Timestrip® has developed a completely new electronic indicator technology capable of highly versatile operation at low cost. The Timestrip neo is a platform for a series of single use electronic temperature indicators suitable for pack level monitoring with both time and multiple temperature settings.
The Timestrip neo can be specified in a wide range of temperatures for both ascending and descending alerts, and for different time durations. If any of the set conditions are breached, a system of flashing LEDs provides clear information to the user. A standard configuration is available from stock.
The small form factor of the micro-weight Timestrip neo, and its ease of use, makes it ideal for widespread use on packages in the pharmaceutical, healthcare, food and high value manufacturing sectors.
Time and temperature integration is also supported, so that acceptable time limits are reduced at elevated temperatures, making the Timestrip neo ideal for protecting goods such as perishable foodstuffs that deteriorate faster at higher temperatures.
The unique design provides monitoring at three temperatures, and shows the cumulative time above a specific temperature level. For example, in the standard configuration, a descending temperature that reaches 2⁰C will cause an LED to flash; another LED will light when this drops as low as -0.5⁰C. A third set of LEDs show when the temperature has exceeded 8⁰C for 2, 4, 6 or 8 hours.
A unique serial number is provided on every unit to provide traceability as part of a quality control system.
Timestrip neo technology opens up a new avenue of possibilities for Timestrip. Partnering with electronic design and manufacturing specialists Holtronic Ltd to design the Timestrip neo platform has enabled us to offer a completely new series of products to our clients.
Gabriel McGlynn, Chairman of Timestrip
“The Timestrip neo platform technology is complementary to liquid-based indicators, and offers higher accuracy while maintaining the low cost, small form solutions our customers need”, said Nora Murphy, Commercial Director of Holtronic. “The small size and cost effectiveness of Timestrip neo are common benefits across the series of products.”
Timestrip® has introduced its first temperature data logger – the TL520. This compact and economical ‘micro data logger’ provides alerts when temperatures breach set limits, and allows the logged data to be downloaded to an app for investigation and analysis.
Simpler and easier to use than conventional data loggers, the TL520 requires minimal training in use, and can be used at any point in the cold chain.
The TL520 is a single use device providing an immediate irreversible indication of over- and under-temperature conditions using built-in LED lights. Accuracy is quoted as ±0.5ºC over the normal operating range.
A novel feature of the TL520 is that stored data can be sent wirelessly to an accompanying app. for investigation and analysis using built-in NFC technology. No computer is required as the data downloads to any compatible mobile device, and both iOS and Android devices are supported.
The 2-8ºC default settings make the TL520 ideal for monitoring cold chain (refrigerated) temperatures in the storage and transport of sensitive products. Pharmaceuticals, blood, vaccines and food products are typical end use applications.
The new micro logger provides many of the benefits of bulky, traditional data loggers, yet is much simpler to use and is small enough to store with many products during transport and storage
Nora Murphy, Commercial Director of Timestrip
The TL520 is now available from Timestrip and its distributors.
Timestrip smart indicators were used in a study by academics at Reading School of Pharmacy, part of The University of Reading, into people’s confidence in the quality of medicines.
The study focused on the potential re-use of returned medicines. It found that participants’ intention to take part in medicines re-use increased with the presence of the Timestrip® Plus temperature sensors on the packaging. The perceived social pressure to accept the medication also increased. The effect of the indicators was even greater than the promise of pharmacist visual checking of the medicines.
Although medicines re-use is not at present allowed in the UK, the presence of Timestrip indicators on packaging is understood to be a marker of their quality.
Ref: Lam, Y.; McCrindle, R.; Hui, T.K.L.; Sherratt, S.; Donyai, P. The Effect of Quality Indicators on Beliefs about Medicines Reuse: An Experimental Study. Pharmacy 2021, 9, x. https://doi.org/10.3390/xxxxx. Read more here: https://www.mdpi.com/2226-4787/9/3/128
As the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is felt by businesses around the world, we wanted to let our contacts, partners and clients know what we are doing at Timestrip UK.
