New technology to track supply chain temperature

By Joe Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

New technology to track supply chain temperature

Related tags Cold chain

A barcode that can be scanned by a mobile phone will enable food processors to monitor their products temperature quality throughout the supply chain, claims its developer.

DeltaTRAK, showcased the ThermoTrace TTI cold chain technology at the United Fresh trade show this month, and said messages can be standard or pre-defined.

The ThermoTrace TTI labels can be scanned using an industrial barcode reader (WiFi/GSM/CDMA) or smartphone (iPhone and Android).

A text message and/or email indicating product quality is then sent to a pre-defined receiver showing the serial number of the label.

Each time the label is scanned it will provide immediate information regarding product quality and identify any temperature abuse.

The cold chain specialist said the intended markets are manufacturers, processors and food service companies that want product quality temperature monitoring. 

Track through the chain

Val Cureton, marketing communications manager at DeltaTRAK, told the technology enables food processors to ensure customers are receiving a quality product.

“For the packaging industry, packagers looking to provide their customers with even better protection for their products may look to bundle the solution with their packaging offerings​.”

The barcodes on the labels has four possible readings, with only one row of the barcode readable to a scanner at any given time, but a label can be scanned an unlimited number of times.

The message displayed could read "Good" or "Fresh" indicating the product has not experienced any temperature excursions or "80% Shelf Life Remaining".

If the product has experienced exposure to abusive temperatures the message might read "Do Not Sell".

The product quality message that corresponds to the label’s temperature condition is displayed on the barcode reader as long as the scanner application has been installed prior to scanning. 

How do the labels work?

Cureton added the temperature is tracked once the green ‘start’ tab is pulled.

There are currently two temperature thresholds available, the 32F/0C for frozen products such as meat, seafood or chicken and the 41F/5C for chilled commodities, such as produce and dairy products but other models can be made available​.

For 32F/0C label, the first change occurs when the product has been subjected to two hours above 32 F/0C, the second at four hours and the final change at six hours. For the 41F/5C label the barcode changes first at one hour, then subsequently at three hours and finally at five hours above threshold. 

“Once activated, when any product is exposed to temperatures above the threshold temperature, a black proprietary chemical (non-toxic) begins to melt and migrate across the barcode on the label. If the temperature goes back down below the threshold the chemical solidifies and stops migrating."

Cureton added as the chemical migrates, it colours in missing bars to complete a row of the barcode and when the row is completed the row above it becomes void by filling in more bars. 

“The label tracks cumulative temperature abuse time the product spends above the threshold temperature and is irreversible, and therefore cannot revert back to the previous barcode state and they are disposed of at the end of the cold chain.​”

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