temperature@lert blog

  • Survival Guide: Food Service Power Outages

    When dealing with power outages within food service, whether it is at a restaurant or school cafeteria, it can be a stressful situation with many decisions of what to do with food, what is safe, and when to discard. Sometimes during an outage, it’s hard to figure out what to do and how to deal with these decisions and whether or not the right one is being made. There are different solutions depending on what kinds of foods are being dealt with, whether it’s refrigerated, frozen, or being prepared. To prepare for these solutions, there are simple steps to follow for the guarantee for safe measures to follow.

     

    food safety, FDA, food temperature

     

    The first step in dealing with power outages is to take note of when the outage happens, as timing is everything when it comes to food safety. Secondly, cease all cooking that is happening. It’s good to note that if a power outage is two hours or less, it is not considered hazardous to food being handled under safe conditions. After two hours, any food that is being prepared, whether it is meat or cut fruits and vegetables, must be discarded. Do not put warm food into the refrigerators or freezers to avoid rapid temperature increase within the refrigerators. If warm foods are warming the area, it will only decrease the time before having to throw foods away. Whole foods such as uncut fruits or vegetables can be quickly put back into the refrigerator if needed and are still safe for consumption.

     

    Once again, timing is everything. When dealing with refrigeration, there’s up to four hours of safe time that food will be kept cold during an outage if the refrigerator is not opened or opened minimally. After four hours, food must be discarded, or dry/block ice can be used to maintain the cool temperature for up to two days. If there’s no ability to get ice to keep the refrigeration cool, uncut fruits, vegetables, and processed cheeses do not have to be thrown away after the four hours pass, while foods such as meats, dairies, and opened jars should be tossed.


    food safety audit

    Figure 1: Keeping track of what’s in the fridges and freezers during a power outage to ensure safety measures for different foods are being taken.

     

    With freezers, they can keep temperatures for up to 48 hours if minimally opened, and if it’s fully stocked. For half full freezers, they can last up for 24 hours, and it’s important to group food together to keep them colder for longer. If this happens, ensure to keep the food on its own trays, so if they begin to thaw the juices won’t touch the other foods. There are certain guidelines from the FDA for foods that can be refrozen if partially thawed.

     

    food safety, FDA food safety guidelines, FDA refrigerator, FDA freezer

    Figure 2: FDA standards for refreezing or discarding of food depending on thawing status

     

    It’s important to follow these refrigeration and freezer FDA guidelines while dealing with power outages in order to keep a high standard of food quality and safety. If there is ever uncertainty in whether or not a food is still safe, it’s better safe than sorry, so when in doubt, throw it out. If the food being prepared hasn’t reached the safe consumption temperature, throw it away. There is no way around having to throw half cooked food away during a power outage. Foods in the process of being cooked, especially cut, half cooked vegetables and meats are prone to bacteria and can quickly become harmful.

     

    There are, of course, certain foods that can be kept safely at room temperature. Foods such as butters, hard cheeses, dried and fresh fruits, herbs, spices, breads and pastries can all be kept at room temperature without harm coming to them, although depending on what it is, the quality can decrease. Don’t worry if these foods are left out during the outage.

     

    food 

    Upon restoration of power, it’s important to identify any hazardous foods that still need to be discarded, and check internal temperatures of potentially dangerous foods. If anything falls between being above 41°F or below 140°F, and has been for longer than 4 hours, it must be tossed. If it becomes worrisome that food in the refrigerator needs to be cooled at a faster rate, transfer it to the freezer for faster cooling.

     

    Using a cellular temperature monitoring can help prevent any surprises or temperature rises during an outage. With Temperature@lert’s cellular-based temperature monitoring, if there is a power outage, a text message will be sent to notify you of the outage. If temperatures begin rising at an alarming pace, a phone call alert is sent. With these alerts, it gives you the ability to begin corrective actions and prevent losses.

     

    Maintaining a safe environment is easy during a power outage. Following protocols from HACCP and the FDA ensure that there will be no issues upon the power returning. Throw away what needs to be tossed, and keep the fridge and freezer doors shut as much as possible. For tips on how to deal with school power outages, retail store power outages, and restaurant power outages; be sure to check for the next parts of the power outage survival guide series. 

     

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  • Battery Powered Data Centers Redux - Part 2

    Batteries may be ready for home applications, but are they ready for the big time: Data Centers?


    In the first part of this two part look at battery powered data centers we found that Tesla recently entered the battery electrical storage market for home applications such as emergency backup and metered energy cost savings. Companies like EnerDel that have active data center projects have been supplying industrial as well as transportation power options while Tesla up to recently has concentrated on the automobile market.


