Aug 19, 2020 / BY microlistics

Food spoilage, contamination & recalls cost big

Every year, in North America alone, almost one hundred million tons of food is lost or wasted between production and retailing. That’s equal to about 170 kg (380 lbs) per person.

These figures are mirrored in Australia and New Zealand, and the numbers for Europe and the United Kingdom are higher still at about 180 kg (400 lbs) per person. 1

In Australia and New Zealand, the number of recalls of unsafe foods increased 45% in 2018, from 69 to 100, and in the UK recalls were up 40% from 145 to 203. 2

In its recent study – Cold Chain Customer Research Report, the Global Cold Chain Alliance concluded:

“[cold chain providers]..are a direct extension of their customers’ brands, perception, and value with consumers.”

Furthermore, over three-quarters of customers surveyed agreed that their cold chain provider is an important part of their company’s food safety.

Regardless of your role in the food supply chain – retailer, cold store operator, frozen food distributor or manufacturer – taking action to minimise the risk of spoilage and resultant brand damage is critical.

So how do brand owners, and cold store operators, minimise the risks of spoilage, contamination and recalls?

Be on the lookout for these brand threats in your cold store.


Incorrect Temperature

From the moment a product hits the dock at the distribution centre – the clock starts ticking on freshness. Spoilage may have already begun in transit. Often, there is no system to ensure products received are automatically directed to the appropriate temperature zones. A particular problem is that individual products have different temperature and relative humidity needed to maintain optimum freshness.

For example, apples are stored at 1.66 °C (35 °F), while clementine oranges should be above 5.0 °C (41 °F). In a zone set to handle oranges, apples would spoil at a much quicker rate.

Maintaining the correct temperature for each product is important to the quality and safety of perishable food. Being mindful of inventory date and zone temperatures also help cold stores ensure product freshness, customer satisfaction and reduce the amount of pitch and waste.



Products can become contaminated in a variety of ways. If contaminated food is not identified upon arrival, gets put away to storage or is filled, it can end up downstream in the store and into the hands (and stomachs) of a consumer.

It is essential to determine if the contamination goes beyond a pallet to a whole shipment, or even includes a previous shipment from the same supplier.

Once the extent of the issue is determined the affected product must be moved to an isolated zone where the spread of contamination can be contained.


Product Recalls

Recalls are damaging to any brand. It’s critical to get the products out of inventory and off the shelves as quickly as possible.

The capability to quickly track and trace the affected product in the warehouse to the zone, pallet, and carton is essential. In addition, tracking the product further along in the supply chain to the truck and receiving customer is often required.

Paper-based processes often struggle to track to location, lots or the downstream supply chain. Full track and trace capability can limit the time it takes to get effected product out of circulation and to properly account for the loss and labour costs of implementing the recall.

Keep food fresh to retain customers up and down the food supply chain. Ensure contaminated food is segregated to limit the contamination of other products, and react quickly to recalls to meet the standards of authorities and to achieve timely removal from inventory.

Preserve your brand value with our
guide to cold storage warehousing

Nothing can damage a brand more than a spoiled product, or worse, a public recall.

Regardless of your role in the food supply chain – retailer, refrigerated storage, frozen food distributor or manufacturer –  food safety is, and should be, the highest priority.

Confidence in your safe storage and transport processes enable you to go beyond compliance to optimise your operations for safety and performance.

Download your guide and learn how to:

  • Identify and manage risks in your cold storage operations
  • Ensure compliance with relevant standards and regulations
  • Go beyond compliance to maximise speed and efficiency
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