Picked up at the grocery…But where and how did it get there?


hen we go to the grocery store or the weekend market to buy our food and beverages, we rarely stop and ask ourselves “should I buy this jar of tomato sauce? Is it safe? Will I get sick?”. We automatically assume that it is safe. That it was inspected somehow. That the only thing that matters is if the taste is better or worst than the jar next to it.

We have come a long way since the days of the hunter gatherer that would risk his life every day when ingesting some berry or 3-day old meat. Louis Pasteur in the 1878 demonstrated that micro organisms were the cause of illness, and not the consensus at the time, spontaneous generation. But now, what makes it safe for consumption? What happens to the product taken from the farm all the way to the transformation plant, then brought to market and ending in your grocery basket?

The Transportation Process

With globalization, the relative distance between regions of the world have become much smaller, the physical distance is even more important. The greater the distance, the more likely the freight can be damaged by undue temperature variations. So, one way to make sure that the proper temperature has been respected, is to track the temperature from start to finish using a temperature data logger like an iButton® for dry products, or iBWetLand® for humid and wet products. These “temperature data loggers” ensure that the precious cargo has not been compromised by recording the internal temperature at a preprogrammed rate (say, every 5 or 10 minutes) for the duration of the trip. Once the data downloaded, it is very easy to see with a graph the temperature “curve” and determine if the proper temperature was respected throughout the shipping process.

The Transformation Process

At certain temperatures, microorganisms can multiply very quickly, which increases the risk of food-borne illness. By keeping food at low or high temperatures, we can stop or slow down the growth of these dangerous pathogens. These temperature ranges are called “Temperature Danger Zone”. When working with food, it is imperative to minimize the time spent in these zones, and the most effective ways of doing this, is temperature control.

Food safety plans are important to any food business and help protect consumers from unneeded risks, including allergic reactions and food poisoning. In most countries, food safety plans are required by law and are based on the HACCP.

“There are four food temperature zones that are important”says Sébastien Trudeau, a food safety consultant working for CMI.

1. 60°C / 140°F and above is known as the hot food zone. As a rule, food should always be cooked to 74°C / 165°F (or more) but must not drop below 60°C / 140°F when being displayed or served.
2. 0°C to 4°C / 32°F to 40°F is the cold food zone and is the normal temperature for most refrigerators.
3. Frozen food is normally held at -18°C / 0°F or lower.
4. This means that the Temperature Danger Zone for food is between 4°C and 60°C / 40°F to 140°F.

He goes on to say, “High risk food must be thrown out after it’s been in the Temperature Danger Zone for two hours.” There is also the matter of cooking time where a product must spend n minutes at x degrees for it to be safe to eat.

All these temperatures and time factors can be a difficult, if not a tedious job for the food transformation specialists if using conventional commercial kitchen thermometers and stop watches. Mistakes can also occur if the person taking the data is distracted by a busy processing plant. “Using a small, waterproof, high temperature data logger, can make this process very simple and reliable” says Sébastien. Once the product has gone through all the different steps to the packaging, retrieving the data logger and downloading the data will validate or reject a hole batch within minutes, by seeing if the temperatures were held for the proper time, thus saving time and money in the process.

So now you know all the effort put in to delivering healthy food from the farm to your grocery basket. All that’s left for you to worry about is if you have chosen the best tasting tomato sauce.