Cold Treatment Failure Delays


The Club has seen an increase in refrigerated cargo claims for fresh fruit from South America to the United States due to cold treatment failure. Cold treatment failure delays the arrival of the cargo to the US. Excessive delays in the transit time could result in the fruit becoming unmarketable or sold at a much lower price.

What is cold treatment?

The process of cold treatment is used to exterminate insects and larvae by maintaining a sufficient low temperature for a pre-determined period. The period and temperature required are defined in protocols established by phytosanitary authorities of the importing countries. The below requirements cover citrus, grapes, and blueberries loading in South America ports to the United States. It is a cleaner way to exterminate fruit insects than fumigation.

USDA Required conditions for containers

The pulp temperature for citrus and grapes must be kept under 34F or 1.1C for 15 consecutive days.

The pulp temperature for citrus and grapes must be kept under 35F or 1.67C for 17 consecutive days.

Failure to maintain the temperature for the above periods will result in transit delays to the US.

To prevent cold treatment failure, the below procedures must be carried out by the shipper.

  • Calibrate all air and pulp temperature sensors in a clean ice water slurry mixture that is 0C (32 F ).
  • Fruit intended for in transit cold treatment must be precooled to the temperature at which the fruit will be treated prior to beginning treatment. If pulp temperatures are .28C ( 0.5 F) or more above the temperature at which the fruit will be treated, the pallet will remain for further precooling.
  • Each container compartment must contain only one type of fruit and loaded in one type of carton.
  • Load fruit directly from the precooling area so fruit temperatures do not rise significantly after loading and during transfer of the container to the ship.
  • Open the cartons in which the sensors will be located and insert the sensors into the fruit. The tip of the sensor must not extend through the fruit.

Securely close the cartons following insertion of the sensors.

  • Sensor labelled USDA1 should be placed in a box in the top stack of the fruit nearest to the air return intake.
  • Sensor labelled USDA2 should be placed slightly aft of the middle of the container halfway between the top and bottom of the stack.
  • Sensor labelled USDA3 should be placed one pallet in from the doors of the container halfway between the top and bottom of the stack.

On Blueberries shipments there is a 0.5+/- Degree Celsius tolerance required temperature. With this sensitivity involved, any higher or lower, will result in cold treatment failure.

Newer Reefer containers under 5 years old should be used, (1) because they maintain the set temperatures better, and (2) they will have an average temperature reading option available.

The use of older containers will result in cold treatment failure whilst it is going through the defrosting cycle. The fixed temperature reader will show a 1.0+ Degree Celsius rise over one hour. Whereas an average temperature reading option would probably show a 0.25+ Degree Celsius rise over one hour.

Treatment requirements

Temperatures must be recorded at intervals no longer than 1 hour apart. Gaps longer than 1 hour could cause a treatment failure. Fruit pulp temperatures must be maintained at the temperature specified in the treatment schedule with no more than 0.39C (0.7 F) variation in temperature between two consecutive hourly readings. Failure to comply could result in treatment failure.

After the cold treatment and before the ship arrives at the load or transhipment port, USDA will obtain the clearance officer's copy of the calibration documents from the ship's officer. USDA and the ship's officer will retrieve the temperature printout and review the readings.

The authorised APHIS official will:

Release the shipment for carriage to the United States if all requirements have been met.

Hold the shipment for further evaluation if irregularities are not consistent with treatment requirements and record all exceptions in narrative form.

Members should be aware that the precooling and loading of the sensors are carried out at the shipper's premises. If the refrigeration unit is set at the correct temperature and there are temperature irregularities shortly after receipt by the carrier at the load terminal, then it can be concluded that the cold treatment failure is due to the shipper's lack of precooling or calibrating the sensors. All liability for claims under these circumstances can be denied by the carrier.

If a claim is received, please contact the Club to assist in reviewing the temperature records to determine if the carrier is responsible for the cold treatment failure.

George Radu

Claims Executive