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Posts from the ‘Cold Chain’ Category

Nine Best Practices for Ensuring Food Safety and Quality

Doug Thurston | Vice President of Sales

Cold Chain-Digital Solutions at Emerson

Food retailers have long focused on ensuring food quality and safety; now consumers are increasingly concerned about these issues as well. In a recent Emerson study of 1,000 U.S. consumers, 51% said they:

  • Worry about the safety of fresh and frozen foods during transportation to stores
  • Would be less likely to shop from stores that aren’t using the latest technologies throughout their supply chain to help ensure food safety

So the challenge for retailers has become how to meet these consumer expectations while also protecting their brand reputations. The solution? Adopt best practices that enable them to maintain strict temperature adherence for fresh and frozen products at every step of the food supply chain.

Preserving Quality and Minimizing Loss

Delivering poor-quality perishable products or past-ripe produce only erodes customers’ loyalty and gives them a reason to switch to different brands — or shop at a competitor’s grocery store. So temperature control for quality (TCQ) initiatives throughout the cold chain are critical to maximizing freshness and minimizing shrink.

If produce becomes too ripe — from poor temperature control or time-of-harvest conditions — it will naturally have a shorter shelf life. Pre-conditioned fruits such as avocados should be carefully monitored to ensure they are continuously kept at the correct temperatures.

Maintaining Proper Temperatures for Safety

Keeping shipping temperatures at precise setpoints throughout the journey from farm to fork is critical to ensuring that food is safe to consume and also preserving perishable food quality. Temperature control safety (TCS) initiatives are mainly concerned with the safe shipping of fresh and frozen meats, seafood, select produce and dairy products. If temperatures deviate from safe ranges or become too warm:

  • The safety of fresh and frozen meat along with seafood will degrade
  • Product will purge (or release water) initially, then begin to grow and spread bacteria, which increases the risk of foodborne illness

Cross-contamination can also occur when meat, seafood and produce are stacked together closely within a transport shipping container or arranged on a stack of pallets — which increases the potential for foodborne illness outbreaks and customer injuries. Improper sanitization procedures between loads can also lead to cross-contamination.

Nine Best Practices for Perishable Food Transport

So how can grocery retailers ensure food safety and quality?

A holistic approach that considers key factors at every step of the perishable supply chain must be followed along with careful coordination among producers and shippers. Here are nine best practices for retailers to adopt from inbound harvest and transport to outbound shipping and receipt from distribution centers (DCs):

  1. Pre-cooling: Stabilize product temperatures with a process after harvest and prior to loading in refrigerated shipping containers.
  2. Transport refrigeration: Ensure proper refrigeration and insulation of reefer trucks and trailers.
  3. Inspection: Visually inspect trailers between loads to ensure a clean and contaminant-free space.
  4. Temperature stability: Maintain continuous setpoint temperatures throughout a trip; do not permit the use of fuel-saver mode or starting/stopping of refrigeration.
  5. Calibration: Annually calibrate the thermistor(s) of reefer trucks and/or trains.
  6. Loading: Correctly load pallets to enable proper airflow and consistent temperatures from the front to the back of trailers.
  7. Load transfer and receipt: Do not allow trailers to sit in receiving docks for extended durations, especially in warm regions; limit opening of trailer doors to maintain holding temperatures.
  8. Avoid mixed loads: Avoid trying to save fuel costs by mixing loads with a combination of fresh and/or frozen products with different ideal temperature setpoints.
  9. Data logging: Enable the automatic capturing and recording of trip temperature data for reporting and verification of quality assurance and to help resolve disputes or questions over rejected loads.

Pick an Expert Partner for Cold Chain Management

Protecting consumer safety is an ethical prerequisite for food retailers. At the same time, it’s important to remember that it only takes one incident to permanently impact your business reputation and potentially incur the significant financial impacts of fines and litigation. That makes it imperative for retailers to clearly understand everything that contributes to food quality and safety throughout the food supply chain. Then, they should partner with an expert to help them deploy the modern tools and technologies needed to address the many challenges associated with perishable cold chain management.

 

Ten Tips for Preventing Refrigerant Leaks in Supermarket Systems

Katrina Krites | Director of Strategic Marketing, Cold Chain

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Refrigerant leaks are a universal challenge for U.S. supermarket operators. These leaks are not only costly from an operational perspective, but emissions of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants also contribute to global warming. Today, commercial refrigeration contractors play a significant role in helping operators to implement best practices to reduce and even prevent refrigerant leaks. I recently contributed to an ACHR The NEWS article where I discussed strategies for leak detection and mitigation best practices for supermarket refrigeration systems.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) recently reported that numerous U.S. supermarket chains were leaking significant amounts of HFC refrigerants. These findings were consistent with a report by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill program, which stated that the typical supermarket has an annual leak rate of about 25%, which equates to about 1,000 pounds of leaked refrigerant every year.

Understand root causes

Although refrigerant leaks are much more common in large, centralized systems, it’s not as if contractors or operators simply accept leaks as a design limitation. On the contrary, when a refrigeration system is first installed and commissioned, it operates at peak performance. But over time, systems inevitably drift from their commissioned performance baseline, contractors perform repairs to keep systems running, and the potential for leaks can start to rise if a system is not properly maintained and managed.

For a contractor’s perspective on refrigerant leaks, the NEWS also interviewed Todd Ernest, CEO and founder of Climate Pros, a comprehensive commercial refrigeration and HVAC firm with offices in more than 40 states. Ernest agreed that while leaks are a common problem, nearly half of the stores serviced by Climate Pros do not have refrigerant leaks. One common problem that they discovered is that many stores still use the same copper lines and systems that were installed decades ago. Though durable, copper isn’t intended to last forever — and original insulation and mounting hardware will often eventually wear down.

Similarly, mechanical room cleanliness is also essential for helping contractors to identify leaks. Compressor racks, air-cooled condensers, remote headers, walk-in evaporator coils and other components should be kept free of oil and dirt. Corroded steel components should be removed and/or painted with a rust-inhibiting paint to help prevent future corrosion.

Check for leaks

As I explained in the article, service technicians should conduct refrigerant leak checks at regular intervals, depending on the system size or type. For large, centralized systems, this should usually be approximately every 30–60 days. An effective leak detection program should include three key elements:

  1. Accurate detection methods
  2. Reliable notifications
  3. Continuous monitoring for system leaks

Contractors should recommend the installation of a refrigerant leak monitoring, notification and alarm system to ensure the detection of any leaks between regular leak inspections. Detection devices should also be installed in leak-prone locations, such as refrigeration racks and display cases, to monitor the concentration of refrigerants in the air.

By integrating these devices into Emerson’s Lumity™ supervisory control platform, designated store staff and/or service technicians can be alerted when a leak occurs. This powerful facility management system enables continuous monitoring of refrigeration data to help retailers correlate the leaks with respect to different sections of the system or specific maintenance events.

Ernest added that it’s standard protocol for his technicians to perform a leak check every time they go into a store — regardless of the purpose of the actual service call.

Promptly repair leaks

Today’s leak detection devices make it easier to pinpoint leak sources, but it’s important to remember that in many cases, the first refrigerant leak found in a system may not be the only one — or even the largest.

A quick response is most important after detecting a leak to mitigate its impact upon system performance and minimize the associated economic costs. Supermarkets should establish proper leak detection response protocols and institute proactive measures.

If persistent leaks continue, even at lower leak rates of 20%, supermarkets could lose approximately 700 pounds of R-404A annually. At $7 per pound, that equates to a yearly expense of nearly $5,000 — in addition to any potential costs associated with compliance, environmental consequences and overall deterioration of system performance.

A methodical approach can help to achieve all-important early detection and an overall reduction in refrigerant leaks. The NEWS article concluded with these 10 tips:

  1. Perform a leak check on every service call. Conduct refrigerant leak checks at regular intervals, ideally every 30–60 days for large centralized systems.
  2. Periodically replace copper lines as well as insulation and mounting hardware.
  3. Keep refrigeration racks and mechanical rooms as clean as possible in order to spot leaks more easily.
  4. If one leak is found, it may not be the only one, so check the entire system thoroughly.
  5. Once all leaks have been repaired, confirm that refrigerant levels have stabilized, indicating there are no additional leaks elsewhere in the system.
  6. Install a refrigerant leak monitoring, notification and alarm system to detect leaks between regular leak inspections.
  7. During refrigeration system installation, use proper securing mechanisms for piping and the correct piping techniques.
  8. Perform a nitrogen purge and pressure test with every new installation to ensure no leaks are present.
  9. Establish leak detection response protocols and proactive measures to minimize or eliminate leaks altogether.
  10. Implement a refrigerant tracking system to identify significant leaks.

