One of the key ways to keep food safe is to ensure that it’s prepared, stored, and transported at the proper temperature. The new FSMA regulations hold food companies accountable for not only properly controlling food temperatures, but also for monitoring and reporting them.
Cooper-Atkins Corporation has had a good deal of time to prepare for today’s temperature challenges — they’ve been in the temperature monitoring business since 1885. Company founder David G. Cooper invented the first bimetal oven thermometer.
Today, the company supplies digital thermometers, thermocouple instrument technology, and wireless solutions for temperature monitoring in the food service, healthcare, and industrial markets. Their temperature instruments are in use in popular quick service restaurants, hospitals, casinos, and school and university systems.
Cooper-Atkins products assist in ensuring consistency of food product and corporate brand protection. And they’ve had great success! Though still a small company of only 130 employees, Cooper-Atkins was the recipient of the prestigious McDonalds’ 2015 Global Supplier of the Year award.
Scott D’Aniello has been with Cooper-Atkins for 11 years. He currently serves as Vice President of the Industrial division, which includes the food processing sector. D’Aniello has seen demand for the company’s products take off as manufacturers get ready for FSMA implementation.
In this article, we’ll share what D’Aniello has to say about getting food processing customers FSMA-ready. And we’ll look at how the industry as a whole is approaching temperature monitoring and control.
FSMA and Temperature Regulation
One of the central provisions of FSMA is HARPC (Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls). HARPC requires almost every food facility in the US (and, in some cases, abroad) to:
- identify food safety risks associated with their foods and processes,
- implement controls to keep those risks at bay, and
- come up with corrective actions, should any of those controls prove faulty.
Temperature management is, of course, an important method of controlling pathogen growth in food products.
Another critical aspect of FSMA is monitoring and recordkeeping. Temperatures must be monitored and recorded not only in food processing facilities, but throughout the transportation and distribution process.
A 2014 article from Inbound Logistics takes a look at the wide reach of these new monitoring regulations. The Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule, for example, requires companies to not only monitor temperatures during transportation, but also to communicate temperature data to all of the parties in the supply chain, as well as keep comprehensive records.
D’Aniello has seen his company’s relationship with the food processing industry go from 0 to 100 since FSMA came on the scene. Around two years ago, Quaker Oats reached out to him. They’d heard about Cooper-Atkins’ wireless temperature monitoring system and wanted to purchase one for their 1 million ft2 facility.
Since then, Cooper-Atkins has worked with numerous large food processing companies, including Mars, Nestle, and Coca-Cola.
D’Aniello is well aware of what a major task full compliance will be, given how many regulations there are to follow. He says, “The long arm of the law is extending all the way from farm to fork.” That’s why his company works with clients to make sure they have every aspect of temperature monitoring and control covered. “Our products assist in the prevention of foodborne illnesses and as a result, we help companies protect their brand image,” says D’Aniello.
From Clipboards to the Internet of Things
So what were companies doing to monitor temperature, pre-FSMA?
D’Aniello offers an example from the healthcare side of his business. He describes a refrigerator containing $200,000 of vaccines for children. On the side of the refrigerator was a bimetal thermometer and clipboard with a handwritten temperature chart. Such low-tech methods have been common in food processing.
While human-driven temperature checks might seem to be the simplest approach, this method offers a lot of room for improvement:
- Cost. A handwritten system means companies must pay someone to make the rounds to check and record temperatures several times a day.
- Time. FSMA requires food companies to keep extensive records. While the FDA can’t require electronic records, it does recommend them. Transferring handwritten records into electronic ones takes time, which also means additional costs.
- Mistakes. Finally, human processes always leave room for human error.
What are the alternatives? The best solutions center on wireless temperature monitoring systems, such as EnviroTrak and NotifEye.
Wireless temperature sensors provide accurate readings at multiple sites in a facility, in real time. A recent article in Food Processing magazine reports that temperature wheels with paper charts are “woefully obsolete,” but still used throughout the industry. Wireless digital devices are increasingly affordable, and they can run for years without a battery change. These sensors can also be placed in areas too difficult for workers to reach. Additionally, because such systems monitor and record temperature in real time, they can sound an alarm if the temperature isn’t being properly regulated, and the issue can be dealt with right away.
This technology is useful not only for monitoring temperatures for data collection. It can also assist energy-saving efforts by finding hotspots in refrigerated areas or compressors if they begin to overheat.
And these sensors can be part of a cloud-based system that stores and manages data. For example, Cooper-Atkins offers cloud-based hosting, and their experts help with data collection and analysis. This gives companies the data they need to submit reports to regulatory agencies like the FDA and the USDA. Companies can thus eliminate the need to devote in-house resources to crunching the data themselves.
On the Road
Wireless technology may work well in factories and labs. But what about the transportation and distribution part of the supply chain?
FSMA’s tough new rules mean this area needs to be brought into the 21st century as well — particularly as the global supply chain continues to expand.
Food Logistics recently reported on innovations in temperature control and monitoring during the food transport process.
One innovation comes in the bodies of trucks themselves. New Alpine truck bodies, designed specifically to meet more stringent food safety regulations, have four temperature zones. They also have a high level of thermal efficiency.
Telematics are at play in food transportation, as well. Fleets can remotely monitor and control refrigeration, setting different temperature points and automating stops and starts of units. This remote data monitoring will well serve the electronic recording requirements under FSMA.
Satellite technology is another exciting innovation. Satellite tracking tools such as the ColdLink tool from PLM Trailer can control and monitor temperature for an entire fleet remotely. Managers can “actively participate in the supply chain in real time,” changing operational procedures en route, as well as checking temperatures and accessing reports.
Meeting Customers’ Unique Temperature Needs
D’Aniello’s journey into the realm of food processing provides an excellent example of how members of the industry can support each other as we move into the new FSMA frontier. One of the first things D’Aniello did when he took on his first food processing customer was “reach out to FPSA to find out what I needed to do to be successful in this field.”
There’s no doubt that Cooper-Atkins’ relationship with food processors will continue to grow, as more companies work to implement stronger temperature control and monitoring systems.
The company’s success lies in the fact that it works individually with each customer to meet their unique needs. As D’Aniello walks facilities, he sees firsthand that there’s no “one-system-fits-all solution.” Some customers need temperature systems that are smaller, while for others the systems are major capital expenditures. D’Aniello works with clients to design individualized solutions to help them become more efficient and food-safe. Once the system is installed, technical experts from Cooper-Atkins work with companies to ensure that their system is exceeding the customer’s expectations.
FSMA has introduced a whole new set of regulations — not just for food safety, but also for traceability and recordkeeping. Temperature control and monitoring play a big part in this effort. That, plus Cooper-Atkins’ long history in the field and high success rate, is the reason D’Aniello can confidently state that Cooper-Atkins has become “a force to be reckoned with when it comes to food quality and brand protection.”