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Cold stores in SA hard at work maintaining a strong cold chain

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By Lizelle van der Berg, Director – GCCA South Africa

The Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) listens to the concerns of members and industry leaders The Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) listens to the concerns of members and industry leaders to identify top issues facing the cold chain.

Photo by GCCA

Photo by GCCA

GCCA research shows that one of the top concerns facing food company executives is the safety and quality of their products once it leaves their facilities. They place a lot of trust in their cold chain partners. Across this research, participants routinely revisited themes emphasising that cold chain providers are a direct extension of their customers’ brands, perception, and value with consumers.

Darryl Poisson, Managing Director of Ethekwini Cold Stores (Pty) Ltd (ECS) explains how food safety is extremely important to them as it is critical to their clients and that cold stores need to be committed to rendering a consistent quality service which meets their clients’ safety needs. Says Poisson: “It is imperative that we work with our clients to ensure food safety and quality. It is important to note that it is not only our clients who demand a specific level of food safety and quality, but also industry regulatory requirements as per the PPECB, Department of Agriculture, Walmart, etc. We work closely with all industry role players to ensure that we comply with these requirements.”

ECS has improved physical aspects of its facility as well as operational procedures and efficiencies, and continues to do so. Poisson further explains that it is vital that the industry tracks product from orchard to destination and that a quality warehouse management system is required to accurately record this data and track the exact location whilst in the care of the cold store.

It is also important that the temperature management system tracks important historical temperature of various areas within your facility as well as the pulp temperature of all products requiring pulp temperature monitoring. This can be done via wireless pulp temperature probes and a multitude of other IT systems, explains Poisson. When ECS receives product, their first deliverable is recording accurate product information and to report stock information to their clients, on which they base important sales and logistical decisions. ECS then renders a very important service in cooling specific product to a specific temperature required by the client to comply with industry and target market protocols.

These temperatures are also monitored by regulatory bodies. Specific product can be relabelled according to clients’ sales and target market requirements. Inspection facilities and personnel for inspections by their clients’ service providers as well as the Department of Agriculture are provided. Product is then packed into specific containers on instructions from clients – all under supervision of regulatory bodies.

Poisson adds: “We have also installed a new CCTV system with over 100 cameras to not only monitor logistical movements, but very importantly the quality of product handling. This CCTV system also acts as an effective deterrent for product theft”. When the PPECB used to award ‘Best Cold Store in Durban’ ECS won this award twice and was runner up twice in the last four consecutive years of the award. As per Poisson, they are known as one of, if not the most productive and efficient container packing facilities in Durban.

“The GCCA-SA Food Safety & Compliance “The GCCA-SA Food Safety & Compliance Committee has provided compliance professionals in the cold storage industry a platform to collaborate, stay abreast with industry best practices, and to address common challenges imposed on the industry by the current regulatory environment.”

Philippa Charlesworth from Reefer Cold Storage says: “Reefer is committed to ensuring that only healthy food gets out into the South African market.” She further explains that this is made possible by evaluating processes and constantly improving food safety levels. Internal and external audits are used to highlight any areas where they can improve their standards and implement higher levels to achieve even better safety of the product.

Photo by GCCA

Photo by GCCA

According to Charlesworth, using top-class access control, camera equipment, and temperature monitoring systems as well as an onsite maintenance team to look after the plant, they make sure that they maintain traceability and safety in all the products that they receive.

“Traceability and safety are both vital to ensure we support the system to get healthy food products to South African families,” says Charlesworth. Reefer Cold Storage takes care of some of the big South African and international brands and ensures that they take care of their customers’ product from when it enters their premises until it leaves.

After conducting research and hearing about the importance of food safety from our members, GCCA established the GCCA Food Safety and Compliance Committee in 2020. Larna Jodamus, Compliance Manager of CCS Logistics and Chair of the GCCA SA Food Safety and Compliance Committee says: “The Food Safety & Compliance Committee has provided compliance professionals in the cold storage industry a platform to collaborate with fellow industry members to share information on SHEQ related matters, stay abreast with industry best practices, and to address common challenges imposed on the industry by the current regulatory environment. The forum’s primary objective for the year is to make its presence known in the industry to work with government agencies on regulations, and to improve food safety and compliance standards.”

The second committee meeting took place on 4 February 2021 with all committee members present and actively participating. In the weeks prior to the meeting a list of regulatory questions and challenges were compiled. The expertise of this group of individuals was evident as possible solutions and thoughts around this list was discussed. Committee members are working on survey questions and the Global Cold Chain Alliance will be sending a survey to the broader industry to gain intelligence and support in achieving their objectives.

The seven committee members that started serving their one-term on 1 August 2020 include Larna Jodamus, Compliance Manager of CCS Logistics, Verona Ramsook, Group Food Safety Manager of Etlin International, Phindile Ntshaba, SHEQ Executive of Vector Logistics, Colin Barker, Compliance Manager at Table Bay Cold Storage, Altie van Zyl, Compliance Manager at Cross Berth Cold Stores, Philippa Charlesworth, Admin & Compliance Manager at Reefer Cold Storage and Bomkazi Ndlebe, Compliance Officer at CCS Logistics. These seven leaders are commitment to help strengthen South Africa’s cold chain through food safety and compliance. Collectively, they will serve as the voice of the cold chain industry in South Africa.

The Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) serves more than 1 300 companies in 85 countries, who in turn serve the food industry by providing third-party, temperature-controlled supply chain services.