There are many moving parts with the logistics of shipping fresh produce. Of course, temperature control is a key element in maintaining the freshness of the produce. That is not the only factor, however.

Consider what would happen if a receiver of a shipment is delayed a day. Even if the produce is maintained at an ideal temperature, that is still a day of freshness being lost, not to mention a day of productivity as well. The key to effectively transport fresh produce is ensuring a coordinated shipping network that observes the best practices with storing and temperature control. Here are some factors to consider in order to most effectively ship fresh produce.

Safety Guidelines

Fresh produce is both time and temperature sensitive. Not only that, different items have different shelf lives. For that reason, if shipping companies cut corners and fail to observe guidelines, the whole operation becomes susceptible to setbacks that result in the loss of product - and therefore money. 

Even a slight hiccup can cause significant problems. Let’s say a couple of the apples in your shipment are bruised, or maybe a couple of oranges aren’t as fresh. That’s a problem. If your shipment consistently supplies grocery stores with subpar produce, they’re going to start looking for another transporter. 

Furthermore, the Food Modernization Safety Act (FMSA), which was passed in 2011 and implemented in 2017, regulates the transportation of produce (among other consumer goods) in order to ensure food safety. The act outlines strict standards for transporters:

  • Vehicles and transportation equipment:

FMSA includes many specifications about the design and maintenance of vehicles and transportation equipment. Most notable, it requires that they must be able to be easily cleaned to food safety standards as well have the ability to be temperature controlled.

  • Transportation operations:

These regulations essentially require the transporter to ensure that cross contamination does not occur. If you are shipping raw meat, for example, steps must be taken to prevent the raw meat from coming in contact with produce, or surfaces the produce will later touch. The same can be said for allergens, which also must be contained.

  • Training

All carrier personnel must be adequately trained in food safety and food transportation as well as have this training documented.

  • Records

Transporters must maintain records of written procedures, agreements, and training. The time required to maintain these records varies depending on the type of record, but does not exceed 12 months.

Controlling The Temperature

As has already been discussed previously, the cold chain is integral to the successful shipping of many products - fresh produce is no exception. What’s more, with produce, each item may require a different shipping temperature. Therefore, effective temperature control and punctual shipping are essential.

Suggested shipping temperatures for produce can fluctuate between being as low as freezing and as high as 50, or even 60, degrees. The driver should be aware of what is being shipped and their ideal temperatures, and keep an eye on the temperature gauges and adjust accordingly. Remember, even 1 or 2 degree fluctuations can result in disaster, so this practice is fundamental to a successful operation. 

For items like apples, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapes, oranges, and many other fruits and vegetables, a shipping temperature between 32 and 36 degrees is recommended. For items like avocados and cranberries, they are safely shipped at temperatures between 38-40 degrees. Honeydew melons, late crop potatoes, and green beans ship well between 40-45 degree temperatures. For a complete list of produce items and their recommended shipping temperatures, click here.

Putting it All Together

Temperature controlled shipping and cold chain logistics are already a highly time sensitive and delicate industry. Coordination, diligence, and consistency are essential to successful transportation. With fresh produce, the margin for error grows even more narrow. That being said, if you observe the best practices and follow government guidelines, grocery stores and other vendors can continue to expect fresh produce to arrive with quality assured and on a consistent basis.