We are deeply concerned about the welfare of our staff, customers, suppliers and distributors, as we work hard to adapt to significant changes at work.
We regard the health and safety of our employees as of the highest importance, and our people are generally working from their home base using electronic communications including video conferencing. We are reducing travel to a minimum. We also suggest that meetings with external parties are held remotely.
While we do not expect this will cause a loss of service level, should you have any concerns, please let us know.
On a positive note, we would like to reassure you that we are working with our customers and distributors around the world to ensure the continued supply of our time and temperature indicators in the future.
Indeed, we are responding to an increased demand, especially for those products that form a part of best practice hygiene procedures.
An FDA-approved Irreversible Time and Temperature Indicator that ensures that only viable whole blood supplies are used post-transit
The high tech, low cost alternative to electronic dataloggers
Delivery of unambiguous safety data
Ease of use
Low carbon footprint
A critical issue for medical professionals is ensuring the viability of blood supplies once they leave the highly controlled storage environment, such as a blood bank refrigerator or a hospital blood storage facility. This aspect of the so-called blood cold chain is essential for ensuring that these are kept at the correct temperature right up to the time they are administered by trauma units, ERs, operating theatre staff, air/ ground ambulances, and any other situation requiring blood to be transported from storage units out to patients.
During transit, whole blood needs to be
kept within a temperature range of 2°C/36OF
Below this range, there is a risk of freezing with the formation of ice
crystals, rendering the blood unusable, while upper temperature breaches create
the possibility of blood being affected by an overgrowth of non-specific
bacteria, which may have entered the blood unit during collection or component
Both these situations have serious
consequences: the cost implications of a wasted product and/or more seriously,
a patient that is put at risk.
Thanks to its innovative technology,
Timestrip® Blood Temp 10 removes this uncertainty by providing clear,
unambiguous data as to whether a supply of whole blood is safe to use or be
returned to storage.
This is achieved thanks to the smart
label’s two indicator windows:
• the first window to indicate if the
label has been activated
• the second to indicate if a temperature
breach has occurred
Thus, at a glance, medical staff know if
a supply of whole blood is not only safe to use post-transit. The smart label
also ensures a higher level of quality of the product is delivered by
monitoring of temperature throughout transit.
Moreover, thanks to its irreversible feature,
once the smart label has reacted to a temperature breach, this cannot be
undone. For security reasons, the colour of the label’s indicator window stays
With a temperature accuracy of +/- 0.5°C,
this means that the Timestrip® label is designed with reliable and, more
importantly, trustworthy technology as assessed by some of the world’s most
stringent criteria. Moreover, extra security is assured by every Timestrip®
label having its own unique serial number, thus ensuring full traceability.
Checking this list of features brings
further benefits to healthcare providers involved in the transportation of
whole blood by also ticking the box for local and internal regulatory
Because Timestrip® Blood Temp 10 ensures
that only viable blood supplies are either administered post-transit, or
returned to storage, the possibility of precautionary disposal is eliminated.
This reduction in waste can have significant cost benefits.
In fact, studies
have shown that loss rates without a Timestrip® are around 5%. These are halved with its use. In fact,
reducing a loss rate by 9.9% pays for the total investment and a conservative
19.8% reduction doubles the ROI.
generation of similar positive temperature monitoring outcomes are possible
using other products, such as electronic devices. These, however, are far
Ease of use
Apart from delivering clear, unambiguous data as to
whether post-transit a unit of whole blood may be used or returned to storage
thanks its innovative indicator windows, the Timestrip® Blood Temp 10 is also
remarkably easy to use.
In fact, unlike other whole blood temperature
monitoring solutions on the market, Timestrip® Blood Temp 10 is a unique FDA
510(k) medical device that does not require preconditioning. Moreover, it is
also CE approved and designed for:
• quick and easy application
• no prior conditioning by blood storage staff
• temperature breach data delivered at a glance by
medical field personnel.
Prior to the transit of a unit of whole blood, a
simple squeeze of the label’s activation blister is all that is required for
temperature monitoring of a unit of whole blood to begin. Then the label just
needs to stuck on the unit.
