related to in-line inspection of poultry.  According to Headwall, “The patent licensing agreement builds on Headwall’s USDA Commercial Research & Development Agreement (CRADA) that collaboratively focused research activities on the development and introduction of in-line inspection sensors utilizing spectral imaging technology for food inspection.”  (Link to Source)


    Headwall will employ it’s HYPERSPEC Inspector which is described as follows: “The speed and precision of hyperspectral imaging is unmatched. Use it to spot foreign material, disease conditions, rot, fecal matter, and more. The use of user-defined spectral algorithms allow you to discriminate precisely.”  (Link to Source) The device can be configured in several various spectral ranges which allows it to be fine tuned to look for unsafe areas in wavelengths humans may not be able to see, just as bees can see their favorite flowers in different wavelengths to help them in their search.



    Headwall Photonics’ HYPERSPEC Inspector (Left) can view items in multiple wavelengths potentially enabling them to “see” flaws, foreign materials and defects more easily, similar to how honey bees “see” ultraviolet “colors” beyond human capabilities. (Right, Link to Source)


    Employing this and other automated inspection technology can enable food processors insure that products are safe while automatically producing HACCP documentation that inspectors will appreciate. With the change in the USDA’s poultry inspection rules as well as increased speeds on lines in produce processing plants, automated inspection devices and systems coupled with today’s high speed, tablet computer and smart mobile devices have the ability to make significant impact on improving inspection and documentation for many food processing and service companies.  Management will and budgets to adopt such systems will be required, but the more robust and ubiquitous they become the more the need will increase.  The question is which companies will be early adopters and take advantage of the PR and marketing opportunity that will be available while the real-world RoI is determined.


    Whether USDA inspectors perform hands-on inspections or review procedure and production documentation will have a positive effect on reducing food safety incidents, company employees entrusted to perform the HACCP procedures and document them appropriately will ultimately be the lynchpin of any system.  Automated inspection at the producer level can be one more tool to help insure food safety.  Worker dedication to ensuring problems are not shipped to customers is the best defense regardless of whether or not intelligent machines assist in their work.


    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a food processor, distributor, wholesale or retail outlet into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular and SensorCloud offerings, visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.

    temperature monitoring ebook, best practices for monitoring and sensors


    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

    Full story

  • What’s New in Food and Technology to Help Meet HACCP Goals (Part 1)

    Recent developments in Information Technology can help prevent food safety problems.


    Everywhere we look the news is filled with news about the Cloud, a.k.a. the Web, World Wide Web, Internet for those who’ve been around a while like I have.  Every Information Technology (IT) company has embraced this term if not for technological advancements then as a marketing term.  After all, if companies have been using web based systems for the past several years as many have, they’ve earned the right to use Cloud.  And the Cloud is a powerful tool as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and others can attest.  Social media, e-commerce, search engines and online banking are common if not ubiquitous.


    The Cloud is alive and well in the Foodservice industry too.  Temperature@lert’s Sensor Cloud allows users of its USB, WiFi and Cellular products to collect temperature and other sensor readings in real time and send out email, text and phone alerts when the values go out of user defined ranges.  Such devices have helped companies save thousands of dollars in grocery stores, restaurants and dairy and seafood distributors.  Sensor Cloud is equipped with a HACCP checklist functionality to help integrate the data into reports for more complete documentation and record keeping (HACCP Principle 7).  And because the data is on the web it can be easily viewed, stored and downloaded thereby provides a secure archive for regulatory compliance.


    Recently new technologies have been announced to help with HACCP compliance, although they may not be advertised as such.  One such announcement is for a technology called Google Glass which many may have heard or read about due to the headlines it’s making.  Google Glass is an application hosted on Google’s Cloud that allows the wearer of specialized glasses to both record everything they are viewing as well as provide a head’s up display that is relevant to what is being seen.



    Three examples of Google Glass displays showing the view and head’s up display for three different application. From Left to Right: Driving directions (Link to Source), Sporting event information (Link to Source), Shopping minder (Link to Source)


    Food industry entrepreneurs have noted the power of Google Glass and one recently announced a product for real-time warehouse management.  Vuzix (http://www.vuzix.com/), a Rochester, NY Google Glass Hardware developer has joined forces using Belgium based SmartPick (http://www.smartpick.be/) Android software for warehouse applications.  


