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85% of US Cold Storage Facilities Non-compliant with Food Safety Act

The looming Food Safety Modernization Act preoccupied many attendees at the inaugural Global Cold Chain Expo.

As a sign of the growing importance of the sector, the first Global Cold Chain Expo was held in Chicago earlier this year. A joint venture by the Global Cold Chain Alliance and the United Fresh Produce Association, the event was billed by its organisers as "putting a spotlight on the cold chain industry and its critical role in feeding the world's ever-growing population."

Overall, the expo had a particular focus on the technologies used to manage the temperature of perishable products from point-of-slaughter (or harvest) to final delivery to the consumer. Its extensive remit attracted a number of specialists in several relevant key sectors to host a series of well-attended workshops and seminars. Among the issues addressed were warehousing, transportation, construction and logistics.

With many of the foremost figures in the industry in attendance, it soon became apparent that three particular issues were preoccupying the sector at large – energy efficiency, automation and regulation.

In terms of energy efficiency, many delegates acknowledged a need for the cold chain industry to reduce its environmental impact. This was seen as important in terms of both demonstrating a clear degree of ecological responsibility and as a means of reducing costs.

There was a particular enthusiasm for the use of low-charge ammonia refrigeration systems. By reducing the required quantity of ammonia, such systems are said to offer safer operation, while also offering greater energy savings and an enhanced compliance with environmental protection protocols. This technology was also seen as easy to instal and operate, while also having a lower cost of ownership.

Other sessions addressed the importance of adopting a comprehensive energy management programme. With both a tactical and a strategic approach advocated, this was seen as one of the primary means of reducing energy costs for cold chain operators.

In terms of automation, a discussion session hosted by Swisslog, a Switzerland-based provider of automated warehousing systems, proved particularly well-attended. The seminar had a particular focus on the implementation of automated storage and retrieval in freezer environments, as well as the challenge of scalable automation, issues that seemed to strike a chord with many attendees.

Inevitably, with new legislation pending, regulation was the single issue that concerned attendees the most. According to one presentation, 85% of North American cold storage facilities may not comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), scheduled to come into effect in September of this year. Overall, the biggest problem was seen as the antiquated nature of some of the equipment still in everyday use by many businesses in the sector.

There were also concerns over The Sanitary Transportation of Food (STF) rule, one of the key tenets of the FSMA. This will require all companies to maintain and demonstrate clear adherence to a number of strictly defined sanitary practices. These include specified levels of training, detailed record keeping and regular monitoring of all conditions and practices. It was felt that, at present, many businesses would have to rapidly revise their current protocols in order to ensure compliance prior to the September implementation date.

According to representatives of the HKTDC attending the event, it would be advisable for Hong Kong companies operating in the global cold chain sector to take particular note of the looming FSMA regulations.

Photo: Heated debate over industry issues at the inaugural Global Cold Chain Expo.
Heated debate over industry issues at the inaugural Global Cold Chain Expo.
Photo: Heated debate over industry issues at the inaugural Global Cold Chain Expo.
Heated debate over industry issues at the inaugural Global Cold Chain Expo.

The Global Cold Chain Expo 2016 took place at Chicago's McCormick Place from 20-22 June. The event attracted 165 exhibiting companies from 18 countries and territories, as well as 13,000 industry professionals from the cold chain and logistics sectors.

Bridget Lee, Chicago Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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