Squeeze, peel and stick – that’s it!
And the end of transit, Timestrip® technology has
also been designed for maximum ease of use:
• until activation, the first indicator window is
yellow and the second is white
• upon activation, the first indicator window turns
• if a temperature breach has occurred during transit, the duration of the breach is indicated by the second white indicator window that proportionately fills up with blue dye
Irreversible, single use
19mm x 32mm
Visual proof of temperature exposure
Advantages over electronic dataloggers
being less expensive, Timestrip® Blood Temp 10 does not involve a datalogger’s
complicated and sometimes cumbersome unit return program that is necessary to
make it more affordable. The smart label’s single use indicator makes it the
ideal fit for simple, straightforward and effective temperature monitoring.
Timestrip® also is a super convenient shape: small, flat, with no batteries or
any other electronic components to them.
green credentials, the Timestrip® also outstrips traditional dataloggers in
terms of carbon footprint, because the latter eventually needs to be either be
thrown away or sent back to source to justify the expenditure.
the Timestrip® has the potential of generating more accurate safety data.
Indeed, because a container of units of whole blood will tend to use just a
single datalogger, inevitably the temperature of ambient air within the
container is taken into account, potentially generating less than accurate
Timestrip® labels however, every single unit has its own temperature indicator.
This means that the possibility of rejecting an entire shipment based on a
single result is eliminated.
Whether in a major teaching hospital, a walk-in clinic or a
doctor’s surgery, any type of healthcare boils down to two broad objectives:
improved patient outcomes and the best possible use of resources.
Although historically reconciling patient health and the
harsh realities of budgetary constraints have at times led to difficult
choices, the fact is that by integrating technology and innovation into
decision making around resource allocation, both objectives can be achieved at
the same time.
Indeed, thanks to its high tech / low cost Time and
Temperature Indicator labels, Timestrip® is able to provide healthcare
providers and the pharmaceutical sector with a broad range of practical,
user-friendly solutions that:
✔ Ensure product
✔ Reduce product
✔ Ensure regulatory
✔ Reduce time and
temperature monitoring costs
But what does this look like in practice?
Improving quality control and efficiency
Tenet Healthcare is US healthcare provider that faced the
challenge of needing to effectively manage how it processed bags of whole
blood. On the one hand, it faced the need to comply with local regulatory
requirements related to the use of effective temperature monitoring for blood
products; and on the other, it had to discard any bag of blood that had been
exposed to a temperature above 10°C for more than 30 minutes.
The company needed to be absolutely certain that any unused
bag of whole blood was 100% safe to be returned to storage for future use. It
had also noted ongoing difficulties in using other blood temperature
indicators. Potentially, the latter could lead to doubts about product safety,
which in turn would require that bag of blood to be discarded, possibly
✔ Maintenance of
quality control during transportation and storage
✔ Support in
complying with regulatory guidelines
Cost-effective regulatory compliance
Marathon Distributors is a pharmaceutical and healthcare
logistics services provider in Cyprus and is involved in the distribution of
pharmaceutical products throughout the island. The main cold chain management
issue it faced was around compliance with local and EU regulations, specifically
the country’s Law on Human Pharmaceuticals 70(I) 2001 and the EU guidelines on
Good Distribution & Manufacturing Practices. These mandated the company to
ensure that the pharmaceuticals it delivered were not exposed to a temperature
above 8°C for more than 8 hours during transportation.
Cambridgeshire Community Service NHS Trust is a UK
healthcare provider in south-east England. Part of its work is the delivery of
school-age immunisations to schools in its area. This includes for instance flu
nasal immunisations for primary schools and HPV vaccinations and Meningitis
ACWY and TdIPV for secondary schools.
For the delivery of vaccines, electric Labcold Portable
Vaccine Carriers and pharmaceutical-grade vaccine carriers are used. In order
to maintain the efficacy of the various transported vaccines, two different temperature
ranges need to be managed: 2°C to 8°C and -25°C to 25°C.
In order to ensure the delivery of viable, unspoiled
vaccines, the Trust thus had a requirement for a dual, low-cost solution for
use by its delivery teams.