    Along with the Powerwall option for households Tesla is also making a play for commercial and business applications. Tesla’s announcement provides examples of commercial customers, one being Target. Select stores are conducting pilot studies incorporating Tesla Energy Storage batteries. “David Hughes, senior group manager, Energy Management, Target. “Tesla’s cutting-edge technology offers unique benefits to powering these stores, most importantly relieving stress from the electrical grid at peak times furthering Target’s investment in designing and operating energy-efficient and sustainable buildings.” (Link to Announcement) Here again, managing peak load demand is the goal and savings for large electrical energy users like Target can be substantial.



    Figure 1 (Left) shows an artist’s concept of an array of Tesla’s Powerpack Battery System on the roof of a retailer such as Target. Link to Image  Figure 2 (Right) shows the home market Powerwall (left) and the commercial Powerpack (right) for comparison. Link to Image


    Each Tesla Powerpack module is rated for 100 kWh. These batteries act like very efficient generators and can supplement the grid when needed as well as take advantage of storing power when rates are the lowest, overnight for example. The Return on Investment (RoI) for the Powerpack would be a function of the difference between peak and off-peak rates in any given location. Alternately, linking the battery array to a solar array would result in “free” electricity for storage, but the cost of the solar array would need to be added to the total RoI. In such cases, the DC output of the solar array could be used directly to charge the batteries, negating the cost of an inverter for the solar piece. Only the battery to AC inverter would be needed.


    Still, since companies like Target offer large opportunities for power suppliers, their cost both for grid power as well as battery and solar will likely be significantly lower than smaller enterprises. Someone surely has done the math, but there is no update of the test installation by Portland General Electric’s 5 MW EnerDel battery demonstration project in South Salem, OR. Because this is a public project there may be some economics forthcoming, but a search has turned up empty for this two-year old, $178-million project. (Link to Project Website http://www.pnwsmartgrid.org/)


    So what about data centers? Amazon Web Services may shed some light here. According to The Verge, “Amazon is using (Tesla) Powerpacks as part of a 4.8 mWh pilot program in Northern California to assist in running its Amazon Web Services platform. That’s 480 - 100 kWh Powerpacks. James Hamilton, an AWS engineer, said the technology would make it easier for the company to rely on renewable energy sources. Batteries, he said, would "bridge the gap between intermittent production, from sources like wind, and the data center's constant power demands." Amazon has been working with Tesla for the last year, viewing Musk's new Powerpacks as a way to reach its ultimate goal of "reducing the technical barriers limiting widespread adoption of renewables in the grid."


    One thought is lithium-ion battery technology is not without limitations. Looking at the artist’s concept drawing (Figure 1) what comes to mind for this New Englander is what that roof would have looked like this past winter when Boston had a record snowfall. Such installations would need to have additional support for the significant battery weight; add to that the weight of 9-feet of snow and there could be real concerns. The second is that lithium-ion batteries don’t like hot and cold weather. The graphs below demonstrate the issue of installations in cold and hot climates.



    Figure 3 (Left) Li-ion discharge times fall off dramatically at colder temperatures. Link to Source

    Figure 4 (Right) Li-ion battery capacity decreases markedly with increasing temperature, as is witnessed by Tesla car owners in Phoenix.  Link to Image



    Two thoughts come to mind here. First, data centers use large battery arrays as UPSs to bridge the time until the generators kick in. Enabling these UPS arrays to provide additional benefit such as renewable energy storage and smart metering savings can have real benefit to data centers with the right economics. In a power market like Northern California where the grid is stretched to the limit during hot summer days, such an approach could bridge the gap of a brownout voltage cut, reducing any electrical strain on data center electronics. Again, cost vs benefit is needed, but for high risk locations these calculations may look more like life insurance than not.



    Figures 5, 6. Amazon data centers in Virginia (Left) and Oregon (Right) may be candidates for battery storage.  Left Image Source   Right Image Source


    While there is hope for some light to be shed publicly on the Portland demonstration project, AWS and its competitors keep their costs and benefits close, so meaningful analysis will be difficult. According to Forbes, the Powerpack cost is $250/kWh which is below the $350/kWh calculated by a Texas power supplier as break even compared to the cost of a new power generator. (Link to Source) For the Amazon project that translates to $1.2 million in cost for the Powerpacks, plus installation and supporting hardware. Future announcements may help data center managers and owners make a meaningful estimate for RoI. Tesla is reportedly sold out on all products, a good sign that this technology offers real benefit. Stay tuned for updates as this story continues.


    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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  • Starting with the Basics in Pharmacy Temperature Monitoring

    From the time they walk in the door, consumers and regulators are taking (mental) notes.


