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Time to take the industry's temperature.

Trade shows and business seminars are usually an accurate barometer of business conditions. It was not surprising then that most of the conventions I attended included seminars with ominous titles such as "Cost Cutting For The 90's" or "Controlling Fleet Costs in Tough Times". Like many attendees, I pushed my way into the standing-room-only seminars where I listened to heated discussions about labor policies, tractor maintenance schedules and, of course, workers compensation horror stories. Not once, though, did I hear about any training programs or management task forces dedicated to the reduction in revenues due to temperature related losses. Temperature related losses in the frozen food industry? Of course! And it takes many forms:

* diminished shelf life.

* reduced customer confidence.

* consumer dissatisfaction.

* high/exaggerated damage

claims.

* liability awards.

* total cargo loss.

Chances are, one, if not all of these scenarios has some relevance to your own operation. Yet, as a group, we are reluctant to acknowledge the subject. It seems that by admitting our limitations in providing optimum conditions for temperature sensitive foods, we are exposing a major weakness to our competitors. In fact, we are exposing our industry to far worse.

Witness the recent media frenzies over the quality of seafood and poultry products. Then imagine your anxiety discovering a TV news crew waiting for you in your trailer yard, warehouse reception area or the like. The fact is that we have not made our best effort to protect the one commodity that keeps us in business--frozen food (or any other perishables). And yet we have spent millions to establish our brand names, locate our tractors to within a meter, and automate our warehouse picking procedures. However, just-in-time delivery and error free order processing mean very little when the product's quality has been adversely affected during distribution to the point that it is either unsalable or unsafe. To their credit, the manufacturers of refrigeration units and trailers or cold storage rooms have made great efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their products. But the most efficient reefer cannot compensate for poor loading that cuts off airflow to the rear of the trailer or the pallet of frozen poultry that slowly thaws on the loading dock waiting for a trailer. Perhaps I've missed the conventions or seminars where these problems were discussed. I hope so. But I also hope that we can begin to bring out these problems for open dialogue before they are presented to us for explanation.

An example of what happens when we fail to address an industry related problem comes from Europe. As many of you know, the European Economic Community is currently enacting legislation requiring the use of temperature recorders for vehicles carrying quick frozen foods. Though only one step in the distribution process, this regulation signals the publics' concern for quality and safety of foods. It demonstrates to the public and the press the level of effort that is being made to ensure that frozen foods arrive at the store in the best condition possible.

While there is no such timetable for imposing similar regulations in the United States, we need to be thinking seriously about the message the European Community legislators are sending not only to us but also the U.S. consumer and our politicians. Most importantly, though, our industry participants must begin to actively address the issues involved in handling and transporting frozen foods from point of manufacture to store shelf or restaurant freezer. Should we collectively decide that legislation is needed (as recently occurred in the poultry industry regarding the handling of eggs) then we should be the ones to create the regulations. Only then can we be sure that any possible legislation will be fair and appropriate.

Hopefully in 1993 our trade conventions and seminars will begin to address the subject of optimizing the handling and transportation of frozen foods before we run the risk of over legislated conditions.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Frozen Food Digest, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:frozen food industry
Author:Villanueva, Frank
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Words:652
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