FDA Proposes New Food Transportation Rule

New Rule For Food Transportation Coming

This week, the FDA will publish a proposed rule that will affect the way food is transported.  The rule would affect shippers, carriers and receivers.

The FDA says the rule is being proposed “as a part of our larger effort to focus on prevention of food safety problems throughout the food chain and is part of our implementation of the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005,” the FDA states.

The Food Safety Modernization Act requires the FDA to “issue regulations to shippers, carriers and receivers to use sanitary transportation practices to ensure that food is not transported under conditions that may render the food adulterated.”

The goal of the rule its to ensure that the transportation of food does not create a food safety risk to the public.

The rule will address proper refrigeration, inadequate cleaning of vehicles between loads and failure to properly protect food during transportation.

“For example, the proposed rule would require that shippers inspect a vehicle for cleanliness prior to loading food that is not completely enclosed by its container, e.g., fresh produce in vented boxes, onto the vehicle. The proposed rule would also require that persons engaged in transportation operations for foods that require time/temperature control to ensure their safety (TCS food), e.g., meat, poultry, seafood, raw seed sprouts, or unpasteurized shell eggs, or to prevent microbial spoilage, e.g., pasteurized juice, take actions to ensure the maintenance of the transportation cold chain such as the pre-cooling of the vehicle by the carrier with subsequent verification by the shipper before the food is loaded onto the vehicle,” the FDA states.

In addition, “the proposed rule would require that shippers specify to carriers in writing the sanitary requirements for a vehicle or transportation equipment to be provided for all food subject to this proposal and the temperature requirements for foods subject to temperature control requirements. The proposed rule would require that shippers maintain records that demonstrate that they provide this information to carriers,” the FDA states.

The FDA says the rule will enhance and build upon current rules. “It otherwise would allow the transportation industry to continue to use best practices concerning cleaning, inspection, maintenance, loading and unloading of, and operation of vehicles and transportation equipment, that it has developed to ensure that food is transported under the conditions and controls necessary to prevent contamination and other safety hazards,” the FDA states.

In addition, the rule would require carriers to prove to shippers and receivers that they have maintained appropriate temperatures during transportation.

The proposed rule would also require carriers to develop and implement implement written procedures to prove that previous cargoes hauled in bulk vehicles had been cleaned between loads.  “The proposed rule would require that carriers develop and implement written procedures subject to recordkeeping that describe how they will provide these items of information to shippers and receivers,” the proposed rule states.

The rule will only apply to carriers that have more than $500,000 in total annual sales. In addition, the rule would not apply to fully-packaged, shelf able foods, live animals or raw agricultural commodities.

From the FDA:

The ERG report identified a number of areas where food may be at risk for physical, chemical, or biological contamination during transport and storage:
• Improper refrigeration or temperature control of food products (temperature abuse).
• Improper management of transportation units or storage facilities to preclude cross- contamination, including improper sanitation, backhauling hazardous materials, not
maintaining tanker wash records, improper disposal of wastewater, and aluminum
phosphide fumigation methods in railcar transit;
• Improper packing of transportation units or storage facilities, including incorrect use of
packing materials and poor pallet quality;
• Improper loading practices, conditions, or equipment, including improper sanitation of
loading equipment, not using dedicated units where appropriate, inappropriate loading
patterns, and transporting mixed loads that increase the risk for cross-contamination;
• Improper unloading practices, conditions, or equipment, including improper sanitation of
equipment and leaving raw materials on loading docks after hours;
• Poor pest control in transportation units or storage facilities;
• Lack of driver/employee training and/or supervisor/manager/owner knowledge of food
safety and/or security;
• Poor transportation unit design and construction;
• Inadequate preventive maintenance for transportation units or storage facilities, resulting
in roof leaks, gaps in doors, and dripping condensation or ice accumulations;
• Poor employee hygiene;
• Inadequate policies for the safe and/or secure transport or storage of foods;
• Improper handling and tracking of rejected loads and salvaged, reworked, and returned
products or products destined for disposal; and
• Improper holding practices for food products awaiting shipment or inspection, including
unattended product, delayed holding of product, shipping of product while in quarantine, and poor rotation and throughput.

The FDA will be taking written or electronic comments until May 31, 2014.