The food logistics chain is a complex system in which safety and hygiene are decisive factors. Because no matter how fast and efficient the chain works, it is completely worthless if freshness and quality are not guaranteed. Compliance with increasingly stringent regulations is taking an ever-greater toll on the budgets of producers and their logistics partners. Lagging behind is not an option.
Temperature, light, and humidity form a Holy Trinity in the world of food logistics. As soon as the ideal conditions are broken somewhere in the chain and freshness is no longer 100% guaranteed, risks arise with potentially disastrous consequences – for the producer and the seller, but also for public health.
From field to fork safely
It should therefore come as no surprise that logistics companies do everything in their power to avoid any risk. “All modern warehouses in the Belgian and Dutch food sector now have advanced refrigeration and freezer systems,” says Wiljan Daris of food retailer The Greenery.
“First and foremost, we want to offer top quality at all times. But apart from that, there are also audits that oblige us to set the bar high. The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) continuously checks the entire chain, from field to fork. The correct functioning and maintenance of our refrigeration systems are constantly under scrutiny. It means we have no other choice but to make hygiene and safety a priority.”
Growing investment gap
Monitoring the temperature at each stage of the logistics chain is far from sufficient to meet the FASFC requirements. It must be possible to correct it at any time, both in the warehouse and in the refrigerated vehicle. Logistics companies are supposed to come up with their own solutions to comply with the rules. This requires a lot of flexibility and investment, which is not available everywhere. This transition takes a lot of time, especially for small companies.
“It is logical that small companies need more time to make the leap,” confirms Frank Toussaint of BioLog Europe, a non-profit organisation that focuses on the supply chain challenges in the world of pharmalogistics and life sciences. “There is a danger that it will create a gap between large players who can invest in smart technologies and small companies with a limited budget.”
The warehouse becomes the pantry
It is clear that the food logistics sector has become a lot more professional in recent years, especially when it comes to freezing capacity. Hospitality customers shun even the smallest risk and rely on the expertise of specialised companies to manage their stock in ideal conditions.
“Not every hospitality company has enormous freezer capacity, so they see our warehouses as their pantry,” explains Wilco Jansen from wholesaler Sligro. This trend has a clear impact on the activities of the wholesale trade. “The frequency of our deliveries must be increased. And since it is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver to city centres, our planners face a huge challenge.”
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