temperature@lert blog

  • Best Practices For BBQ Smoking [Safe Temperatures & Cooking Times]

    Barbecue smoking is an everyday warm-weather activity and is increasing in popularity not only at home, but also in restaurants, in restaurants, it can be an all year-round activity. No matter what the occasion is, or how exactly you are preparing to smoke, temperature monitoring is essential. The USDA has implemented safety guides for temperature in order for people to have the ability to cook safely and enjoy the meat being smoked. The complexity in which cooking different meats is vast, and following temperature regulations for cooking meat in regards to USDA and FDA standards is vital. 

    The process of maintaining safe consumable meat starts with the point of purchase. If the meat is frozen, proper thawing practices must be implemented. With proper thawing, the meat is cooked evenly and at the correct temperatures. Putting frozen meat in the refrigerators for slow defrosting ensures the meat will continually be kept at a safe temperature, and also provides the opportunity to keep it refrigerated if not being cooked immediately. Once the meat is fully defrosted is the point when marinating would take place. Marinating must take place in the refrigerator and marinated meat must not be left out. If the meat is left out, there’s the possibility it will reach unsafe temperatures, making it unfit for consumption. 

     BBQ smoker

    Once the meat is defrosted and marinated, barbequing is the next (and most important) step. Keeping a close eye on the temperature of the meat while it’s cooking is important, but the temperature of the barbeque and smoke is also vital to ensure you are cooking flavorful and safe-to-consume meats. The general guideline for cooking temperatures is as follows: 

    • Pork and beef ribs, pork shoulders, and beef brisket: must reach 140 degrees, but taste best when they are slow-cooked up to 203 degrees
    • Poultry: must reach 165 degrees for USDA standards to protect against salmonella; darker meat can go up to 170 degrees for taste
    • Ground meat, burgers, and sausage: the recommendation from the USDA is 160 degrees, which is considered “well done” and protects from the pathogenic strain of E-Coli. Since these are considered higher-risk meats than muscle meat (based on the slaughter practices of ground beef) this standard is vital to follow
    • Fish: Recommendations for fish temperatures is 145 degrees to protect from any possible parasites
    • Vegetables and other foods: heating these foods can protect from any possible contaminates that could reach the foods, so a quick flash of heat can protect from any danger

    Resting meats such as pork, beef, and ground beef are an important aspect of barbeque smoking, as they continue to cook for a small period of time after coming away from heat. The timing of the resting period depends on the temperature of the meat, but any kind of meat will not cook more than 3-5 degrees in the resting period. Having a meat thermometer can help this process go much smoother, as it’s easy to check the internal temperature of the meats during both cooking and resting time.

    To have the most flavorful outcome, the smoking temperature must also be taken into consideration. Some temperatures have to be significantly higher than the final internal temperatures of the meat that is being cooked. For briskets, roasts, and any other cuts of beef, the smoking temperature is best between 225-250 degrees, with a 1.5-hour per pound cooking time. For poultry, the smoke should be between 275-350 degrees, and cooked from 1-2 hours. It’s highly recommended that internal temperature are checked between the first and second hour. For a more in depth detail of smoking temperatures, refer to the chart below:

     BBQ smoker temperature, BBQ smoking times, times and temperature, cooking time

    Watching over smoking temperatures is important but can easily go wrong. For instance, in Gulfport, MS the smoker in Murky Waters BBQ, a restaurant on 27th Avenue, exploded. This was caused by grease in the smokestack, which could have been avoided if regulations for cleaning and temperature were kept in place. 

     BBQ smoker temperature, meat thermometer, meat temperature, cooking temperature

    Keeping track of temperature throughout the smoking process is key; from the initial point of purchase to its refrigeration storage prior to cooking to the actual cooking itself. To ensure that temperatures are where they need to be in the BBQ smoker, Temperature@lert’s cellular device, with its expanded range temperature sensor, will provide a little peace of mind. With its high heat tolerance, the Temperature@lert cellular device will not melt under pressure and confirm the meat is being cooked safely at the proper temperatures. 

    Check out this infographic to learn more about BBQ smoking:
    BBQ Smoking
    click to enlarge

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  • Data Centers And Climate Change

    Increased electrical power consumption vs. national global warming targets.

    It’s mid-year and 2015 is “still on pace to be the hottest year on record according to weather.com.  

