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From Bench to Bedside: Medical Refrigerator temperatures
Temperature control in food manufacturing is a key component of ensuring consumer health and wellbeing. Just as temperature control ensures sample safety and efficacy in the life sciences, temperature must also be kept within specified ranges when it comes to food manufacturing.
Maintaining the safety and quality of food products is only achievable through controlled and stringently monitored temperature data. Throughout the various stages of food process manufacturing, specific ingredients, mixtures, packaging and overall product quality can risk integrity degradations.
How can temperature effect the various stages of food manufacturing? And what can be employed to ensure temperature control in food manufacturing? In this blog we’ll use our industry expertise to lay out exactly what effects temperature fluctuations can have on food products, however, lets first begin by addressing the unique production process of the food industry:
Discrete vs food process manufacturing
As temperature and humidity specialists, we’ve become extremely familiar with integrating various temperature control methods within both discrete and process manufacturing cycles. Both of these approaches of operations serve as the top level approach to production, however they are very different in the way in which they’re embedded at the bottom line.
Discrete manufacturing involves the production of distinct, countable units. Meanwhile, process manufacturing produces finished products that are not easily separated into individual units prior to this.
Process manufacturing is most easily understood when comparing to a ‘recipe’. Imagine baking a cake for instance, the finished product i.e. the cake, can only be achieved through various stages of mixing, blending and transforming of the batter. As the ingredients and components are combined, we get one step closer to imagining the taste of a scrumptious cake. Until all the ingredients are combined exactly right, however, we simply can’t identify the batter as individual units.
The mixing process of the ingredients, the baking of the batter, the cooling of the solid cake and the icing decoration, are all completed to a single, whole cake. At no stage of this cooking process have we been able to separate, countable cake units. Instead, we have a single, unbroken entity that has undergone a number of different production stages, homogeneously.
The cake, or final product it represents, cannot be divisible into separate units, it is instead, produced as a whole entity. The same stands for process manufacturing, whereby the working product isn’t really anything until the entire of the recipe has been followed.
Discrete vs food process manufacturing
In the food sector, process manufacturing involves various stages of mixing, cooling, fermenting, cooking, packaging and more. With the final product being a transformed concoction of raw materials, resulting in things like sauces, dairy products, soups and more.
The emphasis on food process manufacturing is on quality control, product consistency and process efficiency. Small variations in the ingredients or process can significantly disrupt the quality of the finished product, just like slight alterations to the ‘recipe’ can significantly affect our cakes final taste, texture and appearance.
Food process manufacturing is governed by a number of external factors, these include:
- Regulatory compliance
- Process optimisation
- Cold chain management
All of the above are heavily reliant on temperature control specifically. It is this that has made the temperatures in the food production industry be as closely monitored as they are in the pharmaceutical sector.
Temperature monitoring for food product safety
Temperature is a critical factor in ensuring the safety of food products; this is because proper control of temperature is the difference between foodborne pathogens wreaking havoc on a consumer’s health, or not.
Food process manufacturing involves the handling of raw materials at the first stage of production. It is at this stage where harmful microorganisms and pathogens can rapidly multiply and cross contaminate a number of finished products. Accurate temperature monitoring of the production environment, the raw materials and the finished products can ensure that microbial growth is restricted.
In a food manufacturing facility especially, large volumes of different products and ingredients are handled regularly. This dramatically increases the risk of contamination. Take the Salmonella outbreak caused by Kinder chocolate made by Ferrero in Belgium for example. More than 300 people across 16 countries suffered from foodborne illnesses, due to the cross contamination.
By having temperature monitoring protocols in place, the threat of pathogen contamination across all products is significantly reduced.
Regulatory food process manufacturing
Temperature control in food manufacturing has to be maintained to a specified standard set by regulatory bodies, including the FDA and FSA, in order to mitigate public health concerns like the incident caused by Ferrero.
In the UK, the FSA are responsible for food safety and hygiene, and in the US, the FDA have the respective duties. The food safety regulations set out by these boards include robust temperature checks, ongoing monitoring and accurate record keeping. Which means, in order to adhere to the regulations, food manufacturers must maintain a record to demonstrate all ingredients, raw materials, finished products and packaging is produced and stored safely.
HACCP and cold chain management
Food process manufacturing can often be a part of the wider cold chain. This is where temperature control in food manufacturing is of the most important, as the cold supply chain is the most susceptible to temperature fluctuations.
The cold chain, is quite literally the supply of products that need to be kept cold. These are most typically more perishable food products such as meats, dairy products, sea food etc. The low temperatures seen in this particular production cycle are maintained through refrigerated storage facilities, customised cold rooms, and insulated transport containers.
Whether it’s cold chain supply or more general food process production, temperature control in food manufacturing is required to implement Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) assessments. This is a systematic approach familiar to many food manufacturers, where food safety hazards are identified, evaluated and controlled.
Through temperature monitoring, points of production where temperature control is of high importance, can be identified.
Implementing temperature control in food manufacturing
The results that in-effective temperature monitoring can have on shelf life, product quality and consumer health, means that food manufacturers often use multiple methods to control temperature. These include, thermometers, data loggers, control systems and automated refrigerators, storage units and more.
Since the emphasis of successful food process manufacturing is placed on quality control, consistency and efficiency, implementation of temperature control is primarily focused on optimising the production process, mitigating the shelf-life implications, and providing a real time rapport of temperatures across various locations.
Through wireless data loggers and pressure and humidity sensors, food manufacturers can gather temperature readings from various stages of production, including pasteurization, sterilization, blast freezing, storage, transportation and more.
Once they have real time temperature readings from across these various stages, the process manufacturing cycle can be optimised. This means deviations can be prevented, potential issues can be addressed early on, readings can be automated, and records can be archived to adhere with regulations.
This not only forms a precise and consistent picture of temperatures at each stage of production, but it also ensures that if temperatures do deviate, they’re captured as early as possible to reduce the impact on a food products safety, shelf life and quality. Above all, these individual temperature monitoring efforts then ensure that food products are produced at high volume, and of the same high quality each time.
Looking for a temperature specialist that can help you identify various monitoring solutions to integrate into your process manufacturing? At Withnell Sensors, we have the knowledge and expertise to optimise your temperature monitoring! Speak to one of the team today.