 

[New E360 Webinar] Leverage Data to Optimize Refrigeration System Efficiency

Charles Larkin | Director of Data and Analytics, Cold Chain

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Within the ever-expanding scope of commercial refrigeration applications, internet of things (IoT) technologies have a wide variety of potential uses. From helping to preserve food safety and quality to implementing smart maintenance programs, IoT programs can be utilized to address some of food retailers’ most critical operational concerns. In an upcoming E360 Webinar, which will take place on Tuesday, July 20 at 2:30 p.m. EDT/11:30 a.m. PDT, we’ll explore how retailers can utilize IoT initiatives and data-driven insights to achieve key operational objectives.

Attendees of this webinar will gain an understanding of IoT fundamentals and learn how hardware and software can combine to deliver valuable information on equipment performance. By utilizing connected sensors on equipment and installing smart control devices, operators can leverage previously untapped data to uncover real-time and historic insights on refrigeration status, performance trends and overall asset conditions.

Then, using advanced software with powerful machine-learning (ML) algorithms, this data can be processed and further analyzed to deliver more predictive insights, identify preventative maintenance (PM) opportunities, and even develop prescriptive maintenance models.

The upcoming webinar will explore how retailers can unlock the vast potential of data within commercial refrigeration applications, such as:

  • Identifying procedural problems in quick-service restaurants (QSRs) with respect to adherence to their hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) programs
  • Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of implementing digital HACCP programs and/or remote temperature monitoring of refrigeration assets
  • Developing algorithms for the marine sector to help provide early detection of potential food safety/quality issues during sea transport (and applying these concepts to food retail)

To learn more about how IoT programs can deliver operational insights in commercial refrigeration applications, please register for this informative webinar.

 

 

Protecting Vaccine Efficacy Throughout the Cold Chain

Chris Ashbaugh | Head of Healthcare

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

As has been widely publicized, COVID-19 vaccines come with more than a few challenges in terms of storage and distribution. When the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine became available, it was required to be stored at ultra-low temperatures between -80 to -60 °C (-112 to -76 °F). More recently, this ultra-cold storage requirement was removed from the Pfizer vaccine, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its storage and transportation at standard freezer temperatures for up to two weeks. The Moderna vaccine requires a frozen cold chain but can be refrigerated for up to 30 days before use. The Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, meanwhile, must be refrigerated but never frozen, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To further complicate an already high-stakes process, cold chain integrity must be maintained throughout multiple hand-offs among stakeholders, including suppliers, distributors and healthcare organizations. In the process, distributors and healthcare providers need to meet varying — but nonetheless strict — temperature requirements to move and store these vaccines. Any temperature excursions, even for a short period of time, can reduce or destroy a vaccine’s potency and/or safety.

Investing in the equipment required to safeguard vaccines would be a risky bet if it were left to untested technology. The good news is the technology supporting the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is not unproven. In fact, Emerson has decades of experience providing the end-to-end temperature reliability that manufacturers, distributors and healthcare providers rely on to help protect vaccine efficacy.

Ensuring reliability in refrigeration system performance

All vaccines must be stored at precise temperature ranges. For this reason, refrigeration system reliability is essential to cold chain management. This is as true for the cold storage freezers at manufacturing sites as it is for the vaccine storage units at the points of vaccination and the refrigerated containers and reefer trucks used to transport vials. If any one of these cold storage units failed, hundreds to thousands of doses could potentially be wiped out.

Emerson’s highly reliable, energy-efficient Copeland™ compression solutions are designed to maintain more accurate setpoints and tighter control over temperatures. Our compression solutions deliver faster pull-downs to setpoint temperatures and maintain precise temperature control to provide greater energy efficiency without sacrificing system dependability. They also produce less wear and tear on system components, improving overall refrigeration system performance and lifespan.

Safeguarding efficacy through monitoring technologies

Monitoring solutions and internet of things (IoT) capabilities are proving foundational to maintaining temperature certainty.

At an enterprise level, Emerson offers technology platforms that provide nearly real-time visibility into refrigeration performance and help to protect the safety and efficacy of critical medicines. Long before the current public health crisis, our TempTrak® probes and enterprise monitoring solution have helped leading healthcare providers to achieve their patient safety and product integrity goals. In addition, Emerson’s ProAct™ Connect+ enterprise management software enables operators to monitor equipment performance and rapidly respond to equipment issues. Our Lumity™ E3 supervisory control and facility management system send alerts and notifications to provide continuous refrigeration monitoring that is essential to protecting vaccine efficacy.