    Figure 1. NASA/NOAA global data shows record warmth of the first six months of any year in red. Blue shows record coldest months, gray indicates no data. (Link to Source)

    While this is not surprising to some, even many, what is surprising is a recent Data Center Dynamics piece titled Enterprise Data Centers are devouring power (Link to Source). The article begins, “Enterprise data centers, run in-house by large businesses, are throwing away money on uncontrolled cooling and power costs, according to research from IDC”. Data was gathered from over 400 users with at least 100 servers and at least a 1000 sq.ft. (~100 m2) data center floor space. Cloud, Colo and Service Providers were excluded from the Enterprise level survey. Findings were surprising:

    • Two-thirds of those surveyed had a PUE (power utilization effectiveness >2.0

      • Less than half the power is consumed by the IT racks

      • Ten-percent have a PUE of 3.0 or higher or don’t know their PUE

    • Participants are spending 24% of their budget on power

      • $300,000 per year on average

      • Approximately equal to the average spent on IT equipment

    • Lowering the PUE to 1.5 (U.S. Government guideline) would save 25% of power used

      • $75,000 per year in savings

    • While all IT equipment is drawing power, IT equipment utilization is around 20%

    While every Enterprise IT manager would love to have an extra $75,000 per year for IT equipment, upgrades, etc., in many cases it may not be possible to achieve a lower PUE without additional investment. That being said, it is difficult to believe that the majority of those surveyed couldn't lower their PUE somewhat by either running a few degrees warmer or making modest modifications to the data center’s HVAC system to achieve the reduction.

    But what if IT managers, beleaguered by constant requests for support, hammered with security concerns, analyzing options for improved or lower cost services and equipment, and maintaining what just what exists don’t have the time or resources to undertake such a project. The “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” mantra likely rings loudly in some understaffed and under-budgeted IT operations.

    What about a new approach: IT Manager White Knights fighting the spectre of the Corporate Carbon Footprint Dragon. Imagine a triple win-win-win. First, reduce spending on IT power freeing up money for IT equipment, software, upgrades, etc. Second, provide corporate managers with ongoing positive public relations opportunities to promote the company’s green initiatives and results. Third, provide corporate management with tangible contributions to global warming gas reduction targets thereby helping meet national climate change goals and avoid future regulatory scrutiny.

    Figure 2. Corporate IT Managers can lead the charge against the Corporate Carbon Footprint Dragon thereby saving money and providing a significant contribution to green corporate initiatives and national climate change goals. Link to source

    The Economist published a 2014 piece noting, “On climate change, if little else, Europe still aspires to global leadership.”  Link to Source So it is no wonder that in that same year Data Center Dynamics published a piece titled Meeting climate change targets in the UK. Link to Source Author Dr. Beth Whitehead, PhD and expert in data center life cycles and energy among other topics, notes that in the past four years the UK has begun the process of establishing a climate change agreement (CCA) for data centers in the UK. She continues, “The agreement, which enables continued sector growth, provides a reduction in CCL (climate change levy) taxes and exemption from the CRC (climate reduction commitment) in return for efficient energy consumption. Achievement of this milestone is recognition that the government understands the importance of the data center sector to the UK economy.”

    Clearly the topic of energy will only become more important not only in the UK and Europe but eventually globally. The UK financial incentives are substantial. Dr. Whitehead’s piece should be read not only by UK data center professionals but IT professionals worldwide.

    Given the negative publicity and governmental attention that data centers receive regarding their energy consumption as well as the spectre of governmental controls not only in the UK and EU, it would be fair to say that such initiatives and potential controls are in the future of data centers worldwide. The task of defining the current status of each data center as well as mapping energy consumption by major data center sector is one task that data center professionals have likely undertaken. Dr. Whitehead enumerates the likely target areas for potential savings. Each data center is different, but as the industry continues to consolidate, this differentiation will be reduced and options fewer and easier to identify and measure.

    While in the U.S. data centers may not be under such scrutiny today there is an advantage to being among those early adopters of green initiatives. Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google make national headlines every time a data center powered by photovoltaics, wind or other renewable sources is announced or commissioned. Colo and cloud service providers may be able to project a competitive advantage in attracting new customers and even retaining existing customers with green initiatives. The food industry understands such market awareness.

    Figure 3. Food Channel green footprint shows one such example of logos that can be incorporated into corporate marketing and advertising materials.  Link to Source

    With calorie counts being required on menus of major restaurants, some customers are looking at the next target, the restaurant’s carbon footprint. One can see the positive effects that initiatives such as Chipotle’s GMO-free ingredients claims have had on business and PR. Subway has taken advantage of advertising its reduction in water, raw material, energy and transportation usage. Like forward looking industries, a green CO2 footprint prominently displayed on data center promotional material would bring attention to companies taking such initiatives. Will your data center be one such company?

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  • FSMA on Small and Mid-sized Suppliers

    What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger is no longer an attitude most can afford.

    FSMA, the Food Safety Modernization Act is here. Signed into law in 2011, final and proposed rules are in place. The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) website has a convenient chart describing the timing of proposed and final rules. (Link to Source)  Many companies have FSMA training completed or scheduled for their staff, especially larger, global suppliers. Despite the headlines and publicity, many small and midsized suppliers may not be prepared to meet the new regulations. (For reference: Link to US FDA FSMA Source)

    Figure 1. Screenshot of IFT FSMA Rule Timeline site. Link to Source

    The Food Safety Tech website recently posted a piece by Randy Fields titled Despite Exemptions, Compliance Will Not Be Optional For Small Suppliers. (Link to Source) The author starts with a well publicized food safety case that made national headlines as one of a continuing saga of such cases that appear each year. Most importantly, the piece notes that in an earlier case not only the supplier who declared bankruptcy and went out of business, but the country’s largest retailer were sued, a case that ended in an out-of-court settlement. The message is clear, “both suppliers and retailers are now responsible for everything they sell.

