Timestrip®, the developer of smart indicator technology, has released two new ranges designed to be used with the latest coronavirus vaccines now becoming available. The indicators track temperature and time, and will ensure that vaccines are fresh when administered to patients.
The Timestrip Vaccine Thaw Timer is an event thaw indicator with 24 hour time indication calibrated to run at fridge temperatures. It can be packed with vaccines that require storage at -70°C in the ultra-cold chain, and automatically starts monitoring as the vaccine is thawed and transferred to chilled conditions at the hospital or surgery. It then tracks the time from thaw at 6 hours, 12 hours and up to 24 hours, meeting the specifications for use from manufacturers such as Pfizer.
The Timestrip Vaccine Refrigeration Monitor range comprises three indicators. One is designed to indicate the thawing event of the vaccine; another will time 30 days duration in refrigerator conditions (2°C-8°C), helping the user to manage the vaccine manufacturer’s guidelines for use.
Then, when the vaccine has been taken from the refrigerator and prepared for use, a third indicator monitors how long it has been exposed to temperatures above 8°C, typically at room temperature. The time ‘run out’ for the Vaccine Refrigeration Monitor VOR12 (Vaccine Out of Refrigerator) is up to 12 hours, with shorter times to an alert being seen at higher temperatures.
These Vaccine Refrigeration Monitor products will help overcome challenges in the handling of COVID-19 vaccines up to the point of administering, and are designed to support the manufacturers’ specification for the handling of vaccines such as those from Moderna.
Both indicators provide a clear irreversible indication to healthcare staff that conditions of storage and handling have exceeded acceptable conditions, and that the vaccine consignment cannot be relied upon.
Based on safe chemical technology, both the Vaccine Thaw Timer and Vaccine Refrigeration Monitor range overcome the limitations of batteries used at ultra-low temperatures.
We continue to innovate our patented technology to bring the benefits to important applications such as vaccine distribution, supply and last mile handling. Using these indicators, healthcare professionals worldwide can be supported cost effectively, and guided through soon to be routine practices of handling and managing these vital resources.Nora Murphy, Commercial Director of Timestrip.
Timestrip has recently added other products to its range in response to coronavirus. These include an indicator to monitor antiviral solutions, and Rapid Diagnostics 15, a 15 minute timer indicator for use with rapid turnaround lateral flow test kits.
Timestrip has a new white paper detailing the importance of monitoring time and temperature parameters during storing and transporting to point of care
For more information on how Timestrip UK Ltd is handling the COVID-19 pandemic, please see this post.
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
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 to 10°C/50°F. 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 preparation.
Both these situations have serious consequences: the cost implications of a wasted product and/or more seriously, a patient that is put at risk.
To address these issues, Timestrip® has developed its single-use Blood Temp 10 – a high-tech, low cost Irreversible Time & Temperature Indicator that effectively monitors temperature breaches above 10°C/50°F during transit.
No more guesswork
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 permanently changed.
FDA approved … and more
Timestrip® Blood Temp 10 has FDA certification (FDA 510(k) #BK190363) and is manufactured with controls established by a IQC approved quality management system that conforms with ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 13485:2016.
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.
The generation of similar positive temperature monitoring outcomes are possible using other products, such as electronic devices. These, however, are far costlier.
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 green
• 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
Beyond 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.
The Timestrip® also is a super convenient shape: small, flat, with no batteries or any other electronic components to them.
For 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.
Lastly, 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 safety data.
With 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 quality
✔ Reduce product waste
✔ Ensure regulatory compliance
✔ 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 unnecessarily.
Its use of Timestrip® Blood Temp 10 – 10°C Blood Irreversible Transit Temperature Indicator noted the following advantages:
✔ Improved quality of care
✔ Improved workflow efficiency
✔ 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.
Although other products helped achieve regulatory compliance, the company began using Timestrip® PLUS™ 8°C 8 Hrs (TP065) Irreversible Time and Temperature Indicators because they were much more competitively priced.
Overall the company reported:
✔ Timestrip Indicators were 50% cheaper
✔ Delivery costs were 50% lower
✔ Delivery times were faster
✔ Positive end-user feedback around ease of use
Easy temperature monitoring for vaccine transport
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 visual data
✔ 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 outcomes
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. Timestrip indicators make excellent cleaning reminders for surfaces, filters and instruments.
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 curtains."
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
✔ Hygienically clean hospital environment for patients
Wine has always been a popular drink and for many the fermented beverage of choice. In most cases whether you prefer Red or White, or even a Rose, experts and connoisseurs believe that any wine is best stored and served chilled.
