According to one recent study conducted by the CDC, about one in six Americans gets sick from foodborne illnesses every single year. That number breaks down to about 48 million people. 128,000 of them on average are hospitalized, and unfortunately, 3,000 of them will eventually pass away.
Statistics like those are among the many, many reasons why paying attention to temperature when shipping food and related items is of such critical importance. This is absolutely one of the situations where the stakes are far too high to get this one wrong. Shipping something at an inappropriate temperature isn’t just a mild inconvenience – it can literally make people sick or worse.
Thankfully, controlling the temperature of sensitive items isn’t necessarily as difficult as one might think. It does, however, require you to keep a few key things in mind.
Why Temperature Control Matters: An Overview
Over the last few years, it’s become common to hear about the term TCS – one that refers to items that require both time and temperature control during shipping and transportation to help keep people safe. There are a lot of potentially dangerous pathogens that can grow on food products if left unchecked, but not all sources are easily controlled. Two of the ones that are, however, are time and temperature – meaning that it’s important to take a proactive approach to food safety to help prevent issues later on.
Milk and similar types of dairy products are among the most common time and temperature-controlled items out there. The same is true of meat and poultry, fish and shellfish, eggs and more.
Of course, there are other reasons why pathogens might grow on food items, too – with moisture being a major example. All bacteria need moisture to grow, and people handling food items – especially during transportation – can’t necessarily control the amount of moisture in an environment. But since time and temperature can be controlled, it’s important to do so to help make sure that the conditions aren’t right for a problem to develop in the future.
Equally complicating things is the fact that temperature often fluctuates during food shipping and storage, which can also impact the rate at which bacteria are able to grow. Likewise, different types of bacteria all have different growth temperature ranges. So whereas a temperature might be totally acceptable to prevent the growth of one type of microorganism, it may also empower the growth of another. Because of this, it’s key to have as much actionable information about food storage temperature as possible – all so that food handlers can make better and more informed choices all the time.
This is also another reason why it’s so important to make sure you have the right technology by your side when shipping – with a temperature indicator like the WarmMark being a chief example. A temperature indicator like this is often a single-use, ascending time-temperature indicator that can automatically alert users when the temperature gets too high or too low for a given environment. This can allow someone to recognize an issue immediately, thus putting a stop to it before it has a chance to become a much bigger (and potentially deadlier) one down the road.
In addition to assisting with the proper shipping of raw and cooked meats, a temperature indicator can be helpful in a wide range of different scenarios. It can preserve products like floral items or chocolates, and they’re commonly used during the transportation of items like test specimens, biologics and test kits, too.
More recently, these types of temperature indicators have been used during the transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine – all variations of which need to be stored at precise temperatures to help maintain their effectiveness when they’re eventually distributed to end-users. This is a particularly tricky situation, as temperature requirements will vary depending on whether the vaccine is currently in transit or whether it is being monitored at an inoculation site.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 vaccine shows absolutely no visible signs of being damaged by heat should that occur – making it very difficult to know whether or not they can be safely administered. A temperature indicator device like the WarmMark and others goes a long way towards helping people understand precisely that.
In the end, approximately one in 10 people get sick globally after eating contaminated food every single year. 125,000 kids under the age of five will pass away due to the same reason. The United States alone loses about $110 billion every year in terms of not only lost productivity due to unsafe food-related illnesses but medical expenses as well. These are all among the many, many reasons why temperature control is so important – and why it will continue to play an important role in our lives for years to come.