    With FSMA finalization now underway, the FDA mandates that retailers and suppliers have documentation that verifies their supply chain’s regulatory compliance is readily accessible for government inspection.”  As noted above, the largest suppliers, ones that typically sell the majority of our foods are likely to have procedures and systems in place for both production and distribution, minimizing their risk. And because they have “deep pockets”, they are likely to hold themselves to a very high standard to avoid problems, bad publicity and potential litigation. With these companies, outbreaks on a national scale are possible which means national headlines, giving any investment they make in food safety a high priority.

    The author notes one significant concern for small businesses: wholesalers and retailers may find the risk of using small businesses that may be exempt from FSMA requirements and that may not have the resources or knowledge to supply FSMA documentation to major retailers too great, leaving these suppliers for other sources. Suppliers of fresh, locally grown produce and foods could be in this category.

    What can these small, local concerns do? Fortunately the author notes that “affordable, interoperable systems have been developed to address the market need for receiving, storing, sharing and managing regulatory, audit and insurance documentation.” Employing such systems can allow “suppliers of any size can also track products as they move through the supply chain and trace them back in the event of a recall” should one be necessary. Of course with the proper HACCP plan in place to augment such systems, small suppliers will have the tools to make such an event unlikely.

    Figure 2. Kate’s Homemade Butter http://www.kateshomemadebutter.com/ (left) and Figure 3. Vermont Creamery http://www.vermontcreamery.com/ (right) are carried by major market and specialty food stores across the U.S. These and thousands of similar, regional, small, specialty product manufacturers and distributors will need to examine the impacts of FSMA and take actions to insure their continued success

    A key takeaway is “having a comprehensive food safety system is quickly becoming a competitive advantage.” Local, specialty products that are desired by consumers can provide small suppliers with a loyal consumer base, one willing to put a premium price on such products. Larger retailers who carry these products may become increasingly risk averse. Employing both HACCP and FSMA to their operations can help insure continued success for these small businesses.

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  • Starting with the Basics in Pharmacy Temperature Monitoring

    Three down, one to go: Food and Beverage Coolers.

    ✓  Store food products in a temperature-monitored 
    and optimal for shelf-stable
    ✓  Store non-refrigerated medications in a temperature-monitored environment optimized for food safety
    ✓  Pharmacy refrigerator and freezer temperatures monitored and optimized for refrigerated and frozen medications
     ✗  Pharmacy food refrigerators and freezer temperatures monitored and optimized for refrigerated and frozen food products

    So far we’ve looked at store temperature as a good indicator of shelf-stable food and medication storage conditions that maintain food and medication quality and safety. We’ve also looked at refrigerated and frozen pharmaceutical storage temperatures as a good indicator of the safety and efficacy of these medications. And we’ve looked at the benefit of automatic temperature monitoring to help insure that when temperatures exceed or fall below recommended storage conditions, particularly those devices that provide alert and alarm messages when out of range conditions occur. It's time to turn our attention to refrigerated and frozen foods.

    Figure 1. Frozen and refrigerated food coolers are common in pharmacies, offering customers an alternative to grocery and convenience stores while they shop for pharmacy items.

    Generally I’m comfortable buying food from pharmacies, especially when prices are fair and it’s convenient. Because turnover can be longer than other stores I often check expiration dates more diligently than grocery stores. I have never found out of date items, so my confidence is growing.

    That being said, the task of food vendors all over are insuring their their frozen food coolers keep food frozen. In the summer, especially in humid climates, even the best glass front coolers fog up and customers open the doors to browse, complicating the problem of maintaining freezer or refrigerator temperatures. This may be one reason grocers, convenience stores and pharmacies keep their stores cold, to prevent or minimize condensation on freezer doors and prevent frozen food from partially thawing.

    In my mind the first task of pharmacists and pharmacy managers is to insure the safety and efficacy of refrigerated and frozen medications with regular, preferably automatic temperature monitoring. The second task is to do the same for room temperature drugs and food products both of which have similar storage requirements. Frozen and refrigerated foods can be added with little effort.

    I could argue that frozen and refrigerated food cooler monitoring is as important as those used for medications. This is because food borne illnesses can be attributed to food stored at elevated temperatures, temperatures where harmful microorganisms grow and multiply quickly. Indeed, we read many more cases of food poisoning or food borne illnesses than those from medications and the liability can be just as significant in either case.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends the following for refrigerated and food storage. (Link to FDA Source)

    • Keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40° F (4° C). The freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C).

