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FedEx Blog

Cold Chain for Beginners

April 17, 2012

Cold Chain is a term used to characterize temperature-controlled storage, distribution and transportation. The term can be misleading since it does not refer to “cold” temperatures in particular. Products that are sensitive to temperature variations, whether they be perishables such as fruits and vegetables or more sophisticated drugs and medical devices, are included in the term “cold chain”. However, cold chain is often more narrowly used in reference to temperature and time-sensitive high value healthcare products.

A growing number of cold chain conferences are being organized around the world, mainly in response to tighter regulations and growing global markets for temperature-sensitive products. Logistics experts, healthcare manufacturers, packaging providers, regulators and consultants often forget that the general public may not be all that knowledgeable about the topic.
Cold chain management uses its own terminology. Several temperature ranges are specified in the relevant literature, the most common being controlled-room temperature or CRT (often defined from 15oC to 25oC), but also cool (from 8oC to 15oC), cold or refrigerated (from 2oC to 8oC), frozen (around -10oC) and cryogenic (around -150oC). There is, however, no general or universal glossary that is commonly accepted by all regulatory agencies. One of the leading regulatory agencies, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), encourages customers to display a special sticker, the IATA thermal label, to indicate cold chain shipments that may require special handling.
Brief excursions outside of desired temperature ranges are typically allowed for a well-defined time and temperature extent but remain product specific. Healthcare shippers do place temperature data loggers in packaging materials to record temperatures during shipping. In practice these data loggers record temperature data at various frequencies or time intervals that vary from one shipment to another. Healthcare products can be irreversibly affected by exposure to a given temperature spike for a short period of time, experiencing biological degradation, physical phase changes, crystallization, or chemical reactions.
Since FedEx is in full control of its cold chain processes without involvement of external service providers, FedEx is able to see where and in which mode of transport shipments are at all times. Several solutions are offered to customers to reduce the risk of product spoilage, often resulting from unexpected events such as customs clearance delays or bad weather.

SenseAware, a multi-sensor device powered by a FedEx platform for data and device management, can monitor temperatures in near-real time. When bundled with Priority Alert, actions such as addition of dry ice or replacement of gel packs are even possible whenever SenseAware alarms become active while shipments are in transit within the FedEx global network. Moreover, FedEx has put several processes in place to control and stabilize temperatures, such as implementation of default temperature settings for its long-haul flights and use of refrigerated trucks. Reported temperature excursions are investigated internally to understand their origins, document issues, take corrective actions, and further optimize the FedEx cold chain network.

Christelle Laot

Technical Fellow

Dr. Christelle Laot joined FedEx Express in 2007, and is currently Technical Fellow in the FedEx healthcare industry vertical. In this role, she provides direction and raises awareness around trends, transportation regulatory frameworks and shipping solutions. Prior to her work with FedEx, Dr. Laot held managerial positions in R&D, innovation and strategy at Bayer in Germany for about six years.

Dr. Laot obtained PhD and MS in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Tech (USA), a Diplôme d’Ingénieur from UTC Compiègne (France), as well as an MBA from HEC Montreal (Canada).

View all Christelle Laot’s blog posts



    •This cold shipping packaging does not require gel packs to provide cool temperatures. It is designed to go to 4°Celsius in less than five minutes, and can remain at a contact 2 – 8° Celsius for up to 96 hours
    •It offers advantages over shipping packages containing dry ice. Many materials do not require the extreme low temperatures caused by dry ice – they are more suited for NanoCool’s 2 – 8° temperatures. In addition, cold shipping boxes are not restricted from shipping to some locations as are shipments containing dry ice.
    •The cold shipping box is not available on the 1Source Supplies screen.
    •Customers in the following countries may obtain the box for shipping by ordering via U.S., France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Venezuela, Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.
    •Customers may ship cold shipping boxes via FedEx using our normal FedEx shipping (Priority Overnight, Standard Overnight, etc.) or may choose to ship via other carriers. Along with domestic shipping, shipments can be made to and from any of the more than 220 countries where FedEx Express shipping is available


    Advise callers the box price ranges from $45 to $153, The convenient benefits of the system include:

    •Reliable maintenance of a 2-8°C environment for up to 96 hours from activation without gel packs or dry ice
    •Simple, easy-to-use product with no refrigeration, frozen preparation or “pre-conditioning” steps required
    •Smaller, lighter packaging that weighs less than half of some gel-pack systems
    •No complex assembly needed; the package arrives ready for use
    •Packaging that’s easier to dispose of than gel packs and produces less packaging waste
    •One-time use packaging that’s easier to dispose of than gel packs and produces less packaging waste and no “dangerous goods”
    •Regulatory compliance for both infectious substances (UN3373 only) and non-infectious clinical samples
    •The packaging, which can also be used in combination with the SenseAwareSM technology and FedEx Priority Alert™ services, is part of the broad portfolio of FedEx healthcare solutions designed to meet even the most sensitive shipping needs of FedEx customers. For temperature-controlled shipments

    Tejo Thomas says:

    What are the temperature controlled packaging and solutions available and can this be ordered by APAC FedEx customer service team for usage in respective countries for our APAC customers. Pls advice the ordering process and billing method.thanks

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