Hot News: Food Safety and Delivery Trucks

It was in many ways a hot week for news relating to food safety and food waste.  Part of this was fueled by the ongoing tragedy about cantaloupes and salmonella…this following on previous cantaloupe issues with listeria.  Then there was a recall for packaged salad mix relating to potential listeria issues.  I think America is waking up to the complexity of the cold chain and the challenges we face ensuring food safety and quality.

If we aren’t awake yet, then we should all watch this new video from NBC’s Today Show on Thursday, August 23.  This report from NBC’s Jeff Rossen is a follow up from a previous report earlier this year about how food shipped in supposedly properly refrigerated trucks in fact is being heated to temperatures of – in one case – 101°F!  This creates an environment for listeria, salmonella and e Coli to thrive.  The video shows all too graphically juice from thawed chicken parts dripping out of cartons and onto cabbage.  We used to hear about these things and swear that we would become vegetarians but, heck, as shown in the video, everything’s contaminated.

NBC Today Show image shows thawed chicken juice that leaked in a trailer whose refrigeration system wasn’t working.

What can be done about it?  Well, part of the problem is that it is nearly impossible to enforce proper temperature management in transit.  This is due in part to the police not having general authority to pull over trucks and arrest people for improper refrigeration and, even if they did, how would they check the massive numbers of reefers that traverse our highways every day?

Fortunately, temperature monitoring can help, but just having a single monitor in a trailer probably isn’t adequate as loads are moved around, pallets are reorganized and things can sit on loading docks.  Pallet-level temperature monitors, either built directly into the pallets or placed in with the product itself, can provide a temperature record from harvest to retailer or food service provider to document freshness and proper handling.  Monitoring pallets in this way would make it easy to identify when pallets haven’t been properly cooled in transit and perhaps help to reduce or eliminate health risks associated with improper handling.

And, fortunately, we’re seeing visionary retail grocers and restaurants starting to implement these tactics to ensure that they’re not selling tainted produce, meats and dairy items so there’s hope.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing