Food Cold Chain Optimisation

The Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity (A2EP) has recently published a report for the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The study focuses on improving temperature monitoring in the food cold chain in order to enhance energy productivity. Some of the information from this report can be found summarized hereafter.
Introduction According to the report, temperature is the most significant factor affecting the shelf life of perishable foods, but there is limited food condition monitoring in the Australian food cold chain. Increased real-time temperature monitoring could therefore improve food shelf life, quality and revenue, and reduce food waste. Moreover, the technology to monitor the temperature of food products throughout the value chain already exists. According to the report, a 5% reduction in food waste in Australia would result in an AUD 1 billion annual saving. A 5% reduction in energy use of stationary elements of the cold chain would result in energy cost savings of approximately AUD 120 million per year. And a 10% reduction in energy use of trucking refrigeration would result in energy cost savings of approximately AUD 15 million per year. Australian cold chain figures A few interesting figures about the Australian cold chain illustrate the report. Most of them come from Cold Hard Facts 2. They are listed below:
  • The energy used for refrigeration in the Australian cold chain is estimated at approximately 178 PJ each year, representing around AUD 2.6 billion.
  • Retail sales of food in Australia exceed AUD 140 billion per year, and this includes 20 million tonnes per year of perishable agricultural food product.
  • 27.2 million tonnes of refrigerated food were transported in Australia, involving 10.7 billion kilometres of travel.
  • Approximately 29,000 refrigerated vehicles transport perishable food in Australia.
  • An estimated 9 million tonnes of food is wasted each year in Australia, costing the economy AUD 20 billion annually.
Importance of temperature control for perishable food The report also recalls that chilled foods must be transported, stored and handled at temperatures never warmer than +5°C and frozen foods at temperatures never warmer than -18°C. It also recalls the maximum "out of refrigeration" time limits, calculated in relation to the room temperature. For monitoring perishable food, the key is to measure temperature. Humidity can also have an impact on the water content of the food and it can be useful to monitor it. There are other variables that can be beneficial to track, including light (which indicates when doors are open, or potential radiant heat). The key elements required to monitor food temperature are sensors, transmitters, and a communication network. For further information, the full report is available following this link.
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