What is the cold-chain?

The cold-chain keeps food below certain temperatures throughout the entire distribution process, from production to sale.

Why is the cold-chain important?

Preservation methods that apply refrigeration techniques slow down enzyme and micro-organism activity. Enzymes, despite being natural substances, can spark up a cell degeneration process that, in food, leads to alterations in consistency, such as softening or shrivelling, the formation of bad odours and impaired flavour. Meanwhile, micro-organisms develop and thrive on yeasts, moulds and bacteria and can alter the nutritional properties of the food. Such hazards can become PATHOGENIC and can lead to FOOD POISONING. That is why the cold-chain is extremely important. Harmful micro-organisms are the result of inadequate cold storage temperatures.

How does Blueline work?

An ink-block is printed onto the product label using special magnetic ink. The ink-block loses “magneticity” if the temperature rises above a certain limit; so, when the label is scanned, the data provides information regarding the intensity of the heat the item has been subjected to. As the label has been attached during packaging, the product can thus be monitored during its entire life-span.

What is absorbed heat?

Absorbed heat is the “fuel” by the degeneration process. It is provided by lack of refrigeration. The alterations caused by absorbed heat jeopardise the look, flavour and safety of food.

How are checks actually carried out?

Checks can be carried out c/o the distribution centres and/or on the retailer’s premises. For instance, in the former case we can assume that the majority of the food items are in stored boxes piled up high on a wooden pallet. In those circumstances, the operator checks and monitors the items contained in the boxes that are at the top, and on the outside, of the pile; they are the most exposed and therefore more likely to suffer the consequences of changes in temperature. The monitoring tasks are stringent but ensure the highest quality standards are reached and maintained at all times.

What level of safety is being ensured for consumers?

Very high. The monitoring network is made up of a tight-knit series of inter-dependent operations. Inefficiencies or failures are identified, and can be corrected, immediately.

What happens if a monitoring operation highlights failures?

The alarm is raised and the breakdown in the cold-chain is identified so the event cannot repeat itself in future. Meanwhile, we can rest assured that, if a producer or retailer subscribes to our technology, he or she have no intention of passing on or selling unsafe products.

Are there differences in how food products are monitored by the Blueline system?

Yes, there are. Every item has specific thermal inertia and temperature requirements. The Blueline system recognises the barcode of each specific product and uses that information to calculate the needs.

Wouldn’t colour-changeable labels be easier and provide more immediate visual control?

Colour-changeable labels are an easier option but many of the advantages, provided by the Blueline technology, would be lost; e.g. i) data gathering and recording and  ii) the advantage of a single label that monitors all kinds of fresh produce. There would also be many other problems, such as:

  • Delivery of the labels: prior to use, the labels would have to be printed and stored at a maximum temperature of +1°C, which is the “minimum” temperature for fresh products. Can you imagine the temperature inside a printer’s workshop in summer?
  • During preparation of the food item: think of a frozen chicken. It must be cut into portions and packaged at +5°C before it can be frozen. The label would instantly change colour during packaging; even when all regulations are being scrupulously observed.

Furthermore, it is hard to evaluate the freshness of an item by simply looking at it. The magnetic system evaluates the information it receives automatically and can distinguish one product from another via the barcode. The data automatically signals a ‘favourable’, ‘sufficient’ or an ‘attention required’ result.

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