The Dry Ice Problem: Playing It Cool Isn’t Enough Anymore

Much as the frozen food industry centres around convenience for the eventual consumer, it’s hardly a word associated with transporting said foodstuffs. There are plenty of risks to consider, along with the fact that one of the more efficient cooling methods – dry ice – is somewhat hazardous in a few ways. So, what alternatives are there? And what else do we need to be mindful of when transporting frozen foodstuffs?

What could possibly go wrong?

We should first establish why transporting foodstuffs in a frozen state is one of the preferred transportation methods for perishable goods. This is because they’re preserved in a near-natural state, with the sub-zero temperatures halting harmful bacteria from having their way with the foodstuffs. So, apart from the obvious cold storage settings required, cold chain packaging is vital in cold chain logistics.

Products must be sealed in an air-tight fashion, with multiple layers of packaging ensuring that no heat or humidity can get to the item wrapped within, and also preventing any leakages from getting out. However, one must take precautions depending on how the items are stored and if dry ice is being used.

What is dry ice?

Dry ice is solidified Carbon Dioxide. Whilst it does keep items at very cold, frozen temperatures, it comes with its own risks:

  • Once it melts, it returns to its natural gaseous state. However, if it’s in an air-tight container, the gas build-up could result in increased pressure and could cause the container to burst or explode.
  • Also, in above-normal doses, Carbon Dioxide is toxic to humans through normal breathing. Ventilation is key!
  • If bare skin touches dry ice in its solidified form, it can cause cold burns. Specialist handling and correct PPE are essential.
  • You can’t simply dispose of dry ice by leaving it in a sink, as it could easily cause damage. It must be disposed of carefully, by being allowed to fully sublimate in a well ventilated area.

With these factors in mind, then you’ll want to be sure that whoever is packaging your materials and loading the dry ice knows precisely what they’re doing.

We also need to explore the possibility of delays. To avoid food becoming too warm if it delayed in transit, you’ll need to store more refrigerant than you need. Always keep in touch with your logistics partner to ensure you know what’s happening. If there is a delay, discuss what options are available to prevent foodstuffs from spoiling.

What’s the best alternative?

Before considering dry ice alternatives, check your goods’ recommended storage temperature. For example, dry ice comes with a surface temperature of -77°C; if your items don’t need to be that cold, then specialist ice packs are a safe alternative to dry ice. As long as they’re capable of keeping frozen foodstuffs frozen, that is, below -25C for at least 48 hours or -30C for at least 24 hours, then they’ll do the job!

Ice packs, either water or gel variants, also don’t require specialist handling. They will not cause skin damage if touched with bare skin.  In addition, depending on the ice pack you choose, you may be able to pour the formula away down the drain (but be sure to check first, as not all products are like our EasiFreeze™ and HydroFreeze™ ice packs, which can be safely disposed of down the sink). Some variants are also reusable, which make them much more cost effective.

If you’re looking for a safe alternative to dry ice that will be just as effective whilst keeping your staff safe and saving you money, look no further!

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