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How to Ensure Your Food Distribution Partner is FSMA Compliant

Aug 4, 2017 11:15:00 AM Ram Esakky Blogs, Temperature Monitor

Ram Esakky

Written by Ram Esakky

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What it takes to be FSMA compliant

Signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has been described as “the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.”

In April, compliance requirements under the FSMA went into effect mandating a real-time temperature monitoring solution for all industries involved in the production, storage, transportation and shipping of temperature sensitive food.

FSMA is enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In short, to comply with the FSMA, any company that maintains cold rooms or reefer trucks for use at any point in the foodservice supply chain needs to be able to prove that food is being kept at a safe temperature every moment of every day while it’s in their control.

While every player in the supply chain shares the same responsibility, it’s in their best interest to check up on the companies they work with to ensure food they hand off in a safe condition isn’t getting compromised by someone else’s failure to comply with these important mandates.

So, how can you ensure that your food distribution partner is FSMA compliant?

What it takes to be FSMA compliant

The main emphasis of these rules is 1) to ensure proper temperature is held throughout storage and transportation and 2) that the products are transported in sanitary conditions.

The rules specify important areas such as vehicle cleanliness and hygiene, transportation operations, pre-cooling of the cargo, and maintaining adequate temperature monitoring and control of the cold room or reefer truck. Additionally, maintaining records of the temperature logs for the storage and transportation route is necessary for a period of up to 12 months.

FSMA-compliance-food-distrubutionProper product segregation and packaging is also essential, as is training of the operations team to follow documented processes to ensure adherence to these guidelines.

It also clearly states that shippers and carriers should have adequate knowledge and documented procedures for maintaining and monitoring the temperature conditions of the food to ensure that it was stored and transported at the right temperature, and no temperature excursions have occurred during storage, transit, or at the retail point.

While general sanitation and the adoption of adequate procedures are fairly straightforward and (hopefully) already in place with any food distributor you’re working with, the temperature monitoring aspects of these requirements have required many companies to make changes to how they’ve been operating up until now.

Let’s dive a little deeper into those details:

Real-time temperature monitor

A key aspect of the FSMA rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food is the need for adequate technology inside the cold rooms, reefer trucks, and other means of food storage or transport, that can continually monitor the ambient temperature and humidity of the facility. In other words, every room or truck in the supply chain needs to be equipped with a temperature monitor that’s always operating while food is present.

This makes good sense, and it’s certainly not new to the foodservice logistics industry. However, prior to the FSMA rules went into effect, many companies relied on antiquated technology and highly manual processes that, regrettably, didn’t always get the job done.

Traditionally, temperatures have been recorded by a data logger, however, this is inadequate, and will not allow you to remain compliant with the FSMA guidelines. With data loggers, you learn of a temperature failure only after it’s occurred. At that point,  it’s often far too late to rectify the situation.

With modern technology available, it’s not only possible, but fairly simple, to have an always-on, always-connected temperature monitor running during storage and transport that can automatically provide real-time data to anyone anywhere who needs to confirm a shipment’s condition.

Does your food distributor have such equipment installed in their storage and transport environments? If so, are they willing and able to share data with you regarding your products to verify they’re complying with FSMA requirements across the board?

If not, they may still be relying on a mercury thermometer hanging from the ceiling of the truck that the driver may or may not think to glance at some time during his trip… or another equally frightening option.

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Real-time temperature alert

Taking that concept a step further, it’s wonderful for a device to constantly be monitoring the environment and recording any temperature fluctuations as they happen. Practically speaking, though, if that’s where it stopped, it would still require that someone be physically watching a screen all day everyday to make sure the monitored conditions were safe and controlled.

Wouldn’t it be even more valuable if the device could automatically alert responsible personnel if and when the temperature or humidity being monitored moved outside specific boundaries? And if those boundaries could be customized based on what type of food is currently being stored or transported, and its unique requirements?

Indeed, with real-time temperature alert capability, the monitoring device becomes a highly efficient tool that removes the danger of simple human error or forgetfulness, and speeds up a company’s response time when issues arise that could jeopardize food safety.

Again, does your food distribution partner have temperature monitoring equipment installed that can provide those real-time alerts, so they’re able to quickly respond to temperature fluctuations rather than simply reviewing the log after the food spoils?

If not, while they may technically be in compliance with the rules of the FSMA, they’re not making much of an effort to adhere to the spirit of the law.

That real-time temperature monitor and temperature alert already exists

The fact is, the temperature monitoring technology described above already exists, and it’s readily available for anyone in the foodservice supply chain — including your food distributor — to incorporate into their storage and transport facilities to ensure full compliance with the FDA’s FSMA requirements. It’s also available to the facilities and warehouses that are storing food and other temperature-sensitive food.

The Nimble Wireless suite of real-time temperature monitors include a device specifically designed for use on reefer trucks and other mobile refrigeration units, as well as units designed for various stationary cold storage needs, including restaurants.

The Nimble solution is also ideal for those distributors using a mix of owned and rented transport vehicles. Our battery operated, “slap & track” solution is easy to install and remove and runs for up 45 days on our long-lasting internal battery.

Combining the convenience and utility of constant connectivity (without the need for a Wi-Fi signal) with a powerful cloud-based monitoring system and universal mobile app for monitoring and alerts, the Nimble Wireless temperature monitoring system offers the very best in FSMA compliant temperature monitoring and temperature alerts for the foodservice industry.

Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your needs, or buy your new temperature monitoring system right now!

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