     


    Vuzix smart glasses (left) in use by bakery distribution warehouse worker (center) to help insure driver’s loads are correctly sorted (Link to Source).


    One can imagine such a tool would go a long way to insure warehouse items are properly stored and shipped, avoiding errors not only for incorrect deliveries but potential errors in labeling that could lead to shipping products flagged as unsafe according to HACCP principles, the produce inspection line for example.


    Other applications are certainly possible and likely to be developed.  The smart glasses tool can be linked to the temperature monitoring system to make a final check that the product has been stored correctly prior to shipment.  In another iteration this technology could be applied to HACCP CCPs (Critical Control Points) to insure that out of specification, hazardous or dangerous products are not being shipped.  For example if meat, poultry or produce inspectors use this device they can call up visual standards to compare a product and make sure it is safe or within specification.  Additionally a complete record of the inspection could be stored to help with any forensic analysis should a product be called out for recall or other action.  Like GPS in trucks, inspectors may believe such a technology is intrusive and signifies a lack of trust.  Despite these feelings a food safety hazard such as bits of metal or glass in a product calls for a quick, scientifically based response, and Google Glass technology could provide such a tool.


    This continuing series will highlight new and exciting technologies that make HACCP easier to achieve.  Next we will explore automatic machine vision technologies at the producer level.


    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a food processor, distributor, wholesale or retail outlet into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular and SensorCloud offerings, visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.

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    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

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  • Data Centers Heating Our Homes?

    If nothing is wasted in a chicken processing plant, why not data centers?


    Modern poultry processing maximizes the yield of human food from each animal.  Chicken livers, hearts and giblets are sold with whole birds or separately.  Chicken feet are common in Asian supermarkets.  Scraps are sent for processing into animal feed.  Manure is often used as fertilizer either in raw or composted form.  Feathers may not be economical to process locally and are often disposed of by incineration although I believe I’ve found one use in the pokey feather pillows my wife bought at the big brand low-priced decorating store.  Despite this, many articles point to research for chicken feather uses including raw materials for plastics and as an additive to concrete to improve strength.


    If this is true for chickens, why not look for uses of waste from data centers, waste heat in particular? After all, we pay good money to heat our homes and water, so why not use a waste source for the same purposes?  In an earlier piece I looked at Cogeneration or CHP, wherein a gas turbine is used to both produce electricity by powering a generator and the heat is used either for heating systems, hot water heating or as a heat source for a steam powered generator.  While CHP can be very cost-effective for data center power, this piece looks at using the low grade heat from a data center’s HVAC system in heating buildings.


    The idea is not new, but is not necessarily widely used.  A 2011 research paper published jointly by Microsoft and the University of Virginia (Link to Source) discussed data centers as home heating systems, which they coined as Data Furnaces.  The idea was picked up by The New York Times (Link to Source) in which the author discussed putting servers in homes for a massively distributed cloud data center.  Location in the home is needed to reduce heat loss during transmission.  While this may not be practical (imagine data center technicians knocking on your door at midnight when a server rack goes down) the paper notes the idea is economically sound resulting in an average savings of approximately $300 per server per year across all heating zones.

    Data Furnace table shows average $300 per server per year savings vs. conventional DC.


    The paper notes the primary challenges to the idea of home based server racks, primarily isolation making monitoring challenging, security, and what is termed zero-touch management, meaning the servers can continue to operate at some level until service can be scheduled.  These are not small concerns and would be difficult to manage in rural Montana, but that may not be true in high-density urban areas.


