The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food is now final, advancing FDA’s efforts to protect foods from farm to table by keeping them safe from contamination during transportation. The earliest compliance dates for some firms will begin one year after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register. As a review, back at the beginning of April, the FDA released a new set of sanitation-related standards for those who deal in the transportation of all food products. These rules pertain to both shippers and carriers; it does however have an exception for small companies in both those fields – those shippers an carriers who generate less than $500,000 in annual revenue will not have to abide by the new rules. While this exception may make owner-operators think they will not be forced to comply to the new rules, shippers will now be in charge of setting cleanliness guidelines for truckers and their equipment and could turn trucks away without loads if they fail to meet previously agreed to requirements.
Under the new rule, shippers are required to:
- inspect carriers’ trailers prior to loading food products and requires any entity subject to its requirements, such as carrier personnel and drivers;
- take appropriation action to ensure that the food is not sold if they become aware of any indication that a shipment of food was not kept at the proper temperature throughout its transport; and
- give carriers written sanitation requirements for their vehicles and keep records showing they’ve done so.
Under the new rule, carriers are required to:
- ensure their refrigerated trailers are pre-cooled prior to loading food;
- provide upon request by shippers and receivers proof they’ve maintained the appropriate temperature for the food they’re hauling; and
- develop and implement procedures that specify their practices for cleaning, sanitizing and inspecting their equipment.
Many of rules and procedures are existing best practices in the industry. What the rule does is standardize these practices and therefore make many shippers who have not been so strict in the past take a second look at the equipment that is coming into their warehouses. So, the crucial point for ALL carriers under these new rules is to ensure that they are following pre-cooling requirements, and have clean, well-maintained equipment. For example, debris, holes in the grooving of the trailer floor, and any residual odors will need to be taken care of prior to arriving at a pickup location. Not taking care of these points and following the above guidelines may cause carriers to be turned away, which means lost loads and therefore, lost revenue.
Enforcement of the Rule
The primary goal of the rule is to create preventative practices in the industry and promote a strong food safety culture; no monetary penalties for non-compliance have been publicized at this point. Instead, the FDS will implement and enforce the rule by developing training and technical assistance. Food industry training will be an important component of successful implementation of FSMA, along with outreach to foreign trading partners. The agency will also use its partnerships with other Federal agencies (such as the U.S. Department of Transportation) and with state, local, and tribal entities to implement this rule. The FDA will carry out some inspections, and the DOT will also establish procedures for transportation safety inspections to be conducted by DOT or state personnel. FDA maintains its ability to take enforcement action when agency efforts to work with a company fail to achieve compliance.
For more information, visit the FDA’s website’s section on FSMA Final Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food and the section on FAQ on FSMA.