    • Stick to the "two-hour rule" for leaving items needing refrigeration out at room temperature. Never allow meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or produce or other foods that require refrigeration to sit at room temperature for more than two hours, one hour if the air temperature is above 90° F (32° C).

    • Refrigerated ready-to-eat foods such as luncheon meats should be used as soon as possible. The longer they're stored in the refrigerator, the more chance Listeria, a bacterium that causes food borne illness, can grow, especially if the refrigerator temperature is above 40° F (4° C).

    The danger for pharmacies is that when food and freezers lose power, break down or have doors left ajar can warm up quickly, and like drugs, food safety can be compromised just as quickly. Fortunately when a store loses power, keeping freezer and refrigerator doors closed will delay products from being exposed to elevated temperatures. But if a manager or pharmacist opens the store the morning after a power outage s/he will not know what the freezer and refrigerator temperatures were overnight and which foods or drugs are safe unless there is an automatic temperature monitoring device recording these events.

    Figure 2. Pharmacists and pharmacy managers may not be able to control all conditions to keep refrigerated and frozen drugs and food safe, but automatic temperature monitoring devices can improve their chances greatly. Link to Source

    Of course it would be best if a manager, pharmacist, or staff member were alerted to the problem and took action before products were exposed to potentially harmful temperatures. The next and final piece in this series will explore options for temperature monitoring to both meet regulations and keep drugs and food safe.

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  • Survival Guide: Food Service Power Outages in Restaurants

    Restaurants are fast paced and hectic on a normal day, but add a power outage into the mix and it can cause a lot of problems. It can be a challenge to keep up with the practices of food safety while in the middle of a power outage due to the amount of equipment that relies on electricity. A good way to focus on keeping up with the food safety protocols is to focus on the one main goal: making sure the frozen and refrigerated food stays below 41 degrees. This means not putting any partially cooked food into the refrigerators during the outage.


    That being said, it’s not allowed to process or handle any food during a power outage. To do this, you'll need to contact the local health department about an alternative power source and be able to prove there is the ability to wash hands under proper water temperatures, and have the correct lighting and enough power for needed equipment are necessary.


    restaurant kitchen


    It’s important to be prepared for the outage at any time, so keeping a written plan with standards and procedures is a must. That way, there are no questions about what should be done. Keeping track of temperature in the freezers is another vital step. To prepare for this, having temperature monitoring helps out tremendously. It gives the ability to always know if temperature danger zones are being reached, and ensure that the right protocols are being met. Temperature@lert’s cellular temperature monitoring would come in handy for this, because it sends text and phone call alerts when power outages happen and when temperatures are rising quickly in freezers.


    Other preparation for outages is to keep pre-frozen containers of ice in the freezers, that way the freezers and refrigerators have a longer longevity of maintained temperatures because of the ice. Having a knowledge of whether there are any block ice suppliers near by that can be quickly contacted is also a best practice. It would be recommendable to have a couple of coolers on hand so that you can quickly fill it with ice and food; food that would otherwise be thrown away due to the rising temperatures. The coolers would provide the food with the necessary temperatures it needs to maintain in order to avoid the danger zone.  

    food cooler

     For the safety protocols of when food needs to be tossed, refer to part one of the survival guide, along with part two for tips on how to handle school cafeteria power outages. With proper preparation for power outages, it’s easy to keep composure and follow the right procedures to maintain a safe environment. Look out for the last part of this survival guide for tricks and tips on keeping cool in a food retail facility.

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  • Are You Over-Cooling Your Data Center?

    Ice cream and servers both need care, maybe not the same environment.

    Ice cream season is here in full force this hot, sticky Boston August. My favorite is pistachio, not the green stuff but the white kind, like Ben & Jerry’s Pistachio Pistachio. Pistachio is among my wife’s least favorite flavors, which means I get it all to myself; she gets to pick her own which these days has the words salted caramel in it. What does ice cream have to do with data center servers? Apparently data center managers keep their server rooms very cold, which means both require a significant amount of energy to maintain their integrity.


    Figure 1 (Left, Link to Source) and Figure 2 (Right, Link to Source) have something in common, they both require a significant amount of energy to keep them cool and happy.

    According to the July/August 2015 issue of Data Center Dynamics magazine (Link to Source) one data center professional states that server rooms with server inlet temperatures below 24°C (75°F) is a sign of paranoia. Author Peter Judge notes data center managers are overworking their cooling systems, overcooling their spaces, “wasting vast quantities of energy and - ironically - contributing to global warming and melting the world’s polar ice caps.”  Judge points out that despite ASHRAE’s widely accepted guidelines for server inlet temperatures of 27°C (80°F), enterprise data centers are “seriously lagging” in raising temperatures. If polar ice caps are melting, can ice cream be far behind?

    An early 2015 IDC survey contacted 404 US data center managers with 100 or more physical servers. Results found that 75% were operating below 24°C (75°F) with only 5% at or above 27°C (80°F). The article further notes that these sites have PUEs between 2.4 to 2.8, therefore 60% to 65% of the power they use is not used for IT equipment, but rather cooling systems.