    I walked into my pharmacy the other day to pick up a prescription. This is a national chain I’ve been with for the past decade and has served me well through several moves. I like the store, location and staff, most of which are very helpful and pleasant. However, if the store was dirty, too hot or cold, or disorganized I would consider taking my business elsewhere. Let’s face it, most of us who live in urban or suburban areas have a wealth of pharmacies from which we can choose. To make sure I’m happy my store of choice sends me an email survey link to make sure I’m satisfied with this store, the staff and their products. And I do fill the survey out; the staff deserves the accolades they have earned.


    Figure 1. Modern pharmacies combine traditional prescription and OTC medication sales with convenience plus small department store items to become a full service outlet. (Link to Image)


    One thing that would keep me away from any store is if it’s too hot. Food, beverage and convenience stores that are too hot are accelerating the degradation of the food and beverage products they sell. More importantly, pharmacies that are too hot and humid are degrading their room temperature medications and lead me to question whether or not their refrigerators and freezers are too warm. These products have clear specifications from the manufacturer for storage conditions, and high temperatures are a no-no.


    Let’s start with the easy stuff, food stored at room temperature. Food products that do not require refrigeration are called “shelf-stable” foods by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Products include canned and bottled products as well as packaged products such as rice, pasta, flour, sugar, candy treats, baked goods, chips, and the like.

    Canned, packaged or bottled food degraded or spoiled will exhibit poor or bad taste, smell or appearance.


    For canned goods, the USDA notes, “High temperatures (over 100°F or 38°C) are harmful to canned goods too. The risk of spoilage jumps sharply as storage temperatures rise.”  Link to Source These products should be stored in a cool, dry place with temperatures below 85°F (30°C). Canned and bottled food and drinks are not required by U.S. law to have date labels, however many do. Be sure to check if the date is “use-by” or “sell-by” to understand its usefulness. Packaged products, those in boxes, bags, etc. suffer even more with increased temperatures since most package materials are porous to oxygen which can degrade contents.



    Canned and bottled foods may have a date stamp that can be helpful to insure product quality and safety. This information is based on a defined storage temperature, 70°F (21°C) for example. Links: Left Image  Center Image Right Image


    To insure food products stored at room temperature are not exposed to elevated temperatures, pharmacies can monitor store HVAC operation with automatic temperature monitors. This can accomplish two things. First, early warning of HVAC problems, air conditioner failure during hot summer days for example, will alert management of problems before they become serious, especially overnight when no one is in the store. Second, management will have a record of store temperature that can be reviewed for HVAC system operation optimization. Stores that run hot and can accelerate food breakdown or spoilage can make adjustments. More importantly, the HVAC controls can be adjusted to help optimize store temperature, potentially saving energy (money) where stores are too cold in summer or too hot in winter months. Most importantly, the customer will not be the one to point out when the store is too cold or hot, making them more likely to return to a well run operation. Customer loyalty is preserved.


    Consumers and store personnel may want to take a look at two resources regarding shelf-life of food products. Besides sell-by or best-used-by dates, these guides from two universities with strong agricultural programs provide useful information both while shopping and at home.

    University of Nebraska - Lincoln: https://food.unl.edu/safety/chart

    Ohio State University Extension: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5401.pdf


    Temperature@lert provides cost-effective, fault-tolerant wireless temperature monitoring solution for organizations of all sizes. Our products and services can help bring a food processor, distributor, wholesale or retail outlet into compliance 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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  • Spiders Rain From The Sky? Sorry, No.

    We can do most anything, but we can’t do that. (With apologies to Meatloaf)


    The news caught my eye earlier this week as headlines blared about spiders raining down from the sky in Goulburn NSW, Australia, about 200 km southwest from Sidney. My first thought of course is can Temperature@lert help with that? The short answer is no, we can’t do that. But we can do a lot of other things.


    Temperature@lert has a Cellular Edition customer that travels around the US in their motorhome with three macaws, following the NHRA drag racing circuit and monitoring their motorhome’s temperature while away to keep an eye on their pet’s safety. We can keep you from cooking your own goose, but we can’t keep spiders from raining down on you.



    We can keep this macaw family member safe during his travels in the family’s RV, but we can’t keep spiders from raining down and covering your trees, grass and house.


    We monitor the temperature of animal transport trailers for a big cat rescue organization to help keep the occupants safe by alerting the driver when the air conditioner kicks off. But we can’t keep spiders from raining down from the sky, even with lions and tigers and bears at our beck and call. (Okay, not bears, I made that part up.)


    Crime labs depend on us to protect their evidence with our ZPoint wireless sensor, ensuring that evidence is not compromised and results are scientifically sound and criminals are kept off the streets. But protecting folks when millions of tiny spiders take flight during their annual migration and rain down on their property? No, we can’t do that.


