Temperature control is intrinsic to food safety. Whether raw or cooked, food that lingers too long in the “Danger Zone” — 40–140 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service — can be subject to bacterial growth. Many perishable products that are foundational to a grocery operation’s success, such as meats, poultry, dairy, eggs and produce, require temperature-controlled transportation. The cold chain helps preserve the safety and quality of products from production point to processing facilities, distribution centers, and ultimately to store shelves.
Cold chain integrity derives from either passive or active shipping methods. Passive shipping generally employs insulated containers to maintain the temperature of a product that has been pre-cooled before packaging for shipment. Active shipping employs advanced temperature controls and insulated units to actively cool product and maintain it at a desired temperature.
Many factors go into deciding which shipping method is right for a product, including whether it needs to be frozen or only refrigerated, the required temperature range, the type of product, the size of the shipment, etc. However, packaging choices can directly affect the efficiency of a cold chain.
The role of RPCs in the cold chain
In speaking with Progressive Grocer last year, Tosca’s Vice President of Sales and Business Development Dave Rodgers explained the advantages RPCs give perishable products, whether product is shipped using passive or active cooling methods:
- RPCs enhance cooling efficiencies and support stable temperature control. With ventilated side wall designs, RPCs facilitate air flow to help product cool faster and hold temperature better.
- RPCs minimize handling during unloading and stocking. More handling of product can increase the risk of damage and extend the time during which product is unrefrigerated.
- RPCs perform well in cold and moist environments. They maintain their structural integrity even when exposed to humidity or moisture, unlike their corrugated counterparts that break down when exposed to these conditions.
“By decreasing the number of times product is handled, it reduces the risk of product being exposed to ambient conditions,” Rodgers told Progressive Grocer. “Also, because the container itself is designed to facilitate ventilation and cooling efficiency, it provides a more stable transport container that allows product to arrive at the DC or store in better condition.”
Safer, more efficient cold chains
Food safety is everyone’s concern throughout every stage of a grocery supply chain. Cold chain management helps ensure the safety and quality of perishable products sold in grocery stores across the country. Incorporating RPCs into a cold chain can help reduce costs for grocery operators and suppliers, and ensure passive or active cooling systems function at peak efficiency.