To achieve this, two Timestrip products have been used in
each vaccine carrier:
● a Timestrip® PLUS (TP 065) to indicate if the temperature
went above 8°C
● a Timestrip® PLUS (TP 217) to indicate if the temperature
exceeded 25°C, and if so, for how long
The feedback from the delivery teams has been extremely
positive, specifically around:
✔ Easy to read
✔ Ease of use
Reliable test kit time data
Clinical Innovations is a US maker of obstetrics devices that wanted to develop a non-invasive test kit for the diagnosis of any rupture of membranes (ROM). Although treatable, spontaneous ROM is a serious medical condition and a major cause of preterm births. Thus, an accurate diagnosis of ROM can be a key factor in determining timely and appropriate medical intervention. Similarly, a false diagnosis of ROM can lead to unnecessary hospitalisation, medication and even induced premature delivery.
Timestrip was able to provide Clinical Innovations with Time
Indicators for its ROM Plus® self-contained test kit. These give clinicians the
essential and immediate data they need to reduce the dangers of any premature
ROM for expectant mothers and their babies.
The test kit uses Timestrip technology with an in-built
20-minute time monitoring indicator that generates the required data within
5-20 minutes, with 5,10 and 20 minutes clearly indicated on the Timestrip. Its
key benefits are:
✔ Clear visual data
✔ Ease of use
✔ Improved health
Hygienic healthcare environment
Beyond pharmaceuticals and blood products, healthcare also
involves various types of disposable items that need replacing regularly.
Especially for the sick, hygiene in the clinical environment is an essential
aspect of patients being able to make a full recovery.
Assuming the absence of any complications, catheters for
instance need to be replaced every 30 days for Foley catheters and every 60-90
days for silicone catheters. Catheter bags however need to be replaced every
5-7 days. If these items are not replaced at appropriate intervals,
opportunities are created for harmful pathogens to develop.
Unsurprisingly, this has also been shown to be the case for
hospital privacy curtains. Dr Kevin Shek was the lead study author into the
rate of contamination of hospital privacy curtains in a burns/plastic ward. In
a report about the study findings in Nursing Times, he said:
“We know that privacy curtains pose a high risk for
cross-contamination because they are frequently touched but infrequently changed.
The high rate of contamination that we saw by the fourteenth day may represent
an opportune time to intervene, either by cleaning or replacing the
Especially in busy hospital departments such as Accident
& Emergency and ICU, hospital privacy curtains can quickly become
contaminated with bacteria such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and
Clostridium difficile (C. diff). Thanks to Timestrip® Time Monitoring Indicator
panels that change color after a set period of time, clinical staff are alerted
when a privacy curtain needs to be changed. They help a hospital achieve:
✔ Best use of
resources with a low-cost solution
✔ Compliance with
guidelines around frequency of change
✔ Less time needed
to monitor when that change needs to occur
clean hospital environment for patients
How Timestrip irreversible time sensitive indicators are used in Germany by Ulmer Wohnungs for their apartment ventilation units to remind tenants that they need to change the ventilation duct filters.
Translation: "In many UWS apartments, ventilation units are installed which permanently ensure fresh and clean air. Only when the filter is clean, do the fans work quietly and use less energy. In our video we show you how to easily change the filter."
Timestrip can make you a custom Time Sensitive Indicator Label - we create custom solutions that measure time ranging from 1 hour up to 2 years. We are ISO 9001:2015 certified and Timestrip time indicators offer a helpful visual reminder of service and maintenance schedules for consumable components. Accurate and reliable, Timestrips contribute to a more positive experience for the consumer and help ensure optimum performance from appliances that need replacement indicators or service reminder indicators in order to function effectively.
Time and distance are the twin challenges when managing cold chain logistics for the transportation of fresh food perishables
Fruit and vegetables, packaged salads, dairy produce, eggs and even flowers – consumers the world over depend on supply chains that can bring perishable goods to retailers’ shelves speedily and in the best possible condition. Their instantly made purchasing decisions depend on products looking as appealing and unblemished as they do in promotional advertising.