     


    Our customers monitor forensic evidence in crime labs but we can’t help with millions of tiny spiders raining down on your yard.


    We monitor concrete temperature as it sets during tunnel construction to insure the finished tunnel’s structure meets specifications and does not fail before its rated life. Yes, even though we keep the earth from collapsing a tunnel, we do not have a solution when spiders parachute by the thousands from the sky. We still can’t do that.



    We monitor concrete while it's curing to make sure tunnels, bridges and buildings are safe, but we can’t keep your yard spider free when the little creatures decide to take flight.


    Why all the worry about spiders raining down from the sky? Recently Australia experienced such an episode when millions of young spiders migrate by “ballooning”, casting webs into the air that act like a parachute and lift them airborne. It turns out that this phenomenon is not new or unique, it happens regularly around the world. And if you think you’re safe in the US you are mistaken. Texas was the last state to report such an outbreak.


    Spider rain happens when tiny newborn spiders decide to take flight to find a new home. This happens all the time but when they all decide to do so at once, the effect is dramatic. The little critters stand on the tips of their tiny legs and shoot a thread into the air. If the wind is strong enough the thread acts like a parasail and takes the spider airborne, delivering it to it’s new home. All I can say is I’m glad tarantulas don’t exhibit this behavior.



    A search for “spider ballooning” on YouTube can lead to several interesting videos describing the phenomenon of “spider rain”.


    In the mean time, one last image of Australia’s spider rain for those who want another thing to worry about. And if you find that spider rain is becoming a global nuisance, just drop us a line and maybe we’ll see if we can do something about it. In the meanwhile, you may be well served to carry an umbrella in Australia, rain or shine.



    Link to Image Source and Spider Rain Article

    Temperature@lert provides cost-effective, fault-tolerant wireless temperature monitoring solution for individuals and organizations of all sizes. For information about our 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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  • Increasing Efficiency: Data Centers [best practices infographic]

    Energy consumption and conservation is a big topic for any business, especially if you're running a data center. Besides creating copious amounts of heat from your server racks, you also have to worry about downtime. Did you know that 23% of all data centers experienced downtime more than 5x as a result of environmental problems while 61% experienced downtime one or more times? It's also actually estimated that downtime can cost businesses $50 to $100 million in downtime related costs. 

    In order to battle these issues in data centers, it's important to have your data center running as efficiently as possible. Efficiency can boost lifespan of servers as well as help prevent environmental issues. Check out our infographic on the 5 Best Practices for Increasing Efficiency in Data Centers:

    DATA CENTER EFFICIENCY BEST PRACTICES INFOGRAPHIC THUMBNAIL

    click to enlarge

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  • Keeping Up with the 7 Principles of HACCP

    The 7 principles of HACCP are a series of guidelines that follow the rules and regulations set forth by the U.S. FDA. These are typically associated with the implementation of HACCP programs. The main priority of these guides in food service organization is the safety and protocol to keep food, employees, and customers safe in retail and food service. 


    Each of the 7 principles is laid out for easy understanding. While performing a hazard analysis, defining critical control points, defining critical limits, establishing monitoring procedures, following corrective action procedures, having verification procedures, and having a record keeping system, a safe food service organization is ensured.


    (1) Performing the Hazard Analysis:

    When following the protocols, it’s important to examine the personal risks involved. Breaking down what kinds of risks are involved helps form an understanding of what needs to be done. Which of the rules of hazard and safety apply to you? Which apply to what is being cooked? Which parts of cooking, holding, and storage for food preparation need to be examined? An understanding of this not only keeps the employee safe, but those who they work with and the customers in which the food will eventually get to.


    (2) Defining the Critical Control Points (CCPs):

    Making a specific list of the essential control points in which need to be followed is important to the safety of the space of employment. Having a set list ensures that areas that need certain practices have been followed and are being implemented.

    HACCP, food, food service, food safety


    (3) Defining Critical Limits


    Once CCPs are set in action, putting critical limits into regulation is a must. This includes implementing temperature parameters and keeping them monitored, paying attention to the needs for different temperatures, food types, and food preparation. Referring back to these set limits ensures that if there are any problems or abnormalities, they can easily be solved.


    (4) Establishing Monitoring Procedures for CCPs


    Different monitoring procedures, such as monitor scheduling, manual spot checks for equipment, and keying in on environmental factors keeps critical limits in check and ensures safety in the workspace. For this, consideration of automated monitoring devices is recommended for more reliable results and ability to take humans out of the equation. Using products such as Temperature@lert’s patented cellular gateway and ZPoint wireless sensor give the ability to monitor temperature levels and proper operations to avoid any issues. 

