Food safety rule includes sweeping changes for shippers and carriers

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 4/7/2016

The Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule this week that will require shippers and motor carriers to ensure vehicles are properly refrigerated and cleaned when transporting food.

“It’s something they’ve been working on since January 2013, and it’s finally coming to fruition,” OOIDA Director of Safety and Security Operations Doug Morris said. “These are the most sweeping changes dealing with the production, shipping and housing of food.”

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act establishes requirements for shippers, loaders, carriers by motor or rail vehicle and receivers involved in transporting human and animal food to use sanitary practices to ensure the safety of that food.

Specifically, the rule establishes requirements for:

  • Vehicles and transportation equipment: The design and maintenance of vehicles and transportation equipment to ensure that it does not cause the food it transports to become unsafe. For example, they must be suitable and adequately cleanable for their intended use and capable of maintaining temperatures necessary for the safe transport of food.
  • Transportation 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.
  • Training: Training of carrier personnel in sanitary transportation practices and documentation of the training. This training is required when the carrier and shipper agree the carrier is responsible for sanitary conditions during transport. 
  • Records: Maintenance of records of written procedures, agreements and training (required of carriers). The required retention time for these records depends upon the type of record and when the covered activity occurred but does not exceed 12 months. 

According to the rule, the FDA “intends to allocate our resources for the enforcement of this rule by following up on information that DOT provides us or by initiating inspections and investigations.”

“I would not be surprised if you see an FDA investigator at a weigh and inspection facility asking drivers what they’re hauling, if it falls within the rule of inspecting the load, the paperwork, and if it's a refrigerated load, a temperature check,” Morris said. “The FDA is going to be more proactive. It may cause problems for those who aren’t keeping the required temperature settings or abiding by the rule. It could be a pretty bad situation if a load is declared in violation and could possibly be a total loss.”

Morris said certain aspects of the rule will go into effect in 60 days, one year and two years respectively. 

“I don’t think drivers know what to expect yet,” he said. “There is a training requirement associated with the rule and reports from FDA have listed that this could affect a half million drivers."

Shippers, receivers or carriers engaged in food transportation operations that have less than $500,000 in average annual revenue are exempt from the rule.

However, Morris said most shippers plan to conform to the regulations regardless of the exemptions.

“There are exemptions in there, but most of the shippers have basically said that they’re not going to worry about the exemptions and just make sure that everyone is following the requirements,” Morris said.

The FDA is hosting a webinar April 25 regarding the Food Safety Modernization Act.

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