Ask The Expert: Reducing Food Waste with Better Temperature Control in the Seafood Supply Chain

Ask the expert, Food & beverage

What do you gain from implementing proactive monitoring technology?

Preventable food waste from improperly managed cold chains continues to be a significant problem for the food industry and for the sustainable distribution of food globally. Proper management includes real-time monitoring that enables organizations to take a preventive controls approach to minimize food safety risk and prevent recalls. In the seafood industry, temperature monitoring has been widely adopted since the earliest days of the most primitive recorders, which were the size of a brick and provided a readout on a paper strip, which only allowed for accept and reject decisions to be made. 

While we’ve come a long way since then, the food market’s high adoption of temperature monitoring technologies is still focused by and large on retrospective monitoring that identifies potential risks after the fact rather than preventing them. This contributes to an estimated 40% of all food being wasted before it ever reaches the consumer’s plate: the stakes have never been higher. 

Seafood is particularly susceptible to temperature abuse and reducing food waste is one of the most important challenges facing the seafood industry. The delicate condition of the proteins, high water content and generally high microbiological load place a higher risk of waste on seafood than on other refrigerated foods.

Seafood HACCP

Since 1995, the seafood industry has been one of the most highly regulated subsegments of the food industry. Seafood processors are required to have a HACCP program in place to ensure the safe production of the items that they manufacture. Companies that distribute or sell fish and other seafood items are also required to comply with the temperature control requirements outlined within seafood HACCP. The FDA requires that items are held at specific temperatures based on the risk posed by the various types of items, and that records are kept and available for inspection purposes.

Color changing temperature strips, such as liquid crystal thermometers and other irreversible color changing technologies have been used for many years within the seafood industry, and these play a critical role in ensuring food safety for the end consumer. The drawback of this type of monitoring is that if the color is breached, the only option is to dispose of the seafood item. Fortunately, Controlant technology enables organizations to take an active management approach to their supply chain so they can intervene before temperature abuse occurs. 

Although fishing boats and their onboard storage are not covered by Seafood HACCP, we know that temperature control plays a very important role throughout the supply chain, including this early phase, to maintain the safety and quality of the fish.

Live, fresh, frozen, canned: all require temperature control

Seafood is particularly vulnerable to temperature abuse; regardless of whether it’s live, fresh, frozen, or canned; so the need to control the temperatures within the supply chain is high priority.

Live seafood, such as oysters, mussels, and clams, require very cold or near-frozen temperatures that are similar to the conditions in which the seafood lives, and is often shipped packed in ice. Molluscan shellfish must always be kept very cold to avoid its deterioration or death. If consumed after being stored at warm temperatures, shellfish can be toxic. 

Fresh fish, when exposed to improperly controlled temperatures, can degrade quickly, causing a significant reduction in quality–degradation in texture as well as off odors–and posing a food safety risk. Many fish, particularly tuna, mackerel, mahi mahi (dorado), sardines, anchovy, herring, blue fish, amberjack and marlin, pose a risk to scombroid poisoning due to high levels of histamine, as the meat deteriorates. 

Nearly 85% of seafood consumed in the United States is imported, of which an estimated 70% has previously been frozen. We’ve all experienced it before–we open a package of frozen goods and find it covered in ice. This is a clear sign of temperature abuse caused by a freeze-thaw cycle. Frozen seafood, including fish, poses a risk to freeze-thaw damage that can adversely affect the quality and condition of the items, and lead to preventable waste.

Particular types of seafood, including sushi grade tuna and other fish that may be eaten raw, require even colder storage temperatures; from a minimum of -10ºF to as cold as -70º F to ensure food safety by killing parasites. Controlling such cold temperatures can pose significant challenges for supply chains. When considering the particularly high value of these types of fish, it is especially important that the cold supply chain is properly managed.

Many, although not all, canned seafood requires refrigeration. Many brands of canned crab require refrigeration for food safety because the product is not canned at the same temperatures required to be considered shelf stable. As the proteins and flavors of crab are delicate; they would be ruined at the length of time and high temperatures needed for standard canning processes.

Real-time visibility is key

As we have seen over the last couple of years, supply chain challenges such as temperature control require insights including real-time visibility into location and condition: you can only improve what’s within your control. What we’ve found over this time is that although many of these challenges are unavoidable, the companies that have implemented next-level technologies to maximize actionable insights and improved control are the ones that have been able to mitigate the most severe impacts on the cold chain. 

As well as increasing their bottom line, those companies have helped reduce food waste and ensure a more sustainable global seafood supply chain.

How are you preparing the cold supply chain for the future? Reach out to Jeremy Schneider at Controlant to learn how we can help your organization meet these priorities in 2022.

About Jeremy Schneider, Business Development Director, Food Safety and Quality Assurance

Jeremy has more than 15 years of experience in the food quality, safety, and regulatory sector. His experience spans managing food safety and quality systems within several fast-casual restaurant chains as well as food manufacturing. During his career, he has addressed some of the most challenging and critical risks faced today by major consumer food brands.

Got a question? Email Jeremy at jeremy@controlant.com

Learn more or try a pilot

Interested in learning more about real-time temperature monitoring or getting started with a pilot? Get in touch. We would be happy to help you solve your cold chain challenges.

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