Chefs agree that cold chain management from the source to utilisation is critical in maintaining the quality and safety of the products and Innocreative interviewed 5 purveyors for their tips on how they manage their chilled and frozen stocks and produce from receival to ensure the cold chain is maintained till the products reach the customers.

We spoke to Remi Montariol, Classic Fine Foods Senior Sales Director, Food Service, Lim Soon Aun, Director, BGS Trading Sdn Bhd, Kemal Noviansyah, Operations Manager, PT. Global Pratama Wijaya, Irene Chin, Sales Manager, New Cuisine Sdn Bhd and Sebastian Chia, founder of Alternative Selection Pte Ltd and Ryan’s Grocery, Singapore.

Here are their tips on maintaining the products further in the cold chain process to ensure their quality is maintained. Whether it’s beef or lamb, seafood, cheeses or fruits and fruit juices, they make it their business to strictly ensure chiller and freezer rooms are at the correct, constant temperatures and food safety management system, HACCP and quality management systems are in place to secure tip top condition of the food products.

To maintain their quality when the products need to be chilled, chiller temperatures are set from 3°C to 5°C and strictly maintained. “At 8°C the product will begin to deteriorate and the quality is affected.”

Every product needs to be handled differently to maintain its quality. For caviar, it has to be kept at 0°C to 4°C and can be kept 3 months.

Camembert can be kept 20 to 25 days. A matured camembert gives out a strong smell but some chefs buying it will think it’s off.

Another tip about cheeses: To develop the taste for all cheeses, about half an hour or one hour before eating, put the cheese out at room temperature at between 20°C and 25°C to release the flavour. Above 25°C the cheese will be sweating and it will be no good.

Fresh, live oysters
Fresh, live oysters have to be kept at 3°C or less, for 9 to 10 days. To see whether an oyster is alive, open it and pour some lemon juice on the black strip. If it retracts, it’s still alive. Of course the smell of it will tell you this too.

Truffles can be kept one week in the chiller in a bowl of rice or a bowl of eggs. The truffle aroma will go to the rice and eggs.

Controlling the ambient room temperature is critical for products like Kellogg’s cereals and normally an air-conditioned environment to store them is required.

Chilled beef and lamb
Chiller rooms are built to store chilled beef and lamb. Some companies fit in a CCTV and every hour the temperature is documented, which is 0°C to 5°C. The chilled beef comes in cartons, the chiller temperature is set from 0°C to -5°C.

Frozen Australian beef and lamb are stored in a freezer room at -20°C. For the chilled beef and lamb, they are transported in chiller vans to customers, and the temperature is also monitored, at -5°C.

To maintain the quality of meat products in the warehouse, importers usually implements ISO 22000, the food safety management system, HACCP and quality management, and provide traceability of the products to the customers who are mainly foodservice end users. They use an electronic data logger to maintain the chilled meat quality. They upload the logger into the system controlling the chillers at below 5°C and the freezers at -18°C on weekly and daily basis. When the meat is delivered in the chiller van or truck to the customer, the customers’ receiving clerks are advised to check quickly the meat against the carton label and purchase and delivery order for the meat items, and store them in the chiller immediately upon receiving them. The importers check quality control sheet to check on the vacuum packing, temperature and meat colour. They bring along a temperature guide as well.

Wagyu beef
“The Sher Wagyu beef has a shelf life of 3 months,” said a supplier, “but it is usually all taken up before this time. The meat is stored at -2°Cto 2°C. When it comes in, we would check and put a sticker and label it, with the slaughter date and the weight.

“The beef is delivered to customers in a foam box with ice, as with a chiller truck for delivery, the door is often open and shut, affecting its temperature. Temperature control is so important to maintain the quality of the Wagyu beef. The Sher Wagyu which is not distributed within the 3 months is relabeled and frozen.

Singapore AVA requirement
In Singapore, according to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), -12°C is acceptable for frozen but the temperature is set at -20°C for delivery as the doors of the truck are constantly being opened and shut. For a Singapore food importer and distributor his company is HACCP certified, conforming to AVA food safety standards.

Similar to Kuala Lumpur, he also has separate cold rooms for chilled and frozen products. For chilled meat, the temperature is kept as 0°C while for frozen it is -20°C. The cold chain truck for chilled products has the temperature set at -5°C, while for the frozen products it’s -20°C.