    The paranoia stems from being risk-averse, a common trait for data center operators that increasingly guarantee greater and greater uptime and availability to their customers as a competitive advantage. There’s a significant amount of data and inertia to change something without knowing the consequences, and experimenting on a money making data center is not generally allowed. Additionally, the author notes an upcoming study that surprisingly shows raising data center temperatures can actually increase energy usage likely due to increased server fan usage to assist server cooling at higher temperatures.

    The fact is that complex systems and environments like data centers can present surprises. The granularity of temperature mapping needed to help visualize hot and cold spots in data centers is often not available and even if it is, server utilization can change it over time. Modeling such a system may be very complex, possibly too complex for existing modeling tools; simpler static models may not be as useful as expected.

    Figure 3 (Left Link to Source) Rube Goldberg competition entry looks complex but is very simple and predictable compared to Figure 4  (Right Link to Source) showing a dynamic data center temperature and airflow CFD model.

    The author provides some alternatives to consider such as ensuring you are using hot and cold aisle containment which will help improve the efficiency of traditional air conditioning technology. Employing direct outside air cooling can help in many if not most locations, even if the approach is used only for a portion of the day or year. And adding water evaporation on the cooling coils when outside temperatures can help; such an upgrade may not be physically feasible and can require increased maintenance.

    The fact is data center cooling is a complex system with hundreds if not thousands of moving parts including site climate and weather. What works in one location and with one set of equipment may not provide the same results at a different site. Server and IT HVAC and energy equipment manufacturers can perform experiments but not everywhere and under every condition. The semiconductor industry found that industry consortia can provide significant insight to advanced practices in building design and environmental control. This requires equipment suppliers to work together in a pre-competitive environment as well as support by regional governmental entities. LBL performs experiments for the data center industry but it is only one organization and one location. Perhaps as the industry continues to move toward standardization and consolidates there will be the will to cooperate. For the sake of the industry’s image, the environment and ice cream lovers worldwide, one can only say that sooner will be better.

    Temperature@lert provides cost-effective, reliable, fault-tolerant wired and wireless temperature monitoring solution for organizations of all sizes. Our products and services can help bring peace of mind to small and mid-sized companies and their data centers with minimal 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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  • Temperature is Critical for Safe, Effective Refrigerated Drug Storage

    Refrigerated medications need special care; guidelines and regulations help with direction.

    In the previous piece we looked at room temperature storage of pharmaceuticals. Many of us are familiar with the requirements of the prescriptions we have filled and take home. Similar information can be found on pharmacy websites. For example, the CVS website FAQs provides the following information for Lisinopril a common high blood pressure medication: Link to Source

    Where should I keep my medicine? (Non-Refrigerated Drugs)

    • Keep out of the reach of children.

    • Store at room temperature between 15°C and 30°C (59°F and 86°F). Protect from moisture. Keep container tightly closed. Throw away any unused medicine after the expiration date.

    Most households maintain these conditions, therefore drug effectiveness and safety are maintained. But what about refrigerated medications or those stored in a freezer in the pharmacy? These require a close look; particularly since regulators often review refrigerated and frozen drug storage conditions during audits.

    What types of drugs require refrigeration? Again, the CVS website is helpful here and provides a list of fifty common prescription medications that require refrigeration. The list includes commonly recognized generic and brand names such as insulin, Cipro and Enbrel. Most of those listed are solutions, suspensions, vials or capsules. Link to Source [See The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) 2008 Pharmacist’s List publication tited Stability of Refrigerated and Frozen Drugs Link to Source for storage conditions.for an extensive list of drugs.]

    While these drugs are for use at home, medical offices and pharmacies store medications to be administered on site such as vaccines. Fortunately the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has published extensively on safe storage and handling of vaccines for their Vaccines For Children (VFC) program. The CDCs 2014 Vaccine Storage and Handling Toolkit (Link to Source) specifies storage temperature between 2°C and 8°C (35°F and 46°F). This range is also commonly used for medications other than vaccines which makes a pharmacist’s job easier.

    To ensure the vaccine’s efficacy is maintained, VFC providers must maintain a log of at least temperature readings each day using a certified thermometer. While many pharmacies and medical offices use manual reading and recording, many more are deploying temperature monitoring devices that record temperatures automatically and continuously, even when the store is closed and no personnel are present. Some US states require such devices; check local regulations to determine the requirements in your state. Generally a manual reading and logging is also required even where automatic monitors are deployed, most likely so that staff members will be aware of any out of range conditions since many automatic devices log the data but do not provide warnings or alarms when temperatures are out of range. (Look for more about this in our final piece.)

