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TECHNOLOGY

Cold chain: Ideal storage - origin to consumption
Wednesday, 03 July, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Mohammad Shareef, Dr R B Kshirsagar and Dr A R Saw
Cold chain is a logistic system that provides a series of facilities for maintaining ideal storage conditions for perishables from the point of origin to the point of consumption in the food supply chain.

Supply Procurement ® Transport ® Storage ®  Transport ®  End Customer
India is the second-largest producer of vegetables in the world. In spite of that, per capita availability of fruits and vegetables is quite low because of post-harvest losses which account for about 25 to 30% of production. Besides, quality of a sizeable quantity of produce also deteriorates by the time it reaches the consumer.

Most of the problems relating to the marketing of fruits and vegetables can be traced to their perishability. Perishability is responsible for its high marketing costs, market gluts, price fluctuations and other similar problems. However significant progress in expansion of cold storage industry in the country has been made only after Independence.

Cold chain involves the transportation of temperature-sensitive products along a supply chain through refrigerated packaging methods and the logistical planning to protect the integrity of the shipments. Government of India and Ministry of Agriculture promulgated an order known as Cold Storage Order, 1964, under Section 3 of Essential Commodities Act, 1955.    
(a)    Surface storage: Refrigerated warehouses for storage of perishable product in consideration.
(b)    Refrigerated transportation: Reefer trucks, containers and so on for transport of perishable product.

Key Elements of Cold Chain
1. Product:

A product is characterised by physical attributes requiring specific temperature and humidity conditions (e.g. perishability, fragility)

2. Origin / Destination:
The respective locations where a temperature-sensitive product is produced to be consumed. It is indicative of the potential difficulty of making a product available at a market.

3. Distribution:
The methods and infrastructures available to transport a product in a temperature-controlled environment.

The products that need to be kept in a refrigerator can be called fresh or perishable food such as fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. Perishable food that should be stored in fridge, including dairy products, meats, fish, vegetables and concentrated citrus juices.

Cold Chain Infrastructure
Pre-cooling facilities: Pre-cooling is the removal of heat energy from crops, known as field heat, after they are harvested. Pre-cooling is typically done soon after harvest. Pre-cooling reduces spoilage and slows ripening.

Refrigerated storage: Refers to the storing of goods in a reduced temperature atmosphere. Heat is removed from the storage container or room to help keep goods cold. Refrigerated storage helps prevent spoilage of foods and other items meant for consumption.

Refrigerated transport: It is a form of climate-controlled transportation which is designed to maintain a cool or frozen temperature, depending on the product being transported. Refrigerated trucks, sometimes called “reefers” are the most commonly used refrigerated transport. Other refrigerated transportation modes include airplanes, ships and railcars.

Packaging: It is another key component. Cold chain packaging is specifically designed to help maintain a reduced temperature. Cold chain packaging is sometimes insulated and or thermal.

Information management systems: They are transforming the cold chain by providing route optimisation, warehousing and shipping documentation, key performance indicators, scanning equipment phone apps and the ability to turn data into actionable insights.

A Wide Range of Benefits
  • Reduces food loss due to spoilage
  • Enhances food safety and quality
  • Balances and manages the supply and demand of food
  • Cold storages are temperature adjustable, they can be used for different functions by adjusting the temperature to change from a drying room to help control the moisture content of the products being stored to a blast freezer. These units are airtight they will also help to protect your products from extreme temperature and weather changes.
  • Not only will a cold storage room provide an extra storage area they can also be used for added protection of your products. The airtight construction of a cold storage room will allow the temperature of the area to remain at a lower and a constant temperature for a longer period of time. This will allow you to store more products for longer in the event of an electrical outage.
  • Cooler room’s refrigeration will help you to save money by keeping the spoils to a minimum. A cold storage room can keep fruits and vegetables at the correct temperature while controlling the moisture level to help extend the life of the fresh produce longer until it can be used.
Best Practices in Cold Chain Management
1. Secure the right expertise
Cold chains require trained temperature-controlled specialists even before the product is picked up. Specialists who understand both temperature requirements of the shipment and who have a strong working relationship with the shipper and carrier.

2. Determine capacity requirements
Whether transporting temperature-sensitive goods by road, ocean, air, or rail, you will need to carefully consider the pros, cons, and price, especially when coordinating across multiple types of transportation.

3. Set clear expectations early in the process
If a trailer’s temperature increases by only 2 degrees Fahrenheit, it can reduce produce shelf life by as much as 50%. That’s why the shipper, carrier, vendor, provider, and other key stakeholders must agree on their roles - from acceptable temperature ranges and continuous temperature versus cycle settings, to proper seals, contingency plans, equipment expectations and processes for returns and rejections.

4. Share responsibility when loading and unloading
Product that arrives at its final destination at the wrong temperature can be rejected. Before accepting loads, carriers should double check the temperature, including items deep within a pallet, which may minimise the risk for rejection.

5. Balance cost and technology
As technology advances, so do the capabilities of temperature-controlled equipment - from cooling/heating technology to monitoring capabilities. Proactive notice achieved through monitoring allows for fast action to minimise deterioration of refrigerated or frozen products.

Mode of Transportation in Cold Chain
These vehicles are refrigerated to maintain temperatures of either 1.5 to 4°C for cold foods or – 18°C for frozen foods.

1. Refrigerated Railway Cars:
Most refrigerated railway cars use ice bunkers with water ice or ice-and-salt mixture.  

2. Marine Refrigeration:
A special feature of marine transport is the varying climate, ranging from extreme hot to extreme cold, through which the ship has to pass during the course of its journey.

3. Refrigeration in Air
Transport:
Refrigerated air transport of some commodities can be justified on the basis of saving in the time and preservation of quality. In some passenger aircraft, the cargo compartments are cooled by the air-conditioning system itself.
    
Why is Cold Chain Growing so Fast?
Globalisation:  The cold chain has grown to support global commerce. Travelling long distances, border delays, customs and extra handling have forced cold chain professionals to get more effective and more efficient.

Innovation: Technological advancements in cold chain storage and transport are making cold chain less expensive, and more accessible.

Consumer Demand: Consumers are buying fresher and frozen food, which has driven the demand for more cold chain capability and capacity. Additionally, drug and chemical companies are also using more of these services for their products.

Emerging Market Growth: As emerging markets like India, China, Mexico and Brazil become wealthier, they are buying more cold chain services.

(Shareef is M. Tech scholar, Kshirsagar is Head of Department and Sawate is Associate Dean and Principal, Department of Food Engineering, College of Food Technology, VNMKV, Parbhani. They can be contacted at shareef.foodtech@gmail.com)
 
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