At Timestrip, we see this every day. One of our aquaculture clients uses our Irreversible Time and Temperature Indicators in the export of seafood to the US market. He reports that how his products look upon arrival directly impacts on whether a delivery is rejected or not. His use of Timestrip smart labels ensures that his cold chain management processes guarantee not only that his products are safe after transport, but also look fresh to the end-user. (Read our Ferme Marine de Mahebourg case study)
Moreover, this need for efficient transport processes that guarantee product quality at the point of sale is playing itself out against a backdrop of rising worldwide consumer demand for perishable goods as per capita incomes rise in major markets such as China and India.
[caption id="attachment_6648" align="aligncenter" width="850"] Income per Capita and Perishable Share of Food Imports – source: Lufthansa Consulting[/caption]
A general rule of thumb in the global food trade is that lower per capita income nations tend to import mostly grains, while higher per capita income nations import a wide range of cold chain perishables. So, while 70% of foods consumed in the US are managed by cold chain processes against only 25% of the meat and 5% of the fruits and vegetables in China, for the latter these figures are rising rapidly.
Also, within developed markets, the demand for perishables is rising. According to Winnesota Regional transportation, the US refrigerated transportation market on which the sale of perishables depend is growing at a rate of around 12.5% per annum, with strong projected growth in the coming years.
Projected annual growth in global cold chain to 2020 - 13.9%Fresh produce shelf-life time spent in transit- 50%
Source: Logistics Bureau
Although regulation around safety is an important factor in the growth of cold chain transportation, globalisation and innovation play a far more important role. Technological progress around refrigerated transport makes it possible for less developed economies to sell their perishable produce in far away markets.
Complex international supply chains
As soon as a flower is picked or a fruit and vegetable is harvested, it begins to rot. Time and distance are thus the twin challenges of the fresh cold chain.
In fact for some produce such as Guatemalan bananas that picked when they are green, this biological process occurs during transit thus ensuring they arrive at retailers in the EU and the US in a saleable condition.
[caption id="attachment_6649" align="alignleft" width="300"] World fruit trade map — source: Rabobank[/caption]
To avoid product spoilage, speed is the number 1 priority. Cold chain processes are therefore equipment and technology intensive in order to prolong freshness so consumers get to buy saleable produce.
Other considerations include:
product sensitivity to weather and other naturally occurring disruptions
the maintenance of sound sanitary practices from producer to retailer
the requirement of specialised handling and packaging
accurate labeling and traceability
Faster supply chains
An increasingly common feature of making perishables supply chains faster is for major supermarkets to take total control of this process with acquisitions of farming production facilities and the development of close business relationships with growers.
In the UK, the supermarket chain Morrisons is also one of the country’s biggest food manufacturers, with over 20 nationwide food production and distribution sites. The group says that more direct links with its farmers enable it to deliver the freshest food and best value to its customers.
Vertical supply chains also allow for growers and farmers to earn more from their produce. This happens in France with the supermarket chain Intermarché whose close relationships with dairy farmers ensure that they are paid 50% of the retail sales price of a litre of branded milk.
[caption id="attachment_6650" align="alignleft" width="132"] Leckford Farm — source: leckfordestate.co.uk[/caption]
From farm to supermarket shelf
The Leckford Estate in Hampshire, southern England, is the Waitrose supermarkets farm that supplies its produce to Waitrose stores across the UK
Keeping the fresh cold cold chain cool
Although speed is essential in ensuring that the transport and delivery of perishables avoids spoilage, temperature control is another vital component in guaranteeing fresh cold chains.
“Maintaining the cold chain is one of the most effective ways to ensure safe, quality food”
Jorge Hernandez, Senior VP, food safety and quality assurance, U.S. Foods
The complexity of the required processes has led to the food companies working increasingly with specialist third party suppliers and the requirement of suitably qualified personnel.
Another key cold chain area for temperature monitoring revolves around equally specialist technologies, such as RFID tags that record and forward real-time temperature data, real-time GPS tracking that provide visibility of shipment progress, and a range of high-tech time and temperature monitoring solutions.