    Figure 1. CDC VFC 2014 Vaccine Storage & Handling Toolkit requirements for refrigerated and frozen vaccine storage temperatures apply to participants. CDC requirements are often adopted by state health agencies for all refrigerated medications.

    temperature vaccine log, CDC, VFC

    Figure 2. Temperature log for refrigerated medications highlighting CDC VFC limits. 

    [Download your copy]

    Pharmacies, hospitals and medical practices participating in the VFC program are required to take readings with a certified thermometer twice per day, in the morning and evening. Readings are manually recorded on temperature logs. These logs are sent monthly to the CDC for review and action when needed. Some states require automatic temperature monitoring equipment to insure that there are no gaps in temperature logs. Automatic temperature monitoring equipment can be configured to record temperatures every minute, or in any interval. Commonly intervals of 15 minutes are set for pharmaceutical monitoring. Data is sent to state health departments monthly.

    In some devices data logs are manually downloaded to a computer hard drive by USB weekly or monthly. Monitoring with such devices with intervals less than 15 minutes can fill up data storage capacity and exceed limits on many devices. WiFi temperature monitors may be able to be configured to automatically download data to a networked computer negating the need to manually download. WiFi and wireless temperature monitoring devices rely on the stability and reliability of the local IT network and electric power grid, and when these services are interrupted, not an uncommon experience, temperature readings can be lost.

    Figure 3 (left). Manual plot of twice daily thermometer readings. Figure 4 (right). Sensor Cloud plot of 60 minute interval cellular temperature monitor readings. Link to Source Note the elevated temperature event in the right image would have been missed in a twice-per-day manual plot.

    To minimize reliance on manual operation, IT networks and electrical power, leading pharmacies have begun to adopt cellular temperature monitors that communicate when IT networks and power supplies are interrupted. Data is sent via major cellular providers to reliable, redundant data centers, ensuring data integrity. Pharmacists can access data via a web browser and set password controlled temperature alert and alarm limits. Some devices provide email, text and voice message alert and alarm messages to insure harmful conditions do not go unnoticed, on Saturday at 2:00 AM for example. Such an approach represent the leading edge of fault-tolerant operation.

    Temperature@lert provides cost-effective, fault-tolerant wireless temperature monitoring solution for organizations of all sizes. Our products and services can help bring a pharmacy, clinic, wholesale, or retail outlet into compliance with minimal training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular and Sensor Cloud offerings, visit our website athttp://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.

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  • Are We Ready for Battery Powered Data Centers?

    What has changed in the 18 months since we looked at this idea? Lots!

    We have published several pieces in our occasional series concerning energy and data centers, particularly green or non-traditional power options. Topics range from using data centers to heat our homes and businesses to volcano powered data centers, or more properly, geothermal powered data centers. In our December 2013 piece titled Battery Powered Data Centers? We looked at the possibility of operating data centers using then state of the art battery technology. Link to Article The conclusion at that time was although projects were underway, cost and performance data were lacking, therefore proceed slowly.

    A demonstration project in Oregon installed a 5 MW array of 1,440 rack-mounted lithium-ion battery modules supplied by Indiana based EnerDel, a privately held company supplying energy storage, hybrid transportation and industrial systems. Link to EnerDel

    Figures 1, 2. EnerDel has expanded to the transportation industry as shown in the bus battery pack (Left Image) while Tesla has branched out into the non-transportation sectors with products like the Tesla Powerwall (Right Image).

    One company to watch mentioned in the piece was Tesla Motors. The article gave a quick, back of the envelope calculation that a 500 10kW rack data center would need to have 2000 Tesla Model S cars to operate the racks and the remaining data center electrical needs. Such an implementation would have made Tesla Motors very happy and the data center employees who took the Model Ss for a recharging run even happier, no one seems to have taken the leap.

    Recently Tesla introduced their Tesla Energy business. Link to Announcement Tesla has begun marketing “a suite of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities fostering a clean energy ecosystem and helping wean the world off fossil fuels.” With this announcement Tesla has branded itself as an energy innovation company and its mission to enable zero emission power generation.

    The flagship product is Tesla’s Powerwall, a lithium-ion device available in 7kWh or 10kWh sizes. Of course the “zero emissions” claim is for the battery, not the recharging power generation. Tesla foresees the device being used three ways.

    1. Load Shifting - charging during low demand, lower electrical price periods and then powering a home during high demand, higher price periods, saving the homeowner the rate difference. Homeowners will need demand pricing capability for this to work.

    2. Increase Self-Consumption of Solar Generated Power - some homeowners can sell excess power back to the utility, many cannot or do so at rates below incoming power. Powerwall uses could conceivably store and use their own power and realize the full value. State regulations could promote or deter this, stay tuned.

    3. Backup Power - provide power for times when utility power is interrupted. Areas susceptible to ice storms would benefit. An additional feature would be safety versus gasoline powered generators where some individuals have been overcome when generators were operated in unventilated, indoor areas.

