Food Industry and Quality Control
In a news scoop provided by in San Francisco affiliate of NBC, there was a grainy video coverage of large multi temperature trucks dropping food supplies at a shade to be picked hours later up by pickup trucks. This caused widespread reaction in the food and food service industry starting from complete outrage to utter disbelief. What's the big deal, you ask? Well, how would you react if you realize that the gallon of milk that you bought from your local supermarket yesterday, was left out in the sun for three hours before it was picked up by the store clerk and put in the freezer section? It's the same.
Since then, the company in question has taken multiple steps to make sure that this does not happen. The drop zones, which are expected to be temperature controlled have been discontinued. But this begs the question of how do the suppliers, distributors and retailers maintain the quality as required at various transition points. This is especially true for perishables like fresh poultry, dairy and produce.
Typically, the suppliers pick and pack the goods in a temperature controlled environment, label it for expiration date and temperature zone. Then they are transported to different distribution centers in a dry, cooler and freezer trucks as applicable. Each truck is equipped with a thermometer, which records the maximum and minimum temperature during the trip. At the conclusion of the trip, before the goods are unloaded to the staging area, the temperature on the truck is audited. If the temperature is beyond the tolerance for the good being supplied, the items are discarded.
The goods are taken to the temperature controlled warehouse and stored there. Once it is ready to be moved to the customer location, temperature, days to expiration and route duration are calculated. The good is picked to be shipped if all the conditions are met.
Typically, goods are shipped either in multi temperature trucks are single temperature trucks based on the volume of supplies. During drop-off, the driver takes the temperature again and adds to the audit log. This is added to the BOM that is provided to the customer along with the goods.
Any deviation is very strictly dealt with and punishable by hefty fines as well as bans in most of the states. FDA (Food and Drugs Authority) does random audits of the warehouse as well as the drop-off trucks to ensure that the process is complied with.
After all, we love our morning cereals and milk and that milk better be good!
Posted on behalf of Aruni Acharya, Sr. Principal