    HACCP, food, food service, food safety



    (5) Corrective Action Procedures


    Sometimes when referring back to the critical limits, not all expectations are met. It’s important if this is to happen to establish the proper corrective actions in order to solve the problem. Starting at the root of the issue, make a clear and concise list of logical steps that need to be taken, along with creating a plan for the future to avoid the issue. Making sure all employees in the line of communication in regards to the changes made to avoid any mistakes ensures safety protocols are being followed. When Temperature@lert’s devices detect that a threshold has been breached it will, send emails, phone calls, and text messages. Once you are alerted to the temperature change, you will need to take corrective action and take note of what actions are taken to correct the incident.


    (6) Verification Procedures


    Having a routine of different daily activities, including employee habits and equipment observation are monitored ensures that protocols are being followed. Put these observations into comparison to the standards in which the FDA expects, and make adjustments if the HACCP plan isn’t being followed as needed.


    (7) Record Keeping Systems

    HACCP, food, food service, food safety

    Having information and documentation on file is important for future safety. Knowing past errors, changes, and corrections that have been taken can make it easier to keep track of along with being more efficient for inspections and internal audits of HACCP plans.


    Keeping these principles in mind and following them not only ensures safety of employees, but safety of customers who are consuming the food that is being kept safe by following the principles. A guide to easily follow these steps can be viewed below. 

    7 HACCP Principles - thumbnail - click to enlarge

    click to enlarge


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  • Pharmacies are Taking a Hard Look at Best Practices for Temperature Control

    From national chains to local stores, pharmacies explore temperature monitoring solutions.


    When a prescription gets filled we all expect the medication to be as safe and effective as possible. The same principle applies to our food. Here, however, we can usually see or taste whether the foods we purchase are fresh, past their expiration date or spoiled. With pharmaceuticals this is often not the case.


    Most of the medications I purchase are in pill, tablet or capsule form. They require proper storage and handling generally specified by the manufacturer. In the U.S. each state sets regulations for pharmaceutical handling and storage for pharmacies, manufacturers and distributors. But how can I be sure these regulations and practices were met?



    Figure 1. Modern pharmaceutical storage area  Link to Image


    Until recently such questions were seldom asked. It was assumed pharmacies did their best to meet safe storage and handling guidelines and the drugs we took would help make us well or feel better. More importantly the drugs would not hurt us, make us sicker or worse. Maybe we were more trustful or expected pharmacy operators were our neighbors and friends and therefore have an extra incentive to do no harm. In today’s era of national chains those who we interact with at the stores are still our neighbors. However in our litigious society with a pill for every illness expectation, no one person, regardless of how well meaning they may be is able to insure the drugs we purchase are safe and effective, or at least not harmful. There are too many chances for errors in the global supply chain to guarantee 100% success.



      



    Figures 2, 3, 4. Evolution of pharmacies: Top Left: 14th Century illustration from Tacuinum Sanitatis (medieval book on health) (Top Left, Link to Image), 1950s pharmacy (Top Right,  Link to Image), and modern pharmacy prescription counter (Bottom, Link to Image)


    What’s a pharmacy operator or manager to do? The good news is there are several things that help to make things as safe and effective as possible. Among them are the following.


    1. Deal with quality suppliers and distributors

    2. Obtain quality reports from manufacturers

    3. Obtain storage and handling reports and logs from distributors

    4. Automatic logging drug and food product deliveries including expiration date(s) and storage conditions

    5. Proper temperature storage practices and equipment

      1. HVAC system maintenance, storage area temperature logs, alarms

      2. Refrigerator and freezer maintenance, temperature logs, alarms

      3. Monthly log summaries for refrigerated medications and food products

      4. Incident reports for out of range temperatures including disposition of the products stored inside

      5. Corrective action report to help prevent future problems when needed

    6. Monitoring supplier reports relating to product recalls, incident reports

    7. Professional training regarding changes in regulations, best practices.


    This series will explore the requirements and best practices of temperature monitoring in pharmacies and focus on the list above, providing a discussion about regulatory requirements,  practical, low or no cost suggestions as well as technology based solutions for best practices. The focus will be insuring the safety, quality and efficacy of the medications and food products pharmacies supply to their customers, which best serves all in the end.