So, you may well ask what is the difference between a wine served warm, or chilled, and does it really matter if the wine is warmer than expected, or even hot? Some wines are indeed served hot and are even used in cooking, but why is it important if it gets hotter than anticipated before it gets to the consumer?
Well, from an article in WinePair ™ a short time ago it was stated that; wines do change when they are subjected to a high temperature. Firstly, the tannins become 'more noticeable and wines take on a tangy, astringent character. Instead of a smooth and supple mouthfeel, wines feel rough and more one-note on the palate. Fruit flavors often become secondary to unpleasant acidity. In dry climates, corks shrink as they lose moisture, leading to leaky bottles and a sticky mess.'
This is all well and good, but at above what temperature would there be any noticeable change to the wine we drink?
Any wine should normally be stored between 55 – 65ºF (13-18ºC) and wine should be stored in a cellar, or a wine refrigerator, that maintains this recommended temperature level. And, it is generally noted that the change to the body of the wine begins at 70F (21C), and wines can “cook” as exposure temperatures hit 80F (26ºC) degrees and beyond. However, an occasional spike won’t decimate a wine, but prolonged exposure — like a week-long heat
So, what is an acceptable solution for making sure you can tell that
Timestrip offers a full range of stock labels including two that have a temperature breach of 20ºC and 25ºC (tolerance +/- 1ºC), and Timestrip can also produce a custom and branded label that can be set to monitor more specific temperature breach limits.
So, in the future be on the look out for some form of temperature indicator label on the bottle of wine that you buy to ensure that it has been kept at the recommended temperature to insure you get the most enjoyment from the wine that you buy and drink.
Using a Chemical Time and Temperature Label
There are many ways to measure temperature change and for recording how long a temperature-controlled substance, material, or chemical compound, is maintained outside of its normal required temperature limits for stability, or future use. Time Out is not a new term, or monitoring application, but it is a complex one and certainly needed. The most common is for Pre-Preg and Carbon Fiber materials that must be maintained within strict temperature guidelines for flexibility and strength requirements, plus many Chemical compounds and liquid API’s (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients). These strict limits also apply to certain bio-logics and vaccines that can only be “out-of-environment” for short periods of time whilst they are being worked with, formulated, or packaged.
These tracking solutions range from RFID tracking and monitoring with expensive tags and readers to complex solution software applications that read and record these expensive electronic devices, attached to the item being monitored, as these pass in and out of the safe temperature zones.
On the low-end monitoring is done by timers with alarms and some form of temperature recorder to show the temperature limits that the materials were exposed to. Combine both elements and you get a Time and Temperature limit that the materials were within showing how long this was for.
But in some applications, simplicity may be a better solution like – a time and temperature breach indicator label, instead of reading separate items and manually recording these for record purposes.
Timestrip Plus labels and Run Timer Labels are used for many applications ranging from monitoring event times related to an expiration of effect use life to monitoring vaccine and bio’ shipments as these pass through a logistics operation, or down the cold chain supply chain. However, if you take a Timestrip Plus label that contains a time element and a temperature limit indicator for an excursion, or the work environment temperature, you have a truly unique and simple way of measuring TOTCE!
The advantage that these labels offer is quite simple by the fact that once the label is outside of its “strike” temperature the chemical will flow down the time indicator scale to show how long the label is outside of the lower product stability-controlled temperature environment. When the material or chemical substance with the label attached is returned to the temperature-controlled environment the chemical will stop flowing and only now show the “Out-Time”. If this item is taken in and out many times the label will begin to form a total aggregated TOTCE as the chemical flows and stops each time it moves in and out of the two environments.
A record of each individual “Out-Time” can be captured by taking a photo with a Smart Phone which will show the time and date that it was taken, and this can be stored as a permanent record linked to the serial number on the label itself that will be clearly seen in the photograph.
Sometimes simple is the best approach based upon the old adage of the “KISS” philosophy, so contact Timestrip today if you want to find out more about this TOTCE solution offering.
The big word in the logistics and supply chain “world” is RISK, and a risk assessment being performed, or at least having a mitigation plan in place, is becoming part of many certification requirements, like ISO 9001, and other pending or recently introduced federal regulations.
It will be no surprise, I am sure, when I mention certain facts like – “Where humans are involved in a process there will be errors, and 90% plus of all supply chain errors are human errors”; but how do you avoid these?
Firstly, let me say there will always be Risk not only in the common elements of the supply chain but also and especially with the way that you handle any cold chain or temperature-controlled products.
So how do you manage these risks?
There are 4 common and accepted ways that Risk can be managed, or mitigated:
- Risk Avoidance: Changes made to your processes and players that ensures risks are no longer an issue.
