Most foods are perishable in nature and therefore need to be protected from many diverse vectors before delivering to the consumer in sound condition. It is known that the rate of deterioration of a food is determined by the storage temperature to a large extent though exposure to air can also be some time critical. Since most food spoilage takes place either due to chemical, biochemical or microbiological action which is again a function of environmental temperature, lower the temperature longer could be the effective life of the product. Refrigerated, frozen and modified atmospheric storage technologies are based on these basic facts. In the modern food industry system, cold chain plays a critical role in delivering perishable products like fresh fruits, vegetables and other high moisture foods in prime condition with minimum deterioration in quality and ensuring absolute safety. World has traveled a lot from the old style cooling using ice blocks to the modern system using sophisticated systems involving most efficient cooling with high degree of control in maintaining the temperature, humidity and storage environment. The progress achieved in a country like the US is phenomenal compared to what is happening in India where least care is taken in handling perishable foods.
"U.S. Foodservice, one of America's leading foodservice distributors, affirms its commitment to food safety and reminds restaurant operators and distributors that temperature management throughout the food distribution process is one of the most effective ways to reduce food-borne illnesses. This announcement comes after recent highly-publicized investigations have proven that maintaining proper temperatures throughout distribution continues to be a major issue in the food industry. "Not everyone with a truck can be a food distributor," said Jorge Hernandez, senior vice president of food safety and quality assurance, U.S. Foodservice. "Maintaining the cold chain is one of the most effective ways to ensure safe, quality food. And not every distributor is the same when it comes to the level of sophisticated temperature-controlled transportation and technology required to ensure food gets safely from point A to point B." U.S. Foodservice uses a variety of thermometers and time-temperature recorders in distribution vehicles to gather data that can be merged with GPS and IT systems to not only regulate temperatures of products in transit, but to also manage the cold chain during loading, unloading and delivering. The company tested these processes with different food products, in various geographies and during all seasons to develop best practices that have been applied across the company's fleet of food transport vehicles. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish safety standards for food transportation. Until those standards are written, suppliers and distributors are responsible for managing themselves. "At U.S. Foodservice, we take detailed steps to help prevent contamination during transport -- ranging from cold storage in trucks to food safety training for all employees -- and encourage other distributors, regardless of size, to adopt verifiably safe transportation practices under the FSMA," said Hernandez. "While a large portion of the responsibility rests with food distributors, operators should make sure that they buy from distributors with strong food safety programs and then make temperature management a part of their business." The faster products are stored in the freezer or cooler, the less potential for bacteria growth. In fact, any food that requires refrigeration and is left above 41 degrees for more than four hours is at a high risk of causing food-borne illness".
Patriotically speaking India may be the best country for Indians but from scientific angle it is one of the most backward countries in the world when it comes to deployment of modern refrigeration technology. Even to day fish is transported from Karnataka to West Bengal in ice cooled rail wagons while the cold chain facilities are not considered to be reliable. Even in cold stores the temperature and humidity controls are not dependable with some operators willfully switching off the power during night times to save on energy cost! Probably one of the reasons for frozen foods failing to take off in the country may be due to this factor. Opening of the retail sector for FDI may not have much impact in the near future and long term backward integration with production sector needs to be achieved for that to happen. Though Indians can build sophisticated Satellites and Rockets, when it comes to maintenance it is notorious for the negligence indulged in sustaining the achievement. Looking at the remarkable track record of the low temperature engineering credentials of the US refrigeration industry, it is time GOI gives priority in building up cooperation with them to bring about radical improvements in the field. This will serve the consumers as well as the industry admirably well.