Checking The Mercury

Temperature monitoring devices are a must for maintaining product integrity on the road and in the warehouse.


When it comes to ice cream, there's nothing worse than bringing home a pint of Ben and Jerry's only to find that it's hard as a rock, or even worse, that it has melted and refrozen. Your treat has turned into an unappealing mess.

Nestle Davigel, which distributes Nestle ice cream throughout France and Belgium, appreciates this and has taken steps to ensure its ice cream arrives at its 40 regional DCs in perfect condition. Using Thermochron iButton temperature logging systems, the company is able to monitor temperatures from start to finish of a driver's route.

Each of Nestle Davigel's 450 trucks is equipped with two Ther-mo-chrons. At the start of a shift, each driver places the Ther-mochron in the chiller compartment, where it stays throughout the duration of the shift. When the route is completed, the driver removes the Ther'mo'chron and downloads the information into a PC. Driver start and end times are entered into the program.

The accompanying soft''ware checks for any alarms during the route period and prints out a report. The data is sent to the driver, the regional manager and the QA manager at the regional DC. All of the corresponding information about each driver, vehicle, and route is then maintained in a database.

From A To Z

Devices for monitoring temperature can be used both in transit and in storage. "Logging or re'cording devices are used more frequently in transit than non-logging devices for the obvious reasons," says Dick Fettig, executive vice president at Freshloc Technologies, based in Dallas. "You don't care what the temperature is now, as much as what is was during the trip."

Temperature monitoring in its most basic form'a pencil, paper and thermometer'has been in use in the food industry for about 80 years. Just about as old as this original method are analog or mechanical monitors. These self-contained, battery operated devices come with pressure-sensitive chart paper. In spite of the fact that they're very basic, mechanical monitors are still widely used. Their ad'vantage is that when a driver arrives at a site, he can simply pull the data out and have it. However, says Steve DiRubio, vice president and general manager for international food at Sensitech, based in Beverly, MA, "their use is growing only modestly."

Another basic form of temperature monitoring devices are temperature indicators. These consist of dye strips that indicate when a temperature has reached a lowest acceptable point. Other similar devices can give information about temperatures hitting a mark higher than desired. "The advantage of devices like this is that you get instant gratification," says Skip Leach, vice president, sales and marketing at DeltaTRAK, based in Pleasanton, CA.

The disadvantage, however, is the potential for a lack of accuracy, according to Rick Cahill, national sales manager at Cold Chain Technologies, based in Holliston, MA. "You may get false positives," he says.

However, Avery Dennison Corp., Pasadena, CA, recently released TT Sensor active labels which it says can provide food distributors with a cost-effective method of monitoring cold chain integrity. The labels have a two-piece design comprised of an indicator label and an activator label. Once activated, the label will change color from yellow to pink at a pre-determined rate based on time and temperature exposure.

"As opposed to existing time-temperature indicators, TT Sensors do not need to be refrigerated prior to label application," says Bill Hartman, business development director. "The label will deliver an accurate temperature abuse indication even after exposure to excessive heat prior to activation, a crucial factor when monitoring products such as seafood, dairy, meat and other perishables."

Next up the ladder are slightly more sophisticated temperature monitoring devices known as electronic temperature loggers. "These are much more common," says DiRubio. "They are small and very portable and can be placed inside a trailer load to accompany food in transit."

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