Some of the most nutritious foods are also some of the most perishable—fruits, vegetables, and animal-sourced foods. They all require temperature control or a “cold chain” to stay fresh and safe. These highly perishable food products pass through many hands on their way to consumers. Some are sold closer to the point of production in village markets, whereas others move through complex systems of aggregators, transporters, storage operators, processors, and retailers, on their way to small towns and urban centers. If food is not kept cool and clean as it moves through this system, it is susceptible to contamination and spoilage. The results of improper food handling seriously impact the health and nutrition of consumers.
Food hygiene and temperature control are two critical components to keep food safe as it moves through the food system. The critical areas in the supply chain for contamination and spoilage include on-farm production, packing area handling, potable water availability, transport quality, warehouse management, and final retail. Any disruption of the cold chain and food handling at any point of the supply line can adversely affect both the safety and the nutritional value of food. Contamination of food by either chemicals or bacteria can lead to infectious diseases which, along with the diminished nutritional value, affect the nutritional status of consumers.