    Data Center Knowledge posted a 2011 piece titled Energy Efficiency Guide: Heat Recycling (Link to Source), that looks at several existing and planned projects that can be thought of as  Data Furnaces. Among those discussed:


         


    Finland's Uspenski Cathedral (left) is above heats hot water which will then be piped to nearby homes for heating.  Treehugger.com’s data center (Link to Source) Waste heat from servers at the Telecity Paris data center heats an on-site arboretum (right)


    In Uitikon, Switzerland outside of Zurich the waste heat from a data center built by IBM for GIB Services AG will heat a nearby swimming pool (below). (Link to Source)




    As in the case of CHP systems, concentration of the waste data center heat to make it more suitable for heating air or water may be needed.  This is generally done by employing a heat exchanger, a heat pump in many cases.  Heat equivalent of the electrical energy used is multiplied up to seven fold in modern systems making them very cost effective.  Alternate approaches are being explored such as work by Quantacool where microchannel heat exchangers are distributed throughout a server rack to extract heat from the hottest parts of the server can be captured more efficiently making sure servers run as cool as possible.



     

    Work by Professor Alfonso Ortega at The University of Villanova and others is being developed into commercial systems at Quantacool Corp.  (Link to Source)


    We’ve all been told if something looks too good to be true it probably is.  The same is true of using waste data center heat for home and commercial space and water heating applications.  Like PV solar, methane fuel cells, wind, battery storage and other green or renewable technologies there is a cost both in equipment (HVAC ducting, air-to-air and air-to-water heat exchangers, control systems, etc.) and the real estate to install such devices.  Not all data centers are candidates, but those that are may be well served to explore the RoI and potential green publicity which may be more valuable in the long run.  Of course, this requires a long run view, so in the end that may be the biggest obstacle of all.

    IT monitoring guide



    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

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  • From Production to Patient: Transport

    3.4 billion people -half of the world’s population- is at risk of contracting malaria. An estimated 627,000 deaths were due to malaria alone, over 90% of which occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Up until recent breakthroughs in medical science, the possibility of a malaria vaccine was almost unheard of. The prospect of saving millions of lives drives many to wonder: how are vaccines made and transported? What is or isn’t necessary to ensure proper standards are being met?

    Our last post discussed how vaccines and antigens are produced, but now it’s time to pack and ship them. Unlike chemical drugs, many biological preparations are unstable during storage and this instability can reduce the safety and efficacy of medicinal products. Proteins and other macromolecules may be sensitive to heat, light, radiation, changes in the environment, or they may interact with the container materials or other components of the vaccine mixture.

    vaccines, cold chain monitoring, vaccines monitoringvaccines, cold chain monitoring, vaccines monitoring

    Significant changes in stability occur following exposure to temperature stresses exerted through fluctuations in handling or storage conditions. This could mean the difference between a vaccine that saves a life, and one rendered entirely inert. To prevent this, something called the cold chain was developed.

      vaccines, cold chain monitoring, vaccines monitoring

    vaccines, cold chain monitoring, vaccines monitoring

    The cold chain is the path in which vaccines and other delicate, temperature-sensitive materials go in order to assure proper potency: it is an uninterrupted series of storage and distribution activities which maintain a given temperature range. Since one too many temperature excursions can promote mold growth and protein degradation, the cold chain allows for vaccines to stay within safe margins. Best practices state that an adequate supply of packing materials (e.g.; coolers, cold packs, barriers) should be available to move vaccines at any given moment if needed. In places like Europe and Canada, packaging is not considered as much a concern, but regulations on frozen vaccines differ. In countries like Canada, vaccines that have become frozen are to be immediately disposed of rather than go for further testing.

    Mobile refrigerators are vital to moving vaccines from place to place in such a way that meets appropriate compliance standards. Most medical fridges and freezers include built-in fans to circulate cold air as well as backup batteries. These fans eventually fail, generating heat from the motor while the fan isn’t operating. This can cause unbalanced temperature readings and quickly ruin stores of vaccines without informing anyone.

    Vaccines should be checked before and after movement from one facility to another as well as before leaving transportation vehicles. This is to ensure vaccines have not been broken, contaminated, or otherwise compromised, but the small volume of portable fridges can cause false positive readings. Buffer vials are a cost-effective, power-saving solution to constantly opening and closing the doors of portable refrigerators. Buffer vials use sand or glycol solution to give a precise reading of the actual temperature in cooling units, not just a brief spike from a door opening. 

    vaccines, cold chain monitoring, vaccines monitoring

    Reliable temperature readings are especially vital in the case of prototype vaccines. GlaxoSmithKline's malaria vaccine functions by destroying the parasite before it begins multiplying in the liver and cycling back into the bloodstream, where it can infect red blood cells. This breakthrough vaccine could be rendered ineffective or even harmful from a simple temperature breach in a cooling unit, putting many lives at risk.

    Vaccine fridges and freezers often use data loggers to track temperatures over time, but they are not without their problems too. Small, portable data loggers often compile information as an average temperature displayed on a digital readout to keep temps in check. This sounds fine at first but given the delicate nature of vaccines, even short excursions can initiate mold growth and ruin product. The awful part is that data loggers could read only slightly above normal because they use an aggregated average for that day. This means that unless contamination was visibly evident, vaccine providers could easily give compromised vaccine to patients. Temperature@lert’s Cellular Edition model works well for logging data for the long term as well as sending alerts via phone, text message, or email when temperatures reach dangerous thresholds.

    By following the cold chain and using the appropriate monitoring equipment, vaccines are brought where they are needed most –even on opposite ends of the globe. Stay tuned for the conclusion of Production to Patient to learn about the best long-term storage and administering practices!

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    Written By:

    Robert “Bobby” Rejek, Dreaming Dramatist

    Boston local, Bobby is Temperature@lert's resident fitness and nutrition expert. Majoring in English and having earned Suffolk's Recognition Day Award for his contributions to Suffolk University, Bobby joins the Temperature@lert team as a content writer. He creates health-related blog posts, aids in marketing team initiatives, and helps maintain the technical content database. Outside of Temperature@lert, Bobby is a certified Personal Trainer through the NCSF and is working on his first fantasy novel. Because he's always on the go, Bobby's favorite temperature of 65°F reminds him to keep cool and stay breezy.

    Robert Bobby Rejek

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  • Points To Monitor In Your Hotel: Pools & Spas


    These days, it takes so much more than comfortable beds, free WiFi and access to HBO to attract people to your hotel. And it's also more than clean rooms, friendly staff and affordable rates. What amenities does your hotel offer a guest that would make them want to stay with you instead of the competitor hotel across the street? A heated pool and a bubbly Jacuzzi can be a huge selling point when trying to attract guests that are trying to decide between hotels to make reservations at. On a hot and sunny day, it would make any hotel manager pleased and relieved to look out at the pool and see the lounge chairs filled with happy and relaxed guests, splashing in the pool and enjoying themselves and their surroundings to the fullest. It's a good sign when your guest's biggest problem is that they can't decide whether to order a blended margarita or a pina colada.

    Beyond keeping your pool and spas clear and clean, keeping them at temperature is equally as important. It may seem like the difference of just a few degrees of pool or hot tub water might not matter or make a difference to your guest swimmers, but actually, even the slightest variations in temperature can turn an enjoyable pool day into a disappointing or even a dangerous one.

    So what exactly is an ideal temperature for your hotel pool and spa? Let us help you out!

    It would be wonderful if everyone had the same tolerance to water temperature because it would be so much easier to set and maintain a universal standard temperature for pool and spa water. Unfortunately, it's just not the case, because actually, everyone has different preferences when it comes to the water temperature of the pool or hot tub they are soaking in. But even with variances in water temperature preferences, there are some guidelines that must be adhered to when it comes to keeping hotel pools safe, clean and comfortable.

    According to American Red Cross, 78° F is a safe and appropriate temperature for swimming. But when they mean swimming, they don't mean splashing around and doing handstands in the pool swimming, they mean competitive lap swimming. Actually, setting your recreational hotel pool to 78° F might be too chilly for most guests that are there to swim leisurely, but is usually set to that temperature in lap pools because the cold water promotes heavier breathing and faster heartbeat to keep warm. For your hotel's recreational pool, where guests are most likely playing rounds of Marco Polo and diving for pool toys, temperatures between 80° F- 84° F are ideal.

