Ashok Gupta, Chairman & Managing Director, Rockwell Industries Limited
India’s food and beverage industry is a dynamic and integral part of the nation’s economy. However, ensuring the safety, quality, and freshness of perishable products remains a challenge due to gaps in the cold chain infrastructure. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) plays a crucial role in regulating and promoting food safety. Over the next decade, FSSAI can drive transformative changes to boost India’s cold chain market, ensuring the preservation of food quality and driving economic growth.
The cold chain plays a critical role in preventing food wastage by maintaining the freshness, quality, and safety of perishable products throughout the entire supply chain, from Farm to Fork. It involves a series of temperature-controlled storage, transportation, and distribution processes that ensure that food products remain within safe temperature ranges, preventing spoilage and extending their shelf life. Here’s how the cold chain helps prevent food wastage:
Preservation of freshness: Cold chain facilities such as refrigerated warehouses, cold storage units, and refrigerated transportation vehicles keep perishable foods at controlled temperatures. This prevents the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold that lead to spoilage. By slowing down the natural degradation processes, the cold chain helps keep food fresh for longer periods.
Extended shelf life: Maintaining optimal temperatures during storage and transportation slows down the deterioration of food products. This extended shelf life allows producers, distributors, and retailers to manage their inventory more effectively, reducing the risk of products expiring before they can be sold.
Reduced Microbial growth: Bacteria thrive in warmer temperatures. The cold chain inhibits the growth of harmful microorganisms that can cause foodborne illnesses. By controlling the temperature, the cold chain minimises the risk of contamination and ensures food safety, making products safe for consumption for a longer duration.
Minimised Quality loss: Temperature fluctuations and improper handling can lead to changes in texture, flavour, colour, and nutritional content of food products. The cold chain maintains product quality by preventing such changes, making the products more appealing to consumers, and reducing the likelihood of them being discarded due to perceived inferior quality.
FOOD SAFETY AND HYGIENE
Maintaining high levels of hygiene and sanitation in cold storage facilities, transportation vehicles, and processing centres is paramount. Regular cleaning, disinfection, and pest control are essential to prevent contamination.
Temperature Monitoring: Implement continuous temperature monitoring systems using IoT sensors and real-time data analytics. Deviations from safe temperature ranges should trigger immediate alerts, allowing corrective actions to be taken promptly.
Traceability Systems: Establish robust traceability systems that track the movement of food products throughout the supply chain. This allows for quick identification and recall of potentially unsafe products if any issues arise.
Packaging Innovation: Develop and adopt packaging materials and designs that enhance product safety and prevent contamination. Packaging should be tamper-evident, resistant to moisture and pests, and designed to maintain product quality.
TRAINING AND AWARENESS
Providing training to personnel involved in the cold chain on food safety practices, including proper handling, storage, and transportation cannot be overlooked either. Certification programs can help ensure that individuals are knowledgeable and skilled in maintaining food safety.
Documentation and Records: Maintain comprehensive records of temperature monitoring, storage conditions, handling practices, and transportation routes. Documentation helps identify any lapses in the cold chain that could impact food safety.
Rigorous Auditing: Conduct regular audits of cold chain facilities and processes to assess compliance with food safety standards. Audits should be conducted by qualified third-party entities to ensure objectivity and accuracy.
Public Awareness Campaigns: Launch educational campaigns targeting both producers and consumers to raise awareness about food safety practices. Educated consumers can make informed choices and demand safer products, thereby encouraging compliance from producers.
Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing: Encourage collaboration among stakeholders, including government agencies, industry associations, research institutions, and international organisations. Sharing best practices and experiences can lead to improved food safety measures.
With a proactive approach to cold chain development, FSSAI has the potential to transform India’s food and beverage industry. By implementing these strategies over the next decade, FSSAI can bolster the cold chain market, ensuring safe, high-quality food for consumers, reducing food wastage, and contributing to economic growth. A well-managed cold chain not only benefits the food industry but also safeguards public health and strengthens India’s position on the global food stage.