Where’s the heat?
Aug 29, 2019 | Jeff Honey What a Summer! Hot, cool, rainy, or dry weather is hard on crops. Things do not always grow evenly, so we see things that are small, misshapen, or have growth cracks or fresh splits. These are things that we can see when we open a package, but what about what we can’t see? Do you know where heat can hide in a load? Different people have different obligations throughout the supply chain. Now that we have the new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, the old Licensing and Arbitration Regulations are gone. Licensing has been taken over by the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC) in addition to their role in keeping our industry honest and fair through their by-laws and operating rules. You can look at their by-laws here: http://fvdrc.com/by-laws-and-operating-rules/. Of course, you are familiar with the DRC because they have the Good Arrival Guidelines that you are constantly looking at. The DRC’s Trading Standards spell out who is responsible for what in the supply chain. One of the responsibilities that shippers have is to make sure that any product that is going into a trailer is ready to go. Under “Dealer Duties”, we see that “A perishable agricultural commodity shall be precooled, gassed, iced or otherwise prepared by any other prescribed process for the maintenance of suitable product condition under normal transportation service and conditions to the destination specified.” In simpler terms, don’t load produce that is already too hot or too cold. But how is one to know at destination? You should be taking temperatures on what you are receiving at the top, middle and bottom of the pallets, as well as your individual inspection samples when receiving. That doesn’t always tell the whole story, though. Let me walk you through a scenario that I encountered a few years ago. I received a call from a trucking company near Toronto. They had hauled a load of zucchini out of Florida in May. The driver was told to set the reefer at 45F, which he did. The reefer ran without incident throughout the trip. When the load arrived at its destination, the receiver took top, middle and bottom temperatures, and found the load’s temperatures to be above what their specifications dictated. The load was rejected back to the trucking company for breach of transportation temperatures. This is where the plot thickens. When I went to inspect the load, I took four temperatures per pallet: top, middle, bottom and centre of the pallet. While the first three temperatures were slightly above 45F, the centre temperatures told the whole story. Remember, a trailer’s reefer system is designed to maintain temperatures. Yes, a driver can freeze or cook a load, but that is found on the top layer and around the outsides of the pallets. A reefer cannot change the temperature of the centre of the pallet except under extreme and prolonged periods of temperature abuse.
Had that receiver taken a fourth temperature on each pallet, they would have determined that the truck was not responsible for the high temperatures. The centres of the pallets were literally cooking. In the photo above, I recorded 77.5F. This indicates that the load was not properly precooled before loading, which is a breach of the shipper’s responsibilities. The load should have been rejected back to the shipper. Then the shipper would have had to deal with the load instead of the trucking company being left with a load of zucchini that they didn’t want. You should always go for that fourth temperature any time that you have pallets with centre stacks. Think of the smaller packages like mangos, asparagus, spring mix or carambola. They are not really affected by what the reefer is doing because they are completely insulated by the packages around them. If you find the problem, you have done your job correctly. If you accept a load that is cooking from the inside out, you might not be invited to the company picnic. Never rush. You have one of the most important jobs in your company!