Before September comes to an end, we would like to acknowledge National Food Safety Month. One of the most important FDA regulations related to food safety is the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which aims to prevent food safety problems before they occur, rather than reacting to them after they occur. The reason behind this is quite simple: Prevention is more cost-effective than reaction. One of the simplest ways to prevent food safety problems is to diligently monitor cold storage temperatures. There are several tools that food manufacturers and food service companies can use to do this. We highlight some of the common tools and provide a comprehensive evaluation of each method.
There are essentially four choices for monitoring freezer/fridge temperatures:
- Manual thermometers
- Chart recorders
- Data Loggers
- Wireless IoT devices
Thermometers are the most straightforward method for monitoring freezer and fridge temperatures. Typically, a designated person collects and records temperature readings in a logbook.
While this is a straightforward process, there are issues that make this technique less desirable. The initial capital cost of a thermometer is very low, but don’t ignore the manual effort required to record thermometer information every day. This can translate into relatively high operating costs. In addition, while it’s possible to keep records by storing the log sheets, this technique is also the most susceptible to human error.
Chart recorders have been used for decades to continuously record freezer and refrigerator temperatures. They are reliable, fairly inexpensive, and easy to use. The charts can be saved and filed away to keep a comprehensive record of temperature.
While they are reliable and easy to use, chart recorders still have some setbacks such as changing out the chart paper, usually on a daily or weekly basis, and lack of resolution in the data collected. Material costs for charts and pens also add up.
Data Loggers are devices that measure and store temperature readings electronically. They offer continuous monitoring of freezer/fridge temperatures and can alarm when temperatures are out of specification.
Data loggers are more expensive than manual thermometers, but they offer the advantages of continuous monitoring, alarming, and electronic data storage. Data loggers store a lot of information that can be easily saved and retrieved for regulatory compliance. Unfortunately, not all data logger systems can alarm users remotely for out-of-temperature conditions.
Wireless IoT Monitoring and Alarming
Wireless IoT monitoring is easy to set up with no wires or connections needed. All elements are battery operated and seamlessly connect to the internet and to a personalized data portal in the cloud. The portal allows the user to monitor equipment in real time and to receive out of temperature alerts instantaneously via email or SMS alert.
This setup eliminates uncertainty caused by human error, stores data for years, continuously monitors equipment and alerts designated users for out of spec conditions. Data are securely stored in the cloud and can be easily accessed for regulatory compliance. Users are also alerted to low battery conditions or connectivity issues, so no data gets lost.
Ensure that your organization has the proper temperature monitoring system in place to comply with FDA’s Food and Safety Modernization Act. For more information, please download our free E-Guide.