Avoiding waste due to spoilage
Fresh produce spoils easily and in many cases this is only identified at the very end of the transportation cycle, leading to either shipments being rejected or consumers claiming refunds from retailers. Moreover, apart from waste caused by the spoilt produce, further costs are incurred related to transporting these products that will never be consumed.
For companies, these have a big impact on their financial results. Timestrip Irreversible Time and Temperature Indicators are currently being used by a number of companies to address this issue. In the US for instance, the rail carrier Amtrak has integrated Timestrip products to successfully reduce food waste of its on-board catering services. Read our Amtrak case study.
At an industry level, a new vision about how to reduce these costs is around the establishment of "lean practices" whereby handling by various stakeholders in a perishables supply chain are kept to the very minimum. This is part of the thinking behind supermarkets taking control of food production mentioned above.
A strategy in this area includes a focus on direct-stores deliveries that avoid traditional centralised distribution methods and the maintenance of smaller local fresh produce warehousing much closer to retail outlets.
[caption id="attachment_6651" align="alignleft" width="300"] Ethylene ripening gas – source: Bluestar Ripening Gas (India)[/caption]
Significant savings can be also generated with appropriate packaging that protect fragile perishables against damage and innovative materials that actually extend the life of produce by controlling its life-cycle with the use of ripening agents such as ethylene gas.
This can involve speeding up the ripening process with innovative packaging containing ethylene gas capsules that can ripen fruit on demand, and ethylene gas that is used to ripen green bananas during transportation. It can also involve slowing down the ripening process with the use of ethylene absorbers that are added to fruit packaging.
[caption id="attachment_6652" align="alignright" width="250"] Ethylene absorber pads used by UK retailer Marks & Spencer to extend fruit shelf life by up to 50% – source: foodnavigator.com[/caption]
A growing area of cost savings in fresh supply chains is the use of returnable plastic crates (RPCs) that can be used many times.Their ergonomic design allows for space-saving stacking, safer handling and ventilation and draining hat reduces in-transit spoilage. Plus with so-called "one-touch merchandising", RPCs placed directly onto shelf displays,further reducing handling.
They also have an impressive environmental record: a 2013 study found that RPCs generate 82% less waste, consume 92% less water, cause 76% less ozone depletion and require 49% less energy.
Managing the fresh cold chain
Franck Artis is the Singapore Branch Manager of Food Distribution Pte Ltd. He says:
For perishables such as dairy produce, it is essential that the cold chain is not breached during transportation, with an ideal temperature range of 3°C to 4°C. This is just as much for product quality as for food safety. Normally this must involve some kind of refrigerated transport.For domestic transport such in France, this involves refrigerated lorry deliveries direct to retail outlets or (often regional) distribution platforms that have dedicated cold rooms for temporary storage. For export, this can involve either a transporter operating door-to-door processes or alternatively outsourcing this function to third-party cold chain logistics suppliers.A key feature of cold chain management during the maritime transport of perishables is the ability of transporters to supply accurate and complete temperature data that shows that the cold chain has not been breached. This can mean using reefer containers with temperature tracker boxes that monitor and control the temperature inside the containers, and log and respond to any breaches, say, in the event of a temporary power outage.The economics of the transport of perishables dictate that temperature monitoring tools such as Irreversible Time & Temperature Indicators would only be used for high added value items, such as caviar, rather than a carton of yogurt or milk.For perishables such as flowers, avocados, bananas and tomatoes, transit time is used a ripening period to ensure that when they arrive at their final destination (retail) point, they are fit for sale.
The advent of the banana cold chain
Bananas make up the largest share in the transport of perishables, equivalent to approximate 20% in volume and worth some US$8bn in 2013.
[caption id="attachment_6654" align="alignleft" width="300"] Unloading a Banana Ship, New Orleans, 1903 – Source: Library of Congress[/caption]
Exact figures of global banana production are difficult to determine as globally only 15% of production (which include plantain) is exported and much of what is not exported is produced by small or very small growers.
