Cold chain challenges and opportunities for air transportation

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

Global Biopharma Sales 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.

IAG CargoThis 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
  • traceability

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.

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Timestrip Attending Seafood Expo North America, Boston MA

Timestrip Attending Seafood Expo North America, Boston MA

Timestrip will be attending Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts from March 11, 2018 – March 13, 2018.

We will be demonstrating our 3°C Seafood, 5°C, 8°C & 10°C irreversible ascending temperature indicators at the expo. Our 3°C Seafood indicator is designed around FDA guidance, the gold standard for Health & Safety and HACCP systems.

We will be at booth #1388, please come and get a sample of our Irreversible Seafood Temperature Indicators to test and take away with you. Click here for more information about our 5°C, 8°C & 10°C indicators and here for information about our 3°C Seafood indicator

Timestrip Food temperature range

Timestrip temperature monitoring labels make tracking temperature breaches across a multitude of cold chain food industry applications a simple, cost-effective process.

In fact, we offer the most cost-effective solution of our type in food standard and food safety monitoring, which is why our technology has already been adopted by a number of innovative businesses. Our precise, efficient, user-friendly temperature indicator labels are helping to ensure effective cold chain management around the world.Timestrip Seafood

Seafood Expo North America attendees meet with thousands of colleagues and suppliers to find the newest fresh, frozen, and packaged seafood products and stay current on industry trends.

Seafood Processing North America attendees share ideas, find new processing equipment, make connections and get the news on preparing, delivering and packaging seafood products. More than 22,600 total attendees from over 120 countries attend the event.

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Timestrip Complete: Q&A

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.

timestrip complete 2-8c monitoring

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.

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Marathon Distributors

Marathon Distributors

Company Profile & Environment

Marathon Distributors is a pharmaceutical and healthcare logistics services provider on the island of Cyprus. With an annual turnover of over $40m, it has a 35-38% market share for its range of activities and employs a workforce of just over 40 people.

Its services include warehousing, transportation and distribution and it boasts a state-of-the-art warehouse strategically located on the outskirts of Nicosia (Latsia Industrial Area), just-off the Nicosia-Limassol-Larnaca highway. The warehouse area has a floor space of 2,500m2 and a modern cold storage area with a capacity of 70m3.

For transportation, it operates its own fleet of 18 vehicles — all temperature controlled and GPS monitored — and they cover 100% of the island. The vehicles deliver to pharmacies, pharmacy depots, physicians, hospitals, clinics and clinical laboratories across the island.

Cold chain issues fall under the remit of MD Simone Kapakiotis. Her work covers all aspects for the warehousing and transportation of cold chain products, which are mainly vaccines.

The main regulations that the company needs to comply with are the Law on Human Pharmaceuticals 70(I) 2001 and EU guidelines on Good Distribution & Manufacturing Practices.

The company faces numerous challenges in the sectors it operates in. Firstly, the Cyprus market is of a relatively small size, which stifles its potential for growth. Also, it is a highly regulated environment, subject to numerous stringent EU guidelines. Lastly, the business itself must manage quite high operating costs and low profit margins.

On the plus side however, due to relatively short transportation distances on the island (delivery times are 6 hours at most) and the company’s use of validated cooling containers for the transportation of cold chain products, it never generates any product waste.

Use of Timestrip Indicators

Because of its environment, Marathon uses Timestrip Plus 8°C 8 Hrs (TP065), which monitor temperature breaches above 8°C for periods of up to eight hours. Cold chain issues are of concern during the transportation process.

The procedure followed for using Timestrips is that they are placed in all orders containing cold chain products. These indicate to drivers and customers whether a temperature deviation has occurred during transportation. If no deviation occurs, customers receive orders and sign all the relevant documentation. If however a deviation has taken place, these orders are returned to the warehouse and the company sets in motion a deviation procedure that needs to be followed.

The Timestrip Solution

The main reasons the company uses Timestrip TTIs above other approved TTIs are a competitive price, the reliability of the product, an easy order system and speed of delivery.

Significant improvement has been noted in these areas since the company began to use Timestrips. The product itself is 50% cheaper than other similar products. Also, delivery times are one day faster and delivery costs are 50% lower than before.
Other Benefits

Feedback from Marathon’s customers has been very positive and have enhanced its standing with them. They particularly like that Timestrips are easy to use, easy to read and reliable.

Simone Kapakiotis says: “The use of Timestrips adds to our company’s reputation of being professional and reliable.”

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Monitoring the Canine Vaccine Cold Chain in the Field

Monitoring the Canine Vaccine Cold Chain in the Field

Abstract: The World Health Organisation stresses the importance of maintaining the cold chain for temperature sensitive vaccines. Due to the recommendation for rabies vaccines to be stored between 2° and 8° Celsius and the nature of canine mass vaccination projects, cold chain maintenance remains one of the most significant logistical hurdles project managers have to overcome.

Mission Rabies field teams in Picture4Malawi evaluated the use of adhesive temperature monitors as an alternative to thermometers in both storage fridges and field cooler boxes during the duration of a 4 week mass vaccination drive in April/May 2016.

Two different Timestrip® temperature monitors were used to alert the teams to the critical temperature thresholds of 0°C and 30°C.  As freezing rapidly damages vaccines, each vaccine box containing 10 vials of 10ml vaccine was marked with a monitor that indicates the immediate crossing of the lower threshold through colour change. As damage from high temperatures is related to both the temperature achieved and the time of exposure, to test for the upper temperature limit each cooler box was equipped with a monitor that showed the crossing of the upper threshold over time.

Of a total of 22 vaccination teams participating in the study, 7 teams reported an exposure of the vaccines to temperatures above 30°C for more than 4 hours and on 9 occasions teams reported a temperature drop to 0°C or below.

Picture1

These findings highlight the importance of monitoring the temperature during field campaigns, both due to proximity to ice packs and exposure to high outside temperatures. The use of Timestrip temperature indicators gives early visual clues and raises awareness among the team. However practicability of the temperature monitoring must be taken into consideration and adhesive monitors need to be improved with regards to their setup to make them a valuable tool in field projects.

This abstract was presented at the 28th Annual Rabies in The Americas Conference on 23 October 2017.

Authors: Frederic Lohr, Reuben Isbitsky, Andy Gibson, Alasdair King

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