    As a Boston area homeowner, the backup power is very interesting since my utility connection is via overhead wires located underneath giant deciduous trees whose limbs are challenged by age and the elements. The utility spends the warmer months pruning back trees that get close to the wires from pole to pole, but the overhead canopy covers these wires and the cable to our home with tons of oak and ash, so the chance of losing power somewhere along the miles of tree lined streets is very high.

    Figures 2, 3. “Halloween 2011” nor’easter coated trees with wet snow, ice, taking down power lines across the northeast. Because the storm came before many trees had lost their leaves, the amount of snow sticking to the branches increased greatly leading to even healthy trees coming down onto utility lines.  Left Image  Right Image

    One only needs to recall the late October nor’easter that dumped 32 inches of snow on Massachusetts and left 3.4 million homes and businesses without power, in some cases for more than ten days. While daytime temperatures warmed to the low 50s, overnight temperatures were below freezing.

    But is Tesla ready for businesses like data centers? 

    Temperature@lert provides cost-effective, reliable, fault-tolerant wired and wireless temperature monitoring solution for organizations of all sizes. Our products and services can help bring peace of mind to small and mid-sized companies and their data centers with minimal 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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  • Survival Guide: Power Outages and Cafeteria Food Service

    Power outages in school cafeterias are without a doubt hectic. Without working stoves and ovens, the ability to feed students what they are expecting, and what was being expected to be made becomes a problem. There are solutions to these issues by utilizing both proactive and reactive methods. 


    Following the rules of the previous guide is important: toss what needs to be thrown away, and if there was food being cooked and it didn’t get completely cooked, get rid of it. It’s a hard task to do, but the safety of the students is more important than the budget. So, always remember to:


    - Pay attention to the time. Timing is EVERYTHING.

    - Cease all cooking and keep warm food out of refrigerators and freezers to avoid rapid temperature increases

    - After four hours, food must be discarded if falling between 41 and 140 degrees F in or out of the refrigerators

    - When in doubt, throw it out

    - Fruits and vegetables can be left out longer than meat


    If the power outage continues to last for more than a day and there are orders coming in that day from vendors, if at all possible, be sure to cancel or reschedule those orders. Bringing in more food that could be compromised during the outage will just cause more problems.


    If school is still being held in session during the power outage, there are other issues to take into consideration. These issues include feeding students and food preparation.

    cafeteria, food service


    The lunch rush is a stressful time of the day for cafeteria workers: making sure every student is fed is a vital aspect of the job and important to the school. Without power to make the food, this becomes a major problem.


    To avoid this, make use of the ingredients that don’t require cooking to make: use any cold cuts and vegetables to make sandwiches and make use of any fresh fruit or fruit cups on hand. This way, food that would be otherwise be sitting in the fridge and possibly having to be thrown away due to the length of the outage is being eaten.


    Sherman High School’s cafeteria team didn’t let a power outage get in the way of feeding their students and making use of the food they had on hand that would otherwise need to be tossed eventually. Only part of the school was affected by the power outage, but the cafeteria suffered without any power, so there were still mouths to feed without power to do so. For breakfast, they made use of the cereal, fruit, and milk that was on hand. For lunch, they were luckily able to grill hamburgers on a grill. This way, they were able to use meat that had the possibility of eventually having to be tossed from the lack of power.


    school, cafeteria, power outage

    Image 1 – Cafeteria workers of Sherman High School making use of their resources during a power outage


    Disaster is avoidable during power outages. Maintaining composure is the first step in keeping a safe environment during power outages. Having temperature monitoring keeps stress levels low and gives you insights about the food in the refrigerators and freezers; this allows you to make sure foods are not reaching temperature danger zones. Temperature@lert’s cellular temperature monitoring system will keep updates flowing via text message and phone calls before danger zones are even reached. These alerts give you the ability to take measures without having to guess how long until corrective measures need to be taken. This way, the main priority can be making sure that students are taken care of. 

    For more on power outages in regards to restaurants, be sure to check back for the third installment of the power outage survival guide series.

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  • Pharmacy Ambient Temperature and Medication Efficacy

    How do I know those pills I just bought that were sitting on the shelf are still good?

    In the previous, second piece of this series about temperature monitoring and best storage practices in retail pharmacies we looked at the shelf-life of food as it relates to ambient temperature inside the store. In general, shelf-stable food products including canned, bottled and packaged goods are designed to be stored below 85°F (30°C), ideally 70°F (21°C). But what about pharmaceuticals stored at ambient store temperatures, those bottles of pills, capsules, and tablets sitting there on the shelf?

    Figure 1. Shelves of pills, tablets, etc. in a modern pharmacy. Link to Image

    When pharmaceutical companies develop medications, they examine many factors such as effective dose, side effects, how it needs to be administered (orally, injection, transdermal etc.), effects of overdose, safety, and efficacy. A significant amount of time is spent understanding the effects of storage on the preparation. These studies will determine if the medication is stable at room temperature, needs refrigeration or needs to be frozen, as well as degradation during such storage. How this applies to pharmacies takes us on a journey.