Nevertheless, refrigerated cargo (aka reefer) ship technology has been an important driver in the cold chain technology development. The first reefer ship for the transport of bananas was developed in the US in 1902 by United Food Company.
Up until that point, bananas were a highly exotic fruit and very much a luxury item in non-banana producing nations.
Today, it is one of the world's most consumed fruit and due to its distinct ripening process, the trade and transportation of this produce has led to distinct term in cold chain logistics – the so-called 'banana cold chain'.
Whether it’s Chilean blueberries for breakfasts in London, French-made polio vaccines for use in Malawi, or Mauritian sea bass for restaurants in the Big Apple, the chances are that all these cold chain perishables have been transported by air.
Indeed, thanks to our increasingly connected world and rising incomes in developing nations, consumers across the globe are opting for perishables produced far from where they will be consumed. Since 2010 in India for instance, rising per capita incomes have led to an increase in the consumption of frozen food, meat, fish, canned and instant food items, as well as a greater acceptance of frozen vegetables.
Similar trends have been noted in China, where in increasing numbers more affluent consumers are opting for imported foodstuffs, especially seafood.
Strong growth for cold chain logistics
For cold chain pharma products, the figures are startling. In its annual Biopharma Cold Chain Sourcebook, Pharmaceutical Commerce estimates the global volume of 2017 cold chain products at $283 billion, out of a total market of $1.17 trillion, and growing at approximately twice the rate of the overall pharma market.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which supports aviation with global standards for airline safety, security, efficiency and sustainability, estimates that immunization prevents 2.5 million deaths every year and sees air cargo as critical for flying short shelf-life vaccines to their destination in time to be effective.
Air transportation is also critical to the economy of many regions, notably fruit‐ and vegetable‐producing countries in Africa that ship most of their produce to developed markets.
Time and Temperature Indicators (TTIs) play a key role in this process, by providing clear and unambiguous data as to whether any cold chain breaches have occurred during transit, and if so, how long they lasted. Moreover their use with certain products in certain markets are mandated by regulatory authorities, such as by the FDA for seafood imports into the US.
Managing complex logistics
That said, the transportation of cold chain perishables by air is highly complex and prone to numerous situations where temperature breaches can occur. In a study for the air transporter IAG Cargo, researchers found that over half of all temperature deviations occurred during transportation.
This data is supported by findings of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which says: “The greatest and most frequent vulnerability to temperature exposure occurs on the airport tarmac when goods are exposed to the elements before aircraft loading, or during unloading.”
Research however points to cold chain logistics managing these situations effectively for some time now. A 2012 study of Icelandic fish exported to the UK and France showed that despite poor temperature control during storage and ground operations at the airports before and after the flights, relatively a moderate increase in the temperature of the fish were recorded: the pallets of food were subjected to ambient temperatures above 10°C as well as solar radiation for several hours, but the temperature of the fish rose by less than 2°C. This was explained by the transportation of the fish inside polystyrene boxes, which were kept cool with ice inside the boxes.
It’s important to stress though that in these sorts of situations it’s only the use of temperature monitoring tools such as irreversible TTIs inside the boxes on the transported items themselves that a stakeholder can know whether potentially damaging temperature breaches have occurred.
Food loss epidemic
Nevertheless, despite much progress and professionalisation in cold chain logistics, certain problems remain difficult to resolve. One of the main costs with the transportation of perishable products such as fruit and vegetables is wastage due to spoilage related to inadequate temperature management during transit. Estimates vary as to what this amounts to, but most data suggests it is in the region of 33%.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this wastage should be viewed as a “food loss epidemic”, which it values at about $1 trillion each year. Added to this are related environmental costs: wasted water used to produce food that is never eaten equal to the water needs of Africa, and CO2 emissions equivalent to removing every car off the road across the world.
It is hard to imagine any industry would tolerate 30-40% inefficiency.
Food bacteria grow best between 5°C and 60°C, which explains why keeping perishable products cool, cold, frozen or deep frozen is the only way to guarantee product quality and shelf-life as it arrives at the end of a transportation process.