    Consumers and pharmacies alike need to pay attention to proper storage of medications. (Link to Image)


    Temperature@lert provides cost-effective, fault-tolerant wireless temperature monitoring solution for organizations of all sizes. Our products and services can help bring a food processor, distributor, wholesale or retail outlet into compliance 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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  • Dogs and Temperature: Healthy and Happy Puppies

    puppy, dogs

    Imagine you are the head caretaker at a popular dog shelter. At your facility you not only house dogs that have been rescued, but puppies that are born on site, and all of them are looking for loving homes and owners that want to be their new best friends. It's been an excessively hot summer, and you have had to take extra care in making sure that the dogs in your shelter are staying cool enough and that they aren't overheating. The last thing you want on your plate is a bunch of hot dogs, and we don't mean the kind that are topped with ketchup and mustard and chowed down in three bites.


    In the past, our blog has discussed the importance of monitoring the temperatures inside RV's and cars, specifically police vehicles, because in a matter of minutes, dogs left behind in our cars can be exposed to temperatures that are not only excessively hot, but also excessively cruel. But, as you can probably guess, hot cars in the summer aren't the only times we should be worried about the temperatures that we keep our dogs in.


    You may not even realize it, but did you know that ambient temperature and humidity levels of our dogs’ environments could affect everything from their acclimation to their surroundings to their fertility potential? It's true! So what exactly are the parameters for safe temperature and humidity levels for dogs? Let us help you out!


    It may sounds a little bit obvious, but, according to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, dogs and puppies must never be subjected to any combination of temperature and humidity for a duration that is detrimental to the animal's health or well-being, taking into consideration such factors as the age, breed, overall health status and acclimation of the animal. If anything, it's an ambiguous answer that would probably be much more helpful if it was quantified in degrees. It's a broad range, but temperatures in dog shelters should never get below 55°F nor should they ever exceed 90°F.


    You may be wondering why the temperature range for dog housing is so broad, and the answer is because certain breeds of dog are more sensitive to fluctuations in temperature than others. Typically, short-nosed breeds such as pugs, Pekinese, Boston terriers, English bulldogs and boxers, among others, are known to be more sensitive to heat extremes because these breeds are not anatomically as efficient at handling increased temperature and humidity levels as normal shaped dogs. This is because they don't have as much surface area available within their nose and throat regions to function in decreasing body heat during the panting process compared to other breeds of dogs.

    puppy, dogs


    Where dogs with short noses are more sensitive to extremities in heat, smaller dogs with short legs, and short hair, or even hairless coats, like dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Chinese crested, are more sensitive to the cold. This is because their abdomens, chest, groins and lower extremities are more exposed to snowy and icy ground cover.


    As it turns out, it's extremely important for you to provide a temperate environment for the dogs in your care, and it doesn't necessarily have to be done with air conditioning and fans, which could rack up your electric bill astronomically. By simply providing shaded areas for the dogs to relax, you are doing them a big favor. It is true that different breeds are more or less tolerant to different extremities in heat and temperature, but as a general rule, all dogs are not very efficient at dissipating body gear and generally cannot tolerate elevated temperatures, humidity levels or direct sunlight for long periods of time. More often than any shelter employee would care to admit, shelters for dogs become too warm for the animals and the dogs being housed there suffer from overheating and discomfort.


    But beyond just being uncomfortable and overly warm, our furry friends are at risk with environmental or climatic stresses that can negatively affect their health. What kind of problems can you expect to see in a dog that’s too hot? Untreated heat stress can lead to a heat stroke, which is potentially fatal and you know you've got a big and immediate problem on your hands when one or more of your dogs are showing signs like vigorous, uncontrolled panting, labored breathing, dark red gums, tacky or dry membranes, specifically in the gums, salivating or foaming at the mouth, vomiting, dehydration, lying down and unwilling or unable to get up and, trembling, dizziness, disorientation, just to name a few.

               

    Still, dogs can suffer more than just short-term affects from heat suffering. As I mentioned earlier, heat stress or heat stoke can directly decrease both spermatozoa production and survivability within the male reproductive tract. They are effects that are similar to those that male dogs experience after running a fever during a viral or bacterial infection. And sorry lady pups, you're at risk for low fertility rates too, with exposure to high temperature extremes. Heat stress has been shown to negatively effect pregnancy and embryo survival in breeding females.

               

    You want to continue your reputation as a caretaker at a dog shelter that takes pride in being safe, humane and loving, and although it takes a lot of work, manually monitoring the temperature and humidity of the environment doesn't need to be added to the list of your daily chores. In the hot summer months, you worry about feeding, exercising, providing water and health care for the playful pups in your care, and let automatic, low-cost and easy-to-use temperature monitors do the tedious work of making sure that temperatures and humidity levels are kept within safe ranges.

               

    If you could be spared the nightmare of walking in to a kennel filled with dehydrated and uncomfortable dogs by receiving a text, phone call or e-mail alert in the middle of the night when your air conditioner goes out, why wouldn't you?