    Fortunately room temperature pharmaceutical storage is subject to regulation in the U.S. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations in CFR 21 (CFR2111) defines stability testing for pharmaceutical manufacturers, and notes testing shall be used in determining appropriate storage conditions and expiration dates. (Section 211.166) In 21CFR205.50 the FDA guidelines for State Licensing of Wholesale Prescription Drug Distributors states that all facilities where prescription drugs are stored, warehoused, handled, marketed or displayed to be maintained properly. FDA wording follows in italic.

    (c) Storage. All prescription drugs shall be stored at appropriate temperatures and under appropriate conditions in accordance with requirements, if any, in the labeling of such drugs, or with requirements in the current edition of an official compendium, such as the United States Pharmacopeia/National Formulary (USP/NF).

    (1) If no storage requirements are established for a prescription drug, the drug may be held at "controlled" room temperature, as defined in an official compendium, to help ensure that its identity, strength, quality, and purity are not adversely affected.

    (2) Appropriate manual, electromechanical, or electronic temperature and humidity recording equipment, devices, and/or logs shall be utilized to document proper storage of prescription drugs.

    (3) The record keeping requirements in paragraph (f) of this section shall be followed for all stored drugs.

    Pharmacy regulations are issued by each state. In general they refer to or mirror the FDA guidelines which often refer to manufacturer’s guidelines. In Massachusetts for example, 247CMR9.00, section 901(5) states, While on duty, a pharmacist shall be responsible for proper preservation and security of all drugs in the pharmacy or pharmacy department, including the proper refrigeration and storage of said drugs. Massachusetts 247CMR9.00 for wholesale druggists, section 7.04(3) states,

    All prescription drugs shall be stored at appropriate temperatures and under appropriate conditions in accordance with requirements, if any, in the labeling of such drugs, or with requirements in the current edition of an official compendium such as the United States Pharmacopoeia/National Formulary (USP/NF).

    (b) If no storage requirements are established for a prescription drug, the drug may be held at "controlled"room temperature, as defined in an official compendium, to help ensure that its identity, strength, quality, and purity are not adversely affected. 

    (c) appropriate manual, electromechanical, or electronic temperature and humidity recording equipment, devices, and/or logs shall be utilized to document proper storage of prescription drugs.

    (d) The record-keeping requirements in 247 CMR 7.04(6) shall be followed for all stored drugs.

    What this boils down to is the manufacturer’s label defines the requirement. The good news is that manufacturers do publish storage conditions for drugs stored at room temperature which is defined by the U.S. Pharmacopeia as between 68-77°F (20-25°C). Take for example a common high blood pressure medication, lisinopril, also sold as Prinivil, Tensopril, Zestril, or Hipril. The image below (Figure 2) is from the information sheet included with Zestril, AstraZeneca’s version of lisinopril, and posted on the FDA’s site. The data sheet notes the recommended storage conditions for Zestril tablets: Store at controlled room temperature, 20-25ºC (68-77ºF)[see USP]. Protect from moisture, freezing and excessive heat. Dispense in a tight container. Note the reference to USP guidelines.

    More importantly, note the data sheet calls for a controlled room temperature. If I walk into a pharmacy that feels hot, I know the drugs stored there are likely to be degrading faster than expected. Fortunately many pharmacies keep limited quantities of any particular drug, so drugs that are in constant demand like lisinopril are not likely to be sufficiently degraded if exposed to elevated temperatures for short periods, Of greater concern are medications that have slow turnover. Pharmacies that regularly run hot can potentially compromise the efficacy of such drugs.

    Figure 2. AstraZeneca Zestril (lisinopril) storage conditions, from data sheet. Link to Form

    Pharmacy managers and pharmacists are responsible to keep the drugs under their management within recommended storage conditions. Automatic temperature and humidity monitoring systems can provide warnings and alarms when temperatures exceed or fall below the recommended range, providing pharmacy managers and pharmacists with the information needed to correct the issue when problems occur.

    Many have tasted wine that has been exposed to elevated temperatures for a period of time, vinegar comes to mind. Likewise, many have tasted bagged popcorn that has been exposed to elevated humidity for a long period of time. If I enter a store or pharmacy that is very warm and humid, I generally will not purchase items where the quality can be compromised. The same goes for prescription and OTC medications. Pharmacy managers, operators, and pharmacists are responsible to maintain an environment that keeps prescription medications within recommended temperatures. Pharmacies who let customer discomfort be the warning that things are too hot or humid are likely to see these customers disappear if the condition persists. Proactive programs to maintain ambient store temperature within manufacturer’s specification are good for patient outcomes and good for business.

    Temperature@lert provides cost-effective, fault-tolerant wireless temperature monitoring solution for organizations of all sizes. Our products and services can help bring a pharmacy, clinic, wholesale, or retail outlet into compliance with minimal training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular and Sensor Cloud offerings, visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.

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