What exactly is CEIV Fresh and why does IATA think it's needed?

IATA has a new certification programme that standardises the air transport of perishables. Why does IATA's chief think it's a game-changer for perishables and the air cargo industry?

Tapping into industry wisdom and best practices, IATA has established a new certification that sets quality standards for the air transport of perishables. CEIV Fresh aims to increase consumer safety, reduce spoilage and eliminate food and horticulture waste.

As our menus become more global and our lives incorporate more fresh products from around the world out of season, the demand for transporting perishables expediently to avoid spoilage is increasing. At the same time, there’s a growing need for standardisation across the cool-chain to ensure those products arrive at their destination in pristine condition.

A growing market

To improve the handling and transport of those products that are prone to spoilage, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has launched a new certification for the air cargo industry. Only a few months old, The Center for Excellence for Perishable Logistics, known as CEIV Fresh, has the potential to transform the sector.

“Perishable goods is a growing market for air cargo,” says Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO in a press release. “Ensuring that these delicate and short shelf-life products reach the customer unspoiled with minimal waste and loss is essential.”

CEIV Fresh: a new set of standards

In much the same way that IATA’s prestigious CEIV pharma certification binds airlines to a set of standards for the transportation and storage of medicines, the CEIV Fresh certification lays out a series of requirements for time and temperature-sensitive transports of foodstuffs, wine and fresh flowers.

Based primarily on the IATA Perishable Cargo Regulations (PCR), the certification contains specific instructions detailing appropriate packaging, the use of RFID and how to best handle cut flowers. It also incorporates standards for food safety developed as part of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, which ensures the seamless delivery of perishable cargo, like fresh fish, meats, dairy and frozen foods so the appropriate temperature can be maintained throughout the air transport process. A smooth process can ideally extend the products’ shelf-life.

Increasing staff competency

While in the past, each stakeholder in the cold chain would assume responsibility for their step in the chain, CEIV Fresh aims to set quality standards for the whole industry across the board. According to a study presented by a professor at the University of Florida, temperature is the most important factor for horticultural products post-harvest. And the process of air transport – not only the flights themselves but also ramp transfers and temperature-controlled storage on the ground – is where the cold chain is often broken.

That means temperature-controlled storage facilities like Finnair Cargo’s COOL terminal at Helsinki airport are just as important as the temperature controls inside aircraft.

By creating these standards for transport, CEIV Fresh will help increase staff competency and hopefully precipitate a future where customers can more easily track perishable products to monitor if they’re being held in the right conditions.

Collaboration across the cold chain

The certification also promotes collaboration across the cold chain. While piloting the programme, The Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK), Cathay Pacific, Cathay Pacific Services Limited (CPSL) and Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (HACTL) took a community approach to show the steps each stakeholder had to take to meet the standards.

Through this cooperation, Hong Kong’s airport became the world’s first CEIV Fresh certified airport due to its seamless transport of perishables, including cool dollies for ramp transport and temperature-controlled storage to prevent food loss. By developing an approach that took the needs and responsibilities of all stakeholders into account, they were able to create an imitable procedure for the handling of perishables that other companies may follow.