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  • Food Safety: 50 Shades of Environmental Monitoring

    It is what it is and it ain’t what it ain’t, or is it?


    Environmental Monitoring has been making headlines in food safety publications lately. Just recently the website FoodSafetyTech.com published a piece titled Environmental Monitoring Programs and the Cost of Failure (Link to Source). Focused around a webinar presented by Dr. Ann Draughon, PhD, retired Professor and Co-Director of The University of Tennessee Food Safety Center of Excellence and currently consulting at her company Food Safety and Food Defense Consulting, the piece focuses on detecting and destroying harmful microorganisms “before they cause any issues”.


    Professor Draughon notes that under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), “Mandatory Preventive Controls described in Section 103 of the Act that lists the following controls that FDA will require:

    • Environmental monitoring programs;

    • Sanitation and cleaning requirements;

    • Allergen control;

    • Mitigation of hazards; and

    • Supplier verification.”


    Citing the cost of compliance and retesting as well as the cost of recalls, the article provides insights to food product suppliers to help control pathogens and manage risk due to contamination by Listeria and other pathogens and spoilage agents or chemicals in the environment. For large raw food product suppliers the headlines make clear the cost of such events: individual and class action lawsuits, loss of recalled products, significant adverse publicity that can lead to lost business in the future, and even bankruptcy. Compliance includes such solutions as those by the article’s sponsor, 3M Food Safety Products Division. A link to the webinar is included in the publication.



    Recent recalls due to Listeria Contamination (Links: Left Image Center Image Right Image)


    One causal item in particular stood out when Dr. Draughon discussed one company’s problem with Listeria contamination that led to 21 deaths: Lack of Trend Analysis and Environmental Data. For large, national or regional food processing operations, this means monitoring of all physical, chemical and biological factors that could lead to food spoilage or contamination from dangerous pathogens or chemicals. But what about the retail outlet of these products, what is required there?


    Large grocery chains likely employ testing for harmful organism and chemical contamination in foods. Certainly they require certificates of testing compliance from their suppliers, and although this does not mean the product is uncontaminated when it arrives since bad things can happen during transport and handling, statistically there is good probability that the food is likely to be safe for consumers. To help insure this, automatic cellular monitoring devices can provide continuous in-transit temperature monitoring so the store has access to the history during shipment. And cellular or WiFi monitoring devices in the store’s coolers, refrigerators and freezers can provide alert and alarm messages when things do go wrong during shipment, helping prevent or minimize product damage or loss when the store loses power, the unit fails or a door is inadvertently left open or ajar.


    One thing to consider when choosing a temperature monitoring device is whether it will work during power outages. Warm weather, thunder and lightning storms, freezing rain and other serious weather conditions put significant strain on the power grid and electric wires resulting in site, local or regional blackouts, particularly in urban areas or suburban areas where tree limbs can fall on wires. When this happens, communication over a business’ phone or internet connection can be lost, meaning devices using the store or restaurant’s network will not be able to communicate. Battery backed cellular devices that operate independently of electrical power can overcome this problem, offer one line of fault tolerant protection. Additionally, cloud based data recording and alert or alarm generation, particularly to cellular phones can increase exponentially the ability of the monitoring device to get the message out that something’s wrong. Cellular environmental devices employing cloud based data collection and alerting offers an extremely cost-effective, fault-tolerant solution for most locations.



    Temperature@lert Cellular Edition temperature monitoring device (left), alert notification options (center) and Sensor Cloud images (right) demonstrate pieces to insure fault-tolerance.

    Regular monitoring for pathogen or harmful chemical contamination in foods is becoming more important as producers and suppliers of food products have become aware. At the retail side such monitoring may be required but more often good food handling and preparation practices are sufficient to keep problems at bay. Cellular temperature monitoring combines with cloud based data collection and archiving, safe food storage report templates, alert and alarm generation provides the most robust, fault-tolerant combination the foodservice and retail grocery outlets.


    Temperature@ert provides cost-effective, fault-tolerant wireless temperature monitoring solution for organizations of all sizes. Our products and services can help bring a food processor, distributor, wholesale or retail outlet into compliance 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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  • Roll Up Your Sleeves - Time to Tackle that Walk-In

    Wrapping up our Walk-In and Commercial refrigerator preventive maintenance series.


    We’ve looked at walk-in and commercial refrigerator operation, theory, major components, preventive maintenance options, and a host of other issues including the dreaded home refrigerator cleaning. So what’s a manager to do? Time to make a plan.


    What’s needed in commercial and walk-in refrigerator and freezer preventive maintenance?

    The third piece of this series titled Walk-In Refrigerator Preventive Maintenance Components & Checklist offered the following list.

