Stomach Virus Tied to Food Shipments

July 25, 2013

A stomach virus that has sickened 285 people in 11 states has been linked to food shipments of contaminated produce. The exact cause of the outbreak has yet to be determined by the Center for Disease Control, but the cyclospora infections, have thus far been clustered in the Midwest.

This is just the latest reminder of the ease of contamination as food shipments rapidly make their way across countries and around the world. There are many cases where the cause of the disease has little to do with the means of food shipment. Parasites have little if anything to do with transport. Yet there are many cases where handling and shipment can be linked to contamination.

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe
Food shipments offer special challenges to logistics providers.

If you think of the many steps involved in the shipment of food from field to table there are ample opportunities for contamination and spoilage. Missed connections, breakdowns and human error can all play a role. There’s no way to eradicate breakdowns in the supply chain, but there are ways to detect the unfortunate results of contamination.

The proper temperature of food shipments is one way to ensure that conditions do not exist that would create the potential for bacterial growth. Intelleflex’s Kevin Payne, writing for “Inbound Logistics” suggests that monitoring on the pallet level is the most effective way of protecting against food-borne illnesses.

Payne suggests the use of cost-effective wireless monitoring tags as the way to go in guarding against food spoilage. He writes that introducing safeguards at the pallet level is more effective than simply monitoring temperatures on an entire truckload or shipment where there may be any number of variables.

The idea is certainly a good one and it’s one of those suggestions that’s made too often during an outbreak of illness and then forgotten until the next one. As an aside we should just mention that Intelleflex is in the business of providing monitoring solutions. That means that they are experts and also that they have something to sell.

As we track the vector of the latest food-borne outbreak it’s worth noting that we may be seeing more of the same in coming months and years. The growing sophistication of shipping also leaves room for breakdowns and for the resulting impact to become further widespread. Fortunately, the technology exists to track and stop potential problems before they become real. However, they have to be implemented to be effective.

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