The Sanitary Food Transportation Act (SFTA) is one of 7 foundational rules outlined by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since January 2013 to create a modern, risk-based framework for food safety. These rules fall under what is called the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  

Because of illness outbreaks resulting from human and animal food contaminated during transportation, and incidents and reports of unsanitary transportation practices, there have long been concerns about the need for regulations to ensure that foods are being transported in a safe manner.

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What is the SFTA?

The goal of the SFTA is to prevent food safety risks, such as failure to properly refrigerate food, inadequate cleaning of vehicles between loads, and failure to properly protect food. As such, the SFTA rule establishes a set of standards for shippers, loaders, drivers, carriers, and receivers who are involved in transporting food to ensure sanitary practices that result in food safety. The rule applies to over the road and rail transportation; the rule does not apply to the transportation by ocean or air due to limitations in the law.

Specifically, the FSMA rule establishes requirements for vehicles and transportation equipment, transportation operations, records, training and waivers.

What Can it Cost You?

Receivers are getting more vigilant with enforcing the Act. When a carrier’s trailer arrives to be loaded and unloaded, it will be scrutinized for cleanliness and sanitation. Recently, we have experienced some carriers arriving at receivers and being charged for a few pieces of debris on the trailer floor. In the past, this would have resulted in a possible warning or most often not even noticed or commented on. Receivers are inspecting for debris and odor. And, they are charging for anything they find, quoting the “SFTA” as their reasoning. Below, some examples of a trailer that was deemed “unsanitary”:
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Most charges we have seen are around the $150-200 mark for what can seem like minor debris in your trailer. That’s a big dent in your final payment. So, what can you do about it? Practice trailer sanitary guidelines.

Trailer Sanitation – Best practices

The best way to avoid charges from failing to comply to the SFTA is to make sure your trailer is completely clean upon loading. To be completely covered, a carrier needs to follow fundamental requirements in 4 areas:

  • Equipment: All vehicles and transportation equipment must be suitable and adequately cleaned for their intended use. In addition, the equipment must be capable of maintaining temperatures necessary for the safe transport of food. if you need a refresher on the condition requirements that are specific to trailers, check out our blog post on the topic: Trailer Condition Requirements. This post reviews cleaning and sanitation, and trailer maintenance.
  • Operations: The measures taken during transportation to ensure food safety, such as adequate temperature controls, preventing contamination of ready to eat food from touching raw food, protection of food from contamination by non-food items in the same load or previous load, and protection of food from cross-contact, i.e., the unintentional incorporation of a food allergen. A common request from shippers/loaders is that a trailer is “washed out” prior to loading their product; this is a request that prevents contamination from a previous load.
  • Training: Training of carrier personnel in sanitary transportation practices and documentation of the training. Carriers covered by the Rule are required to provide food safety training to transportation operations personnel when the carrier and shipper agree that the carrier is responsible for sanitary conditions during transport. The FDA has a free training module that is specifically designed for Carriers who are covered by the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule under the FSMA. Click here to access the FDA Training Module.
  • Records: Maintenance of records of written procedures, agreements and training (required of carriers). There records must be stored for a required amount of time, and the general Rule is to keep all for approximately 12 months.

Make sure that you get to keep all your hard-earned money! Follow these best practices to make sure you are compliant with the SFTA!

SFTA – What it is, What it Costs, and Best Practices was last modified: by