Customers of air transport providers for perishables are well aware of this. In a survey of their various concerns, the three greatest were recorded as:
the expertise of handling personnel
appropriate temperature monitoring
What is remarkable about these concerns is how they very much match those of the healthcare sector and it would seem that moving forward, it will be the lessons learnt from transporting pharma products, that could help avoid the massive cost of food spoilage during transit.
In a conference in Dallas, Texas, last year organised by the Netherlands-based Cool Chain Association, chairman Stavros Evangelakakis suggested applying healthcare industry standards to perishables would lead to wastage being “dramatically lowered”.
A post conference statement went on to stress the need to “treat perishable cargo with the same care, respect and transparency as pharma”, adding that this would be “crucial” for new and emerging markets such as South American and Africa.
Potential “quadruple win” for cold chain logistics
A recent study reported on in The Guardian highlights the huge benefits proper cold chain management can bring to the transport of perishable foods.
A carrier in India field tested cold chain equipment with a local grower for the transport of fruits in refrigerated trucks from Punjab to Bangalore, a 1,600 mile-trip over rough roads in high temperatures.
The results were significant:
a one-week shelf life increased to two months
profit increases by up to 23% for all the supply chain actors
post-harvest food loss reduced by 76%
greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 16%, excluding the significant reduction of emissions from food loss
Blueberries in January
One of the massive economic benefits of effective cold chain management is how it enables the creation of new markets.
In most countries, blueberries used to be only available at specific times of the year. The situation changed dramatically in the 1980s, with Chile harvesting blueberries from October until late March and exporting these to the US.
Today thanks to climate-controlled storage and transport technologies, the fruit is available year-round in many regions, buoyed on by the rebranding of the fruit as a “super-food”.
Today, the US is the world’s largest producer of blueberries, followed by Canada, Poland and France. Meanwhile in the UK, 2010 was the year blueberries overtook raspberries as the country’s favourite soft fruit after strawberries.
Interview with Reuben Soncino, Timestrip’s Quality Assurance Officer
What exactly is ISO certification?
ISO is the acronym for International Standard Organisation. When a company has ISO certification, this means that it meets certain standards around quality levels and compliance with ISO standards.
For instance, this relates to inspections, production processes, how goods received are inspected, the management of irregularities that occur during production, the packing of finished products, what documents need to be included in shipped products, etc.
Why is ISO certification important to Timestrip?
It means Timestrip’s management systems have attained a required level of quality around the production and release of our finished products. There is no ad hoc decision-making in what we do. Everything is controlled and monitored.
Hypothetically, for example, if a customer complaint was to arise, we have a system in place to manage this. Furthermore, having ISO 13485 certification which concerns medical equipment, means that we have even stricter systems beyond the more general purpose ISO 9001 certification (which we also have).
One area that ISO 13485 relates to (but not ISO 9001) is around the validation of software used in our production and product release processes.
What does achieving ISO 9001 and 13485 certifications involve?
Once a year, we are audited by external auditors for both certifications and this is carried out by the Institute of Quality Control (IQC). The one-day audit is to certify that Timestrip complies with ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 standards. We are audited for both standards at the same time.
Also, every three years, we are re-certified. This is involves a two-day audit and re-certification is valid for three years. For ISO 9001, we were first certified in 2010 and so re-certification needs to be organised for next year (2019). For ISO 13485, Timestrip was first certified in 2015 and we have just been re-certified until 2021.
This was particularly important as this re-certification also involved an upgrade to the new ISO updated standards.
What did meeting the updated ISO standards involve?
Prior to the audit, we carried out a so-called “gap analysis” to identify areas in our procedures that didn’t meet the new standards. These needed to be updated, plus we had to put in place new procedures as well as training for all our teams. We also had to implement a few minor corrective actions, such as adding a job description for one of our team members.
In fact, when I first joined Timestrip in 2009, operations complied to a very large extent with ISO standards. However, this had not been validated and making this happen was one aspect of my role: first, to achieve ISO 9001 certification around our TTIs to food products and pharmaceuticals customers and then ISO 13485 when we moved into servicing customers involved in storing and transporting blood products.
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