All UK organisations have to comply with exacting modern food safety standards and legislation. The public do not forget lapses that make people ill. The legal profession and the HSE don’t forget either. This makes accurate and reliable auditing of food safety an even greater priority. Compliance is just as vital in other areas, for instance in water supply and ventilation systems.
European HACCP legislation is a good case in point; accurate temperature measurement is a strong feature in HACCP analysis, which makes food temperature critical at every stage of storage, preparation, processing and delivery. Accuracy and speed of results is essential, especially for chilled and reheated foods that are particularly susceptible to harmful bacteria.
Of course temperature must be controlled but that is only a beginning. It must also be monitored. Hence the emphasis on record-keeping, which must be up to date and verifiable. Handheld digital thermometers and fixed or portable data loggers have provided some excellent solutions for ensuring accurate and reliable measurements so far. But technological improvements in recording measurement results have, by comparison, lagged behind.
The vast majority of temperature measurements require handheld, portable sensing with the necessity for a human interface. Throughout the food industry there is a persistent over-reliance on paper records, with the irony of high accuracy digital measurements being transferred into written logbooks. Anyone acquainted with the sheer number and regularity of measurements required for a typical HACCP analysis knows how labour intensive this can be. Moreover, apart from the time involved, double-handling of data is notoriously vulnerable to human error.
The relatively recent development of complex wireless monitoring systems does offer a more sophisticated method of recording temperature but this is only when fixed sensors are in place and it comes at a considerable cost.
Logging thermometers have provided a partial answer by allowing measurements to be downloaded to a PC, however they do not log what was measured.
In both these developments, there has been a crucial missing link. How to record what has been measured. Until now, a high quality, accurate thermometer has been able to record the temperature, time and date of each individual measurement but not what it has actually measured, whether that is an item of food or an appliance. A quality control PDA system can provide you with a convenient, interrogative database of products or appliances but how can these two technologies talk to each other?
Bluetooth meets barcode
The answer is a Bluetooth handheld thermometer with integral barcode reader. It’s both a portable handheld logger that will to scan and record not only temperature, time and date but also the unique identity of any location scanned. Thanks to the universal nature of barcodes this device is suitable for monitoring a wide range of food products or systems. Organisations can easily create and assign new barcodes to any food product, production menu or location. The device has a storage capacity of up to 1,000 readings which can then be downloaded to PC, mobile phone or PDA for storage and analysis.
The device is supplied with free open source software which downloads all the data it has recorded, ‘translating’ each barcode into readable text. The information retrieved is in a csv (comma separated values) file format which can be imported into a database or through a spreadsheet as universal as excel.
The full potential of this innovation for transforming due diligence in the food industry and other temperature critical areas can be most fully understood, when you consider the advantages to be had from rolling the system across multiple sites. The capability to interrogate and analyse temperatures globally represents a huge advantage in saving time and therefore money. Enabling organisations to record and track the temperature of individual items, to be alerted to equipment break-downs, and to monitor the temperature of produce. No complex wireless monitoring systems to install, no expensive software just a single handheld device which is affordable, compatible and easy to use.
The concept is, like all good ideas, a simple one.
For further information please contact TME on (0)1903 00651 www.tmethermometers.com