November 2, 2017

Why Micromarkets Need Continuous Temperature Monitoring

Written by SmartSense

Refrigeration, one of the distinguishing and valuable features of micromarkets, raises safety issue for perishable foods. We’ve examined the growth potential of this innovative vending concept, as well as its benefits for both consumers and operators, but continuous temperature monitoring is imperative to safe and efficient deployment.

Be Proactive About Food Safety — It’s Critical

Proactive food safety plans are essential for any establishment, but micromarkets have a truly critical need. Since micromarkets are unmanned, there must be a plan in place to effectively manage incidents and prevent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. Ideally, micromarkets should have remote, automatic, continuous temperature monitoring solutions. These systems allow operators to gain 24/7 insight into what’s happening at any micromarket, without physically visiting the market.

The State Of Micromarket Regulation

Currently, no federal regulations apply to micromarkets. Only a handful of states have passed legislations demanding licensing requirements for micromarkets that differ from those of conventional vending or convenience stores. Why? Micromarkets are relatively new on the retail scene. Health departments are struggling to understand exactly what a micromarket is and how operators can protect food integrity for unattended facilities.

Despite this, all signs point to inevitable city, state, and national regulations. In April 2016, the Council of Delegates for the Conference for Food Protection accepted finalized guidelines for unattended food establishments, which will ultimately be used by health and food safety organizations when licensing and regulating micromarkets. Meanwhile, the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), which represents the U.S. vending and refreshment services industry, has stepped in to proactively navigate micromarket regulations. In a 2016 technical bulletin, NAMA published the following safety recommendations for micromarkets:

  • Micromarket reach-in refrigerators must maintain a temperature of 41 degrees F.
  • Micromarket reach-in freezers must maintain a temperature of 0 degrees F.
  • All refrigeration equipment must have self-closing doors to help maintain the correct temperatures.  
  • All refrigeration equipment must be equipped with automatic shut-off controls that prevent equipment from selling food. Doors must lock when there is a power failure, mechanical failure, or other condition that results in an internal temperature greater than 41 degrees F for longer than 30 minutes.

Know The 4 “Musts” Of Micromarket Food

It’s no surprise that virtually all of the NAMA recommendations concern temperature control — or that the leaders in micromarket vending are already proactively establishing their own food safety standards regarding temperature. Mondelēz International, Inc., the global snacking powerhouse, has published its own take on the “4 Musts of Micromarket Food” on its corporate website. All four points are aimed at temperature monitoring and control for micromarket products.

1. Implement Food Safety Processes Along the Micromarket Cold Chain

All processes throughout the micromarket food chain must comply with the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule. Food products must be loaded for transport correctly to prevent contamination, as well as stored at the correct temperatures. This is a cornerstone requirement for emerging micromarkets, especially with regulations being established as they rise in popularity.

2. Carefully Consider The Benefits of Refrigerated Vehicles vs. Compartments

The single most important requirement is that food items be kept at their optimal temperature, regardless of if you choose a vehicle dedicated to refrigeration or one that uses separate refrigeration compartments. Reaching this necessity could mean adding airtight dividers within a vehicle to accommodate frozen or refrigerated items, or incorporating a system that blows cold air into the compartment or vehicle to automate temperature regulation as needed.

3. Actively Monitor Product Temperature Throughout Transport

It’s paramount to monitor food temperatures during delivery up until the item is sold. You can prioritize this either by bolting a thermometer to the inside of the transport vehicle (which is merely adequate) or placing a smart thermometer (paired to a mobile device) into each refrigeration unit. The latter is preferred for continuous monitoring and food safety peace of mind.

4. Guarantee That all Cooling Units Both Monitor and Lock

Each food cooler should include a locking mechanism that bars the door from customers to prevent sale if the temperature ever reaches unsafe levels. Both built-in and aftermarket systems offer the food safety assurances of a consistent and proper temperature, ensuring consumers won’t accidentally purchase a potentially hazardous item.

The TempAlert Solution

Food accounts for a quarter of micromarkets sales, so not prioritizing temperature during both transport and storage can be the Achilles heel that undoes consumer trust in your micromarket.

With a remote, digital, continuous monitoring solution, you improve the food safety standards and maintenance of your micromarket — and impress that public health is a tenant of your business.

TempAlert’s wireless sensors and our cloud-based platform provide 24/7 insight into the temperature of equipment, cooler compartments, and food — which is especially useful for the often-remote operation of micromarket locations. The TempAlert dashboard allows remote managers to see data and keep track of multiple micromarket locations all at once, in real-time.

Deploying this solution could help protect your micromarket and prevent foodborne illness outbreaks. Take automated remote monitoring to the next level for your micromarket business — and, of course, for the health of your customers.

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Topics: Food Safety

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