    There are, of course, consequences for pools and spas that fall out of ideal temperature range. Pools with water that is too warm can be harmful to swimmers in a number of ways. Dehydration, muscle cramps and overheating of the body are just some of the complications that swimmers can face when pool water is too warm. High pool temperatures can also have an effect on pool maintenance. When temperatures of the pool water are too high you face the problem of a higher rate of water evaporation, which means you will have to fill your pool with more water, more often, to ensure adequate water in the skimmers. What's more is that high water temperatures and high evaporation rates also lead to the quicker consumption of chlorine and other sanitizing agents from the pool water. Because algae flourish in warmer temperatures, vacuuming and cleaning the pool more often is a chore you'll be forced to undertake.

    Hot tubs, if you can believe it, can also get too hot, and when they do, you'll be putting your soakers at serious risk. Health experts have come to an agreement that hot tub temperatures should never exceed 104° F. Usually, setting your hot tub to stay at 100° F is considered safe for healthy adults. Take note because temperatures, even just a few degrees above the safe range, can cause drowsiness to occur that could lead to unconsciousness and drowning. Hot water, inevitably, will raise your body temperature, and thus, your blood pressure that may also lead to stroke or death. Pregnant women also need to take extra precautions when soaking in a tub of hot water, because exposure to water above 102° F can cause serious fetal damage and result in the birth of a brain damaged or deformed child. They are consequences, we can bet, that no hotel manager or owner wants to take responsibility for if they don't have to.

    But excessively warm water temperatures aren't the only things hotels need to worry about. If you guessed that cold water could be equally dangerous to swimmer health, then you guessed right. The obvious hazard with cold water is that, beyond being extremely uncomfortable, cold-water shocks the body. There are very dangerous scenarios that can arise when pool water is too cold. For one, it can have fatal effects to the swimmers heart. For those with heart problems, cold water makes them extremely susceptible to cardiac arrest. Did you know that cold water drains heat from your body 25 times quicker than cold air? When swimmers are overwhelmed with extreme cold, they can become unconscious, which can lead to drowning.

    Because the range for safe and comfortable temperatures for swimming pools and spas is so slight, it is important that hotel management and property maintenance staff carefully and continually monitor water temperature. But staffing people just to check pool temperatures hourly, even in the late hours of the night? It's a task that seems not only unrealistic, but also, costly and daunting. But, we have good news for hotel owners and managers. With low-cost and easy-to-use, continuous, automated temperature monitoring devices, proper water temperatures of your pools and spas can always be guaranteed and you no longer have to worry about pool and spa temperatures falling out of range without a timely alert. Plus, you can feel a little bit better about the health of your swimming and soaking guests. Let them continue to struggle over their beverage choice, not the temperature of your pool. Believe us when we say that cutting corners when it comes to water temperature isn't worth the nightmare of consequences that could erupt. If you tune in next week, you can learn more about monitoring the temperature of your hotel's gym and why it's important for your guests who can't go without their morning workouts.

    temperature monitoring guide



    Sources:

    1. http://www.aquacal.com/blog/post/183-What-is-The-Ideal-Temperature-For-a-Commercial-Swimming-Pool-
    2. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/swimming-pool-water-temperatures.html
    3. http://www.cpsc.gov/en/newsroom/new-releases/1979/CPSC-Warns-Of-Hot-Tub-Temperatures/
    4. http://www.epinions/com/content_2276106372?sb=1


    Written By:

    Kate Hofberg, Epicurean Essayist

    Temperature@lert’s resident foodie from sunny Santa Barbara, Kate Hofberg, creates weekly blog posts, manages the content database, and assists with the marketing team's projects. Balancing a love for both the west and east coast, Hofberg studied at University of California Santa Barbara, where she received a Bachelors in Communications, and Boston University, where she is currently a Masters candidate in Journalism. Before coming to Temperature@lert, Hofberg trained in her foodie ways through consumption of extremely spicy, authentic Mexican food with her three brothers and managing a popular Santa Barbara beachside restaurant. Through her training and love of great food, she brings fresh methods of cooking up content. When Hofberg is not working on Temperature@lert marketing endeavors, she serves as a weekly opinion columnist for the Boston University independent student-run newspaper, The Daily Free Press. If time permits, Hofberg enjoys long walks, reading, playing with her cat, and eating pizza. Her ideal temperature is 115°F because she loves temperatures as hot and spicy as her food.

    Kate Hofberg

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