Increasing frozen meat supplies underscore need for more temperature monitoring
Wednesday, Mar 6th 2013

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that more meat and other perishable food items are being stored in refrigeration facilities now than in the past, underscoring the need for more temperature monitoring in the foodservice industry to prevent illness.

The USDA study showed that more than 657 million pounds of chicken and more than 361 million pounds of turkey were in freezer units nationwide in January, up from more than 607 million pounds and more than 297 million pounds respectively 12 months earlier. In addition, total frozen pork supplies went from more than 585 million pounds in January 2012 to more than 605 million pounds earlier this year.

According to Beef Magazine, total frozen meat supplies likely increased as restaurants and other foodservice providers purposefully took on additional inventory in preparation for the busier summer months.

"So while inventories have grown in recent months (likely the result of strategic positioning), there's good reason to believe those stocks will be whittled away in the months to come as peak demand season begins to kick in," the news source said.

Why more frozen meat should equal more temperature monitoring
As food companies bring in more pork, chicken, turkey and other meats, they should also be utilizing temperature monitoring equipment to ensure that the stored meats remain fit for human consumption. Improper storage techniques increase the likelihood that bacteria and disease-causing pathogens appear in the food supply.

Organizations should be leveraging all the tools at their disposal to combat foodborne illness, especially considering that a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately 46 percent of all annual food-related deaths were caused by land animals from 1998 through 2008. Considering that there are, on average, more than 9 million food borne illnesses, this means that improperly cooked and handled meat caused the untimely demise of hundreds of Americans during that 10-year period.

Among all meats, U.S. residents were most likely to fall ill after eating poultry. According to the CDC, 19 percent of all deaths from a food borne illness were caused primarily by chicken and turkey. In comparison, dairy products were the likely culprit in 10 percent of all fatalities and leafy vegetables caused approximately 6 percent of all deaths related to a foodborne illness.

"[O]ur outbreak-based method attributed most foodborne illnesses to food commodities that constitute a major portion of the U.S. diet," the report said. "When food commodities are consumed frequently, even those with a low risk for pathogen transmission per serving may result in a high number of illnesses. The attribution of food borne-associated illnesses and deaths to specific commodities is useful for prioritizing public health activities."

While the CDC acknowledged that there are many factors responsible for the increase noted in the report, one way food service providers can reduce the likelihood of their supplies making patrons sick is by using temperature monitoring. According to the University of Missouri - St. Louis, the majority of disease-causing pathogens thrive at temperatures between 20 degrees and 50 degrees Celsius (68 degrees to 122 degrees Fahrenheit). By making sure that refrigeration and freezer rooms never reach this range, food companies can better ensure that their supplies are safe for human consumption.