CategoriesFood Safety

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cited 155 food facilities across the country for failure to control proper manufacturing controls. This includes keeping refrigeration systems in check to ensure adequate and compliant temperatures to keep food fresh and safe.

When it comes to food, violations like this can be extremely harmful to business. There is an expectation to keep customers safe, but these citations happen more often than we like to deal with. The potential risks of illness or death, reputational damage and financial hardships isn’t worth ignoring the guidelines, no matter the business.

Never assume safety 

The Medford Wellington Service team was recently supporting a local food processing plant.  While we were working with the company, they asked us to replace the condensers and evaporators in one of their walk-in boxes where they kept processed food. The existing monitoring system in the box would sound an alarm when the temperature rose above a certain degree. In this case, it was set to 50 degrees. We replaced the components and recommended that they replace sections of the insulated box as it was part of the issue.

With the new refrigeration parts in place, the owners assumed their equipment was running efficiently as the alarm stopped sounding. The refrigeration unit then began to intermittently shut down, and we were called in again. We returned to the site to learn they had not replaced the sections of insulated panels, which we had recommended. When the unit shuts down due to problems with the box, the temperature would rise, creating a hazardous food safety issue. We used an infrared gun to read the temperature of the walls and ceiling of the box. We found that certain sections were uninsulated and placing too much of a load on the refrigeration system to maintain compliant internal box temperatures. The alarms let the customer know there was a problem. However, the alarms did not alert the business owners to the specific problems.

Better safe than sorry 

I believe that sometimes it’s better to look at the big picture. In this case, the cure to the refrigeration issues was not just about replacing the cooling components. It was also about the repairs needed to allow the box to keep the coolant from escaping outside.

The result was that the company lost time and money by putting off repairing the insulated panel system and was now looking at more involved, costlier repairs to the walk-in box to make sure it could maintain the proper cooling within the space.

Bottom line

Financial losses aside, it is often hard for food-related businesses to fully recover from reputational damage that may occur from receiving violations or being shut down for any reason. A prime example is the scrutiny the Dole company underwent when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an outbreak of Listeria was traced back to the company’s bagged salads sold in 13 states in 2022. Sixteen people were hospitalized and three people died. In many cases, especially for small businesses, customer loyalty could suffer. This could also affect the possibilities of future partnerships and other market opportunities. The damage to the business isn’t worth the risk.

Of course, not all issues can be avoided, but having experts conduct routine maintenance and  monitoring of such equipment can make a big difference in the outcome and keep the business  from experiencing bigger difficulties down the road. In short, proactive maintenance will help  keep businesses running 24/7.

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  • Medford Wellington, the business continuity company, is committed to keeping commercial enterprises running uninterrupted – from restaurants and retail spaces to laboratories and hospitals.
  • Service areas include Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine.