refridgeratorIt’s a more exacting science than the average human appreciates, until a summer storm passes through and knocks out the power.  How many hours do dairy products keep?  How is refrigerator temperature affected if you open the door once to move the baking soda front-and-center?  Is left-over, perfectly cooked barbequed chicken okay to serve room temperature – after all, isn’t that what happens between home and a picnic in the park?

Times like this past weekend when a 70 mph storm knocked out my fridge and freezer, I could do with an expert witness in refrigeration on call.  Refrigeration to preserve food has an ideal temperature.  When that varies, the potential for illness increases, as does the probability that a lawyer will get involved.

It turns out that refrigeration science is not only about this one moment and variable, but relates to the chain of production from the moment that food processing requiring refrigeration begins to the point that the food is consumed.  Refrigeration experts speak not only to preserving food, but also the quality of the raw material before refrigeration, terminal heat treatment, pre-chill ingredients, preservatives, food handling, room conditions including air quality and worker garments, and worker hygiene.

Several universities have Departments of Food Science, which not only educate future experts in refrigeration, but which also conduct research and issue guidelines for processing, shelf life, and labeling of food products that need consumer refrigeration.  It is not a surprise that departments of food science can also be found at food manufacturers as a respectable portion of company research and development.

Among those I know in the food and beverage industry, perhaps the most talked about aspect of refrigeration is long-distance transportation.  We are a global economy and, even herein Upstate New York, I expect to see fruits and vegetables year round.  Experts in refrigeration also find themselves steeped in analysis on transportation from the warmth of South America to our northern border states and into Canada.

And, rounding out my list of potential legal issues related to refrigeration that might require the services of an expert witness are patent infringement lawsuits.  Looking at just one segment of the refrigeration market, refrigerators as household goods is big business with sufficient competition and litigation to employ many an expert witness.  In one recent lawsuit, the plaintiff employed more than 3,000 employees in over 90 countries and focused its technology and innovation on refrigeration compressors.  The issue?  Selling the brand of getting food cold.

By: Paloma A. Capanna, Attorney at Law