Now, compliments of the Internet: The temperature of your veggies

September 12, 2000
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DALLAS — Hardie’s Fruit and Vegetable Co. of Dallas recently installed a wireless temperature monitoring system from The NewID Co., Plano, Texas, which uses the Internet to help ensure that all produce stored and delivered is maintained within food-safe temperature ranges.

The system, called TempAssure, monitors temperature in several locations in each cooler, refrigerator, and freezer, including the airflow directly from the refrigeration units. Should a temperature rise or fall outside of the proper range, the system automatically sends an e-mail or page to the quality manager.

In addition to the more than 30 sensors in the refrigerators, TempAssure also monitors temperature and humidity in the ripening rooms, food-processing areas, and on 26 trucks used for delivery.

The system is said to feature instant access to temperature and other information through the Internet. “I can see what is happening with my business from anywhere that I can get on the Internet. It’s a great feeling,” said David Hardie, president of Hardie’s.

During an annual meeting at Costa Fruit and Produce in Boston, Hardie used a live connection on the Internet to let members of Pro*Act, a national produce co-op, actually see the current temperatures at his facility 2,500 miles away in Dallas.

NewID says it developed TempAssure to provide automatic reporting in response to the FDA’s increasing emphasis on HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) food safety standards. TempAssure enables food quality managers to generate FDA documentation without the labor involved in typical quality assurance programs, says the manufacturer.

The FDA has adopted HACCP, the NASA food safety standard, as its own benchmark for safe food-handling procedures. The FDA currently requires the seafood industry to comply with HACCP, and has made steps towards requiring the fruit and vegetable industry to do the same.

Vernon (Shot) Buie, operations manager at Hardie’s, says his company puts product quality above everything else. “Our customers expect us to be leading edge.

“We display the current temperature of every freezer and refrigerator right in the office lobby. We already track our trucks by satellite, and soon we will tie the two wireless systems together and get temperature as well as location information from the road. Our customers will really like that.”

The system uses strategically located wireless temperature sensors that report to a central monitoring station. The system logs temperature data, generates reports, and activates alarms when temperatures fall outside the safety zone. If temperatures leave the safety zone for too long a period, TempAssure sends an alert.

Dick Fettig, vice president of NewID, states, “We created TempAssure as a tool to be used throughout the cold-chain . . . . The system is already used in restaurants, grocery stores, and processing plants. With the installation at Hardie’s, we add the transportation and storage links to our cold-chain offerings.”

“And with the link to the Internet, it’s all one system,” adds Rik Heller, NewID’s president. “For example, when a delivery truck pulls up to a restaurant with one of our readers, the temperature information is captured and is available to both the delivery company and the restaurant at the same time, in real-time.

“Everyone benefits from each other’s link. It is highly symbiotic. Each link in the cold-chain is monitored as control is passed on, and the information is shared across the entire chain.

“Our vision is from farm to table in the safe zone.”

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