For a more portable solution, we recently launched our Lumity wireless data logger to enable temperature monitoring of vaccine storage containers in accordance with the CDC’s requirements. This powerful, yet economical solution has a built-in information technology (IT) infrastructure to simplify deployment, including:

  • No Wi-Fi required for connectivity
  • No additional hardware or cloud software required for data storage and retrieval
  • Able to operate as a stand-alone solution or integrate with TempTrak software

To help ensure maximum temperature accuracy, the Lumity wireless data logger is available with different probes depending on the application, a standard temperature probe as well as a buffered ultra-low temperature (cryogenic) probe with or without a buffer sleeve. All told, it’s a quick and simple way to help healthcare providers of all sizes bring vaccine management into compliance.

European Retailer Selects A2L as the Basis of Its Refrigerant Transition

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

As the transition from hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP) continues in the U.S., commercial refrigeration stakeholders are actively pursuing emerging low-GWP alternatives. Among these include a variety of synthetic and natural options, from A1s with a familiar footprint to mildly flammable A2Ls to the naturals A3 (R-290) and CO2 — all of which can meet very-low GWP thresholds but have varying characteristics which dictate system design architectures. In our most recent E360 Webinar, a leading European retailer provided details about how they chose an A2L refrigerant as the basis for their organization’s refrigerant transition.

Although A2L safety standards have yet to be finalized in the U.S., the case study presented by Brian Churchyard, senior manager of engineering and energy of UK-based ASDA stores, provided a useful framework for how U.S. retailers could follow a similar path to regulatory compliance and sustainable refrigeration. He detailed ASDA’s journey toward lower-GWP refrigeration, which ultimately concluded in the selection of A2L refrigerant R-454A with a GWP of 238.

Creating a new refrigeration design standard

Churchyard explained how ASDA formed a collective working group comprised of numerous agencies, private businesses and industry experts to conduct a detailed assessment of A2Ls. The group developed a design standard for the safe application of their chosen refrigerant, which was based on existing data from the use of R-290 (even though A2L flammability levels were well below those of R-290).

After comparing the performance of A2L refrigerants to other alternatives through numerous trials, the ASDA team concluded that their new design standard achieved their objectives of lowering capital investment, energy consumption, lifecycle costs and carbon emissions. It’s important to note that while R-454A does not have the lowest GWP of the available A2L alternatives, it offered performance improvements that helped to meet these sustainability goals while adhering to the EU’s F-Gas regulatory requirements.

Moving to an A2L also required a reduction in refrigerant charge, which dictated that ASDA would also need to transition from large, centralized rack systems to smaller distributed remote systems. Churchyard said that other benefits of a decentralized approach included limiting the potential for leaks while eliminating risk by having a single point of failure.

Focus on safety and leak mitigation

Of course, safety is a primary concern when using a flammable or mildly flammable refrigerant, and minimizing leaks was an essential part of ASDA’s design strategy. Churchyard stressed that leak prevention was a top priority in all their refrigeration system trials — whether it was an A1 HFC, CO2, hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) or A3 refrigerant. Preventing leaks not only minimizes the potential for emissions, but also ensures that the system is operating at full capacity and efficiency.

Churchyard said that in the event of a leak, display cases are equipped with a modular alarm system integrated into the case controller. If leakage is detected within a case, the system will activate an alarm that effectively triggers a shut-off valve that stops refrigerant flow to a particular display case. In addition, leakage thresholds are set at such a low level as to prevent the potential for A2L ignition. Quality inherent among system joints, connections and proper installation was a major collective focus of the new design standard, which included remote distributed refrigeration plants and their associated display cases.

Churchyard said case upgrades were often the first part of their refrigerant transition strategy. When store operators identified existing HFC cases that needed to be replaced, the first step was to upgrade to cases that were compatible for A2L use — even though they were still using an A1. Then, when the distributed A2L refrigeration plants were installed, these stores could safely transition over to the use of the R-454A A2L refrigerant.

ASDA has been leveraging this strategy since 2019, when it was recognized as the first retailer to adopt an all-A2L refrigerant strategy. To learn more details about ASDA’s successful refrigerant transition, please view this webinar.

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