- Risk Mitigation: Reduce the severity of the loss or prevent the likelihood of the risk from occurring.
- Risk Acceptance: Avoidance of a potential risk area is not possible or economically feasible, so it is acceptable and will not impact your business.
- Risk Deflection: After the risk has been identified and quantified, transfer that risk to the control of another player or partner in the process – maybe add it as a clause to be addressed in a vendor contract.
So how do you establish a Risk Mitigation Plan?
- Review and audit your supply chain to assess where risk does, or may exist
- Assess what the impact of these risks may be and create a list with the highest probability items at the top to address first
- Define your risk mitigation strategies for the highest-level items and work down the list from High to Low
- Implement the strategies and document them.
What else should I do, or know?
- Even though your Risk Management plan includes good SOP’s and WI’s make sure that people are adequately trained in these disciplines
- Conduct self-audits regularly
- The cost of a Cold Chain Monitoring device or solution, is far less expensive than the cost of disposal of a temperature compromised shipment
- All Quality Systems and Risk Aversion Plans should have one over-arching goal – Quality of Product and Consumer Safety!!!!
At Timestrip we are acutely aware of all kinds of risks that can exist in all kinds of supply chains from Pharmaceutical to Food and even beyond to special chemicals and laboratory testing time lines.
For a full range of our products please visit our products page
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What is Timestrip Complete?
Timestrip Complete is our product that monitors upper and lower threshold temperature breaches, such as 2°-8°C cold chain monitoring for vaccine storage and transport.
The product is in fact made up of two elements: a Timestrip Plus, which is our ascending indicator that measures, for example temperature breaches above 8°C and the amount of time that they have breached, and a descending temperature indicator called Freeze Check Plus FCP for short that logs breaches, for example, below 2°C.
This is why we’ve called the indicator “Timestrip Complete”: It provides complete monitoring for the 2°-8°C cold chain.
Why was Timestrip Complete developed for vaccine storage and transport?
A vaccine is affected by heat and by freezing and the two critical temperature thresholds for storage and transport are 2°C and 8°C.
It’s time and temperature that’s the critical factor leading to degradation of vaccines.
For freezing, the crucial event is whether this has happened or not. Because vaccines are contained in an aqueous solution (water), when it freezes, it expands and the resulting crystallization can destroy the vaccine
How much does a Timestrip Complete cost?
Under US $4 per unit, and considerably less in volume purchase. It’s the lowest cost solution and easiest to implement to achieve complete 2°C-8°C temperature monitoring. Any other tool that does this job involves using a single-use digital data logger, which start at about US$10 per unit
This totally fits in with our company ethos of providing the easiest, simplest and most cost-effective products for temperature monitoring. Many 0°C or 2°C descending indicator on their own for instance normally costs at least US$2.50, so we know that our sub-US $4 price is very competitive.
How do you use Timestrip Complete?
It can be stored at room temperature, is inert until activated and has a button-like feature that needs to be pushed for activation.
There is an extra measure needed in storage to bear in mind— and this is industry-wide for all descending temperature indicators — is that they are always active.
This means they need to ship to end-users above the temperature they monitor and we achieve this by packing them with heat packs to ensure they never go below 2°C.
On the positive side from our clients point of view, because the ascending indicator can be stored at room temperature, they only need to ensure that our products are kept above freezing.
Similar products present the logistic difficulties of needing to be kept above 2°C and below 8°C, so this is a big advantage
Are there other Timestrip Complete products apart from 2°C-8°C?
Yes, this is a key range which we are looking to grow. The product also comes as 0°C-8°C
Timestrip Complete 0°C - 8°C and 2°C - 8°C are also used for the storage and transportation of medicine and biologics.
We are now launching a Controlled Room Temperature indicator that has 15°C and 25°C thresholds. These are designed for environments such as food transportation for airlines.
The key message here though is that we have the technology to produce a variety of complete upper and lower level temperature monitoring — and at a very competitive price.
What’s been the feedback so far from end-users of these complete temperature monitoring indicators?
Timestrip was involved in supporting anti-rabies work in Malawi with a 0°C-30°C indicator for the transportation and storage of canine vaccine. Rabies is huge problem in Malawi and spoilt vaccines seriously hamper efforts to address the situation.
The bottom line was that this 0°C-30°C product was successful in identifying those doses of canine vaccine that were either spoilt because of ambient heat exposure or from freezing caused by the ice-packs that are used during transportation.
This allowed for a re-stocking with unspoilt vaccines that ensured that the anti-rabies field teams’ efforts were effective and thereby measurably supported the prevention of more cases of rabies in Malawi.