    1. Clean condenser coils

    2. Clean evaporator coils, defrost if needed

    3. Clean fan blades and fan grills

    4. Check thermostat vs actual thermometer

    5. Clean interior and door gaskets with mild detergent

    6. Inspect and clean drain lines

    7. Relocate items that block airflow inside or outside of unit

    8. Check door latch and gaskets are intact and working properly

    9. If needed, thaw ice from coils

    10. Listen to note any wobbles, rattles or other unusual noises during operation


    The items above can be performed by most organizations if proper, trained resources are allocated. For businesses that operate every or most days, maintenance listed above is recommended at least quarterly but more frequently for installations where high heat and humidity are present (kitchens or summer months), or where high dust and dirt levels clog up condenser coils, outdoors or in kitchens for example. Operations with significantly less use such as public school cafeterias that serve only lunches can perform quarterly or biannual service for most installations.


     

    Figure 1. Images from a website that provides very helpful commercial and walk-in refrigerator maintenance. Frost bound evaporator coil (Left Image) and well cleaned and maintained evaporator cooling fans from the site (Right Image).



    Additional items not included above and more suitable for professional service companies are as follows.

    1. Inspect all drain lines and pans for blockage due to dirt or ice accumulation

    2. Inspect electrical wiring connections for tightness and corrosion, especially in outdoor installations

    3. Lubricate moving parts (hinges, motors) as specified in the owner’s handbook

    4. Inspect all pressure connections for tightness and corrosion

    5. Perform manufacturer specified electrical and mechanical checks on compressor, automatic defrost components, thermostat and other controls and components

    6. Check operation of all filters and driers

    7. Check refrigerant level and pressure


    Figures 3 & 4: Professional refrigerator maintenance requires specialized equipment and knowledge. Some examples:  Left Image  Right Image


    Many of these items listed above require specialized skills, training and in some cases instruments, so such maintenance generally left to professionals. This maintenance is recommended quarterly or at least semiannually for high use installations such as restaurants and food stores. Those with challenging installations (hot, humid, outdoor, high dust level environments) will want to perform quarterly service at a minimum.


    Additional items to consider for optimum operation that generally are able to be handled by managers or designated staff are as follows.

    1. Maintain temperature controls to keep food at the recommended range during all seasons. This may require seasonal setting changes depending on how constant the environment (temperature and humidity) around the door and compressor coils is during the year.

    2. Insure glass door refrigerated display cases use their door defogger in high humidity environments to avoid unnecessary opening’ but turned down or off in winter or low humidity environments.

    3. Check your electric bill. Dirty equipment can add significantly to operating costs and are a good indicator service is needed.

    4. Verify cooler temperature with a good quality thermometer to determine thermostat accuracy or whether an offset is needed.


    One source notes commercial refrigerators that do not receive proper preventive maintenance can result in an additional $600 or more in electrical utility cost per year. (Link to Source)


    Figure 3 (Left) Regular preventive maintenance can also prevent costly service calls as is demonstrated in the graphic on the left. (Link to Image) In this case, one failure would be equal to eight (8) years of annual maintenance. Not only can such maintenance prevent equipment failures, but also lower electric bills and product loss.



    Figure 5. Link to Commercial Refrigerator and Freezer Troubleshooting Guide

    For those who want to perform most preventive maintenance themselves, the DIY-ers, it is helpful to know where to start when your units are misbehaving. The table above provides a quick guide to many common problems, some possible causes and solutions. Although no list can be fully comprehensive, this table will help diagnose many issues and help determine when and if professional service is needed.


    Commercial refrigerators and freezers and home refrigerators both operate on the same principle in most cases. The biggest difference is the amount of use commercial units receive. High volume grocery and convenience stores as well as restaurants, cafes and diners depend on their refrigerators and freezers for their business health. When these establishment suffer outages it can cost businesses a day’s or more income, loss foodstuff, and loss of goodwill. Regular customers will potentially go elsewhere and may find a new “favorite” place, meaning permanently lost revenue.


    Whether businesses opt for DIY programs augmented by emergency service calls or annual professional service contracts, regular preventive maintenance as well as attention to operation of the units can help prevent many if not most outages. Regardless of the choice, understand how the units work, the preventive maintenance schedule involved, and potential costs and savings is critical to making an informed decision. And if you’re lost, go home and clean your household refrigerator to remind yourself why regular cleaning and maintenance is important.


    Website showing typical home refrigerator maintenance. Link to Image


    Temperature@ert provides cost-effective, fault-tolerant wireless temperature monitoring solution for organizations of all sizes. Our products and services can help bring a food processor, distributor, wholesale or retail outlet into compliance 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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