From “Perishable Foods” to Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) – Part 2

Published By Vanesia Adkins, 06/20/2020

In Part 1 of this two-part series, we talked about the industry transition from the term “Perishable foods” to “Time/Temperature Control for Safety” or “TCS” and the ins and outs of safety behind TCS foods.

In Part 2, we’ll be discussing how TCS is not a “one-person job.” Safety precautions are required by everyone in the supply chain, starting with the place of origin. 

We will walk you through the safety concerns and measures that have to be taken along each point in the supply chain, ending with the consumer.

All those involved in this process are subject to compliance and regulation standards and should have excellent safety records and training in TCS and temperature-sensitive transportation and handling. Depending on where the perishable foods are heading, the supply chain modes of delivery could vary slightly, but generally, there are five “stops” you need to know.

Supply Chain Stop #1: The Origin

The place of origin may be a meat processing plant, a dairy farm, produce farm, chicken farm, or another origin. The origin is where the adherence of TCS begins. High standards must be held across any farm or processing plant.

After the animals are slewed, food processors will work to reduce the temperature of the meat to 41F° degrees or below. This is done as quickly as possible to help reduce the chance of bacteria growth. Escherichia coli O157: H7, in particular, poses a threat to beef. Meat and food processors understand the importance of TCS and the damage it can do to the end consumer if the proper steps are not taken.

Supply Chain Stop #2: The Shipment

When perishable products are ready to leave their place of origin, TCS has to continue throughout the entire trip to its destination. This is known as the “Cold Chain,” referring to climate-controlled trucks, ships, storage warehouses, and other environments and transportation options. Failure in the chain can result in loss of the food stored during transport.

If the damaged food then continues onto the end-user, it can result in sickness, deaths, lawsuits, fines, and other serious issues.

Perishable products need to be kept in refrigerated transportation at all times, at a temperature of 40F° (4.4°C) or below. Frozen products should be held at 0F° (-17.8°C) or below. Those involved in the shipment of these products are subject to the regulations of the 

  • Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA)
  • Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Supply Chain Stop #3: The Warehouse

Whether the perishable products are going to a consumer, a restaurant, or somewhere else after transportation, they are kept in a temperature-controlled warehouse or similar storage facility. During storage, temperature logs are kept ensuring the TCS foods are at the proper temperature. These logs are carefully maintained throughout the entire storage period.

Once the products are approved and received, the delivery should be stored as quickly as possible. Time spent outside the appropriate temperature allows bacteria to grow. When stored, the temperatures also must remain below 40F° (4.4°C) for refrigerated foods and 0F°(-17.8°C) or below for frozen foods.

Supply Chain Stop #4: The Grocery Store

At this stage in the supply chain, the TCS foods are most likely in the hands of a business. This could be a grocery store, a restaurant, a convenience store, or something similar. Just like everyone else in the supply chain, they are also held to regulatory guidelines.

In grocery stores, for example, business owners and employees must work diligently to keep food safe for their customers. Perishable foods can only sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Anything longer would require the items to be discarded. Produce has to be kept at the proper temperature and humidity levels for freshness, with the cold season, produce being held at temperatures between 32° and 35°F and warm-season produce between 50° and 59°F.

Real-time monitoring can also help ensure that dairy and meat do not spoil in these settings, but employee training is necessary so that these digital tools are correctly used, and other safety measures related to TCS are strictly followed.

For example, if a grocery store is serving cooked foods in their deli, they must also adhere to TCS guidelines similar to a restaurant regarding thawing, cooking, holding, cooling, and reheating.

Supply Chain Stop #5: The Consumer

We have finally arrived at the final stage of the supply chain: The Consumer. Education and proper, informative packaging can help ensure the consumer follows the correct protocols when it comes to TCS foods. Consumers should know to refrigerate items once arriving home while also throwing out perishable products that they may have forgotten to put away within a safe time period.

The producer may not have much control over how the consumer handles the product. Still, packaging can make the difference here as it informs consumers of care and cooking instructions where applicable. For restaurants that allow consumers to bring home leftovers, businesses can put warning labels on their doggy bags and packaging to help ensure that the food is reheated within the proper time frame and to the right temperature.

Everyone in the supply chain, from the origin or producer to the consumer, must follow TCS guidelines. Failing to do so can lead to severe consequences for all those involved.

We understand the importance of TCS transportation for your perishable products. If you need solutions to ensure your products are safe upon delivery, do not hesitate to reach out. Find out more about what we do in cold chain management and visit our website: For inquiries and questions, contact us at [email protected].