Before the invention of freezer compartments in the 1920s, people depended on ice, holes in the ground and window sills to extend the shelf life of perishable foods. After Upton Sinclair described the working conditions in Chicago’s meatpacking district in his book, The Jungle, public awareness regarding food safety and climate control significantly increased, leading to the Pure Food and Drug Act. When scientists identified that cool, sanitary conditions helped control the outbreak of food-related illnesses, healthier food processing followed. Thanks to continuing advances in climate control solutions and improvements in cold chain processes, modern food systems better ensure the safety and quality of the goods consumers eat and drink.
Food Safety Modernization Act
President Obama’s administration agreed with the enactment of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011. The goal of the act is to maintain the safety of food by shifting the focus from responding to contamination incidents to preventing them.
The FSMA was the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in more than 70 years and includes seven foundational rules regarding sanitary transportation, intentional adulteration, produce safety, preventive controls, imported food safety, inspections and compliance, third-party certifications, and product recalls. By the end of 2016, the FDA finalized the act’s rules, laying the groundwork for the FSMA’s implementation in April 2017.
The Importance of Climate Control Solutions for Food Safety
One of the major components of preventing food losses and ensuring consumer safety is maintaining an environment that preserves the goods and prevents the growth of pathogens throughout the cold chain, which spans from post-harvest processes to when goods reach consumers. To ensure that environments are optimal at every stage of a cold chain and to verify the integrity of food, the FSMA requires detailed record keeping from all involved, including food processors, transportation carriers, suppliers and retailers.
Under the FSMA’s Preventive Controls rule, facilities must adopt a written food safety plan that includes procedures for monitoring and verification of environmental controls to prevent food-related hazards. Because climate control needs vary by region and product types, facilities should implement custom temperature and condensation control solutions to maintain constant conditions.
Climate control is crucial to protecting the safety of food and ensuring its sanitation because it regulates:
- Temperatures: Foods kept at 40°F or below are more microbiologically stable, which prevents the growth of pathogens and promotes sanitary conditions. Cool temperatures also encourage respiration in fresh produce, which maintains their quality and healthfulness for longer periods.
- Condensation: Condensation control is a balancing act. When environments are too humid, the conditions could promote decay and the growth of pathogens. When they’re too dry, respiration rates in goods decrease.
- Ventilation: Ventilation controls prevent the buildup of ethylene and carbon dioxide, and prevent water losses in food.
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Food Safety and Climate Control Trends
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans experience foodborne illnesses annually by known pathogens (e.g., bacteria and viruses) and unspecified agents. While the statistics regarding the impact of contamination may seem intimidating, improved environmental controls and sanitation have greatly decreased their occurrences. The CDC’s Food Outbreak Online Database reports that the number of foodborne outbreaks decreased by 420 occurrences between the years 1998 and 2015. Illnesses dropped from 27,156 incidents in 1998 to 15,018 in 2015.
The statistics regarding most common pathogens between 1998 and 2015 are also promising:
- Listeria: 84 fewer illnesses, 82 fewer hospitalizations and 20 fewer deaths
- Norovirus: 29 fewer hospitalizations
- Campylobacter: Illnesses dropped by approximately 50 percent
- Staphylococcus aureus: Outbreaks decreased by 50 percent and there were 632 fewer illnesses
- Mycotoxins: Outbreaks decreased by just over 50 percent and illnesses dropped by 634 individuals
While the process of getting food from the farm to the table is not perfect, strides in food safety and climate control standards are paving the way to a healthier future. To better implement the new rules under the FSMA and ensure their compliance, organizations are turning to Polygon’s custom climate control and warehouse cooling solutions, which have the propriety Exactaire® monitoring system. The cost-effective solutions may be temporary or permanent, depending on a client’s needs, offering the most advanced controls in the industry. Learn more about setting your organization up for success in this new food safety landscape by scheduling a complimentary consultation with Polygon.
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