Best practices for transporting food to remote sites
By: Phil Sneed
Care needs to be taken when delivering food to remote sites, sometimes known as satellite kitchens. These instances may arise during food festivals that occur throughout the summer, when the main restaurant prepares food and it is then transported to the fest's location.
The food itself may be transported at different times depending on a few factors. If cooking materials need to be prepared fresh, restaurants may choose to deliver food the morning before the festival starts, whereas frozen items may be delivered at once to be stored when they are needed.
Remote sites have to abide by the same standards every restaurant does. There may even be thorough inspections because food is being prepared outside of a normal kitchen, and the chance an airborne illness develops because of contaminated food is potentially greater.
"Care needs to be taken when delivering food to remote sites."
Off-site delivery is also common within the educational system, as many schools prepare food at one place, but then deliver it to another. All told, delivering food to an off-site location introduces a unique complexity to the delivery process.
Transportation companies may be tasked with helping to deliver food to remote sites and it's important everyone involved in the process understands standard operating procedures and best practices developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The USDA has developed a framework for drivers and fleets to go by when developing standard operating procedures. The purpose of these practices is to prevent foodborne illnesses. To do this, certain temperatures must be maintained throughout the trip.
Important steps include following state and local health requirements, such as Austin, Texas's requirements. Additionally, it's recommended that food carriers complete the following steps:
- Wash and sanitize every surface in the truck
- Ensure the truck is suitable for food transportation
- Check to see if a thermostat is installed
Additionally, there are a few steps food transporters will have to remember. The product name, temperature and time of transport should all be recorded before the delivery is made. Once the shipment arrives, the receiving temperature will have to be recorded.
"The temperature is an important number to monitor."
The temperature is an important number to monitor because transportation adds time to holding food, according to the USDA. As such, hot foods must be maintained at a temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Cold foods should be delivered at a temperature of 41 degrees. In both instances, bacterial growth is minimized when these temperature requirements are meant.
Fleets will also have to keep tabs on the containers used during the transportation process. The USDA recommends the following storage tips for storage of preheated or chilled foods:
- Containers have to be approved for food use
- Containers should be sectioned to prevent food from mixing
- Tightly closed to minimize leaks
- Easy to clean
Ideally, the logistics chain will work to perfection so transportation minimizes the time from when food is made to its delivery to an off-site location. If any issues arise during the process, drivers will have to quickly take action to prevent contamination or food from going bad. These actions may include reheating food, cooling the food to a colder temperature or repairing the equipment.
If food has not been maintained at its recommended temperature for an extended period of time, such as four hours, it will have to be thrown away. Such situations will also have to be recorded to prevent similar instances from occurring in the future.
Food transportation is a process that involves many moving parts. Fleets, drivers and receivers all have to abide by state and local regulations to ensure food is not damaged when being delivered to an offsite location.