Best practices are guidelines and standards put in place by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other regulatory bodies that must be met and maintained in certain regulated industries. Each industry that requires best practices has a different framework of standards that it is required to follow. In this article, we will take a closer look at best practices and monitoring methods related to refrigerated areas.
What Are Refrigerated Areas?
Refrigerated areas are the various types of cold storage locations used to keep perishable items from spoiling. This could be a food storage locker in a manufacturing plant or a chill room in a grocery store. Another place where items must remain at a constant cold temperature during storage is in medical facilities that house medications and vaccines. Because temperature plays a crucial role in the lifespan of these products, best practices are established to keep them safe.
What Is The Best Method to Monitor These Areas?
For constant, consistent, and accurate monitoring of environmental conditions – such as temperature – in refrigerated areas, a data logger is a reliable option. With these electronic devices, sampling rates can be pre-programmed. Plus, if the data logger records a temperature reading that falls outside of the preferred range, it will provide an alert to ensure human intervention that corrects the temperature issue before the product can be affected.
Because data loggers are battery-operated, they are portable and can be used in places that no human could reach to read and record temperatures manually. In addition, software that gives you instant access to data recorded by a data logger makes it easy to analyze ongoing conditions. You can monitor conditions at all times by merely downloading an app to your smartphone; the data logger automatically sends sampling information to the app, enabling you to know instantly if temperature conditions deteriorate.
Environmental Monitoring – What It Means
“Environmental monitoring” is somewhat self-explanatory—it is the process used to collect and monitor environmental conditions surrounding a specified location over time, according to Dickson. This type of monitoring varies from one industry to another but often involves the collection of data, such as temperature and humidity, over time. For industries that rely on storing products in refrigerated containers of some type, environmental monitoring consists of monitoring temperature.
Best Practices Designed For Refrigerated Area Monitoring
Now that you have a better understanding of data loggers and environmental monitoring, here is a closer look at a few of the most crucial best practices related to monitoring refrigerated areas.
1 Proper Internal Alignment
Just as with anything, accomplishing something requires a clearly defined goal and an organized progression of steps to reach that goal. Environmental monitoring is much the same. If the goal is to keep refrigerated products between two set temperatures, there must be a methodology to ensure the selected range is appropriate. There also has to be a plan in place to address how to monitor the temperature, what to do if the temperature drops out of the selected range, who is notified, who collects the data, who analyses the data, and so on. When organization members are aligned and informed about this best practice, it’s easier for them to achieve their goal and to monitor overtime appropriately.
2 The Environmental Monitoring Tools
You need reliable environmental monitoring devices to use in applications such as tracking conditions in a warehouse, incubator, laboratory, or refrigerated storage locker. Data loggers are precise instruments that digitally record and monitor environmental conditions. Relatively easy to set up, you just program one and leave it alone. The size of these devices permits them to monitor areas far too cramped or inhospitable for a human temperature monitor or any other measuring devices. Data loggers also can store data long enough to download to a computer/laptop/tablet or smartphone so that the data can be analyzed and reviewed for compliance.
3 Monitoring Methodology
To have accurate environmental monitoring, your program must have three key elements. The environment being monitored must be properly identified and mapped, the monitoring equipment should be calibrated appropriately, and the equipment being used must be validated to ensure that it operates as it was intended to do and is compliant.
4 Organized Reporting
The data collected during the environmental monitoring of refrigerated areas has to be easy to access and understand at all times. This may require downloading the information regularly, such as daily or weekly. The reports generated from this information must be precise and stored in a way that makes them easily accessible.
5 Standard Monitoring
The standards put in place by the FDA may be updated from time to time. It is vital to have a complete understanding of the current standards and guidelines in your specific regulated industry. It also means that any updates, revisions, and changes to those guidelines must be adhered to as well to remain compliant.
The Importance of Environmental Monitoring
Minor changes in the environment you are monitoring are not unexpected. However, if those changes exceed the parameters set for compliance, there is a risk of loss that then potentially impacts many. Vaccines, medications, and drugs can be rendered ineffective if temperatures dip too far out of the safe zone they must be stored in; food may spoil or grow excessive amounts of bacteria. Having constant and consistent monitoring tools in place can help prevent losses such as these.
The best practices for monitoring refrigerated areas revolve around temperature. To keep those items in cold storage from spoiling and potentially becoming a risk to use, environmental monitoring is highly recommended. This can be done very cost-effectively with a data logger. Follow best practices to ensure that the temperature is stable and cold enough to protect such items as vaccines, medications, organs, and drugs. With a data logger tracking and recording the temperature over time, the items in storage will remain safe and secure. Data loggers ensure this and provide recorded information for analysis and review.