PACA says truckers shouldn't have to pay when produce is recalled

| 6/17/2008

As officials continue to search for the source of Salmonella-tainted tomatoes, some truckers have shied away from hauling any tomatoes as buyers and sellers sort out who is financially responsible for transportation costs when a consumer advisory is issued after a product is in transit.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued a nationwide consumer warning against eating certain types of tomatoes, including roma, red plum or round red. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that 277 people in 28 states have now been infected with the rare Salmonella Saintpaul strain, and the source still hasn’t been identified.

OOIDA member Gayland Monday of Queens City, TX, made the decision not to haul any tomatoes until the source has been pinpointed in this latest outbreak. It’s a financial decision for him. He said he simply can’t afford the financial risk after he had pallets of potentially E.coli-contaminated bags of spinach on his trailer in 2006, which were rejected when he tried to unload them at a warehouse.

Monday spent a day trying to figure out what to do with the rejected spinach. He had to offload the pallets and pay someone to dump the bagged spinach at a landfill. Monday said he had to pay the landfill, but he wasn’t reimbursed for his costs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fruits and Vegetable Programs has addressed the issue of financial responsibility between buyers and sellers of produce, even if the product being recalled isn’t found to be contaminated. The article, titled “FDA Advisory Warnings’ Impact on Contract Obligations,” was published in the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) summer 2007 newsletter, using the E.coli outbreak in spinach as an example. Click here to read the full article.

While truckers don’t have any financial protection under PACA, OOIDA Regulatory Affairs Specialist Joe Rajkovacz said the PACA article clearly outlines who is responsible for paying the transportation costs “in full” when an outbreak occurs.

“If the buyer is paying the transportation costs, they are responsible for paying the trucker in full for their transportation costs,” he said. “It’s not the trucker’s fault that a problem is found with the product after it’s in transit.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer