OOIDA urges FDA to ‘further study’ food supply chain

| 9/1/2010

In comments filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday, Aug. 30, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association urged the agency to “further study the industry before contemplating any regulations” on those involved in food transportation.

In April, the FDA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register soliciting comments on the implementation of the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005.

The act requires the agency to implement regulations that mandate sanitary practices for shippers, receivers, carriers and others involved in food transportation in an effort to eliminate or at least reduce the likelihood of contamination or adulteration of food products.

OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz told Land Line that small-business truckers haul the majority of the food products in this country and have immense knowledge of issues affecting the entire food supply chain.

Included in OOIDA’s comments to the FDA were the results of a survey of food haulers conducted by the OOIDA Foundation.

In OOIDA’s comments, statistics showed that more than three-fourths of survey respondents indicated that bathroom facilities are frequently or sometimes unsanitary because drivers involved in the “loading or unloading of fresh produce must use portable bathrooms or other facilities lacking soap, towels and even running water,” which may lead to unsanitary conditions on docks and in fresh produce.

“Our comments filed with the FDA ask the agency to further study the industry before contemplating any regulations,” Rajkovacz said. “There are problems, such as lack of access to sanitary facilities for drivers, but not so much that the industry should be yoked by over-regulation.”

Many times the pallets must be hand-stacked by drivers, who do not have access to adequate hand-washing facilities.

Many survey respondents admit they have had receivers reject goods and place them back on their trailers, with no directions about disposal of the contaminated product. Often truckers must pay disposal costs.

OOIDA leadership pointed out in the comments that “to avoid such conduct in the future, the FDA must address in any food transportation safety regulations acceptable means of disposal and must impose the full economic costs incurred in the disposal on the shipper and/or receiver, the parties receiving the primary economic benefits from the sale of the produce.

“Food safety and security in transportation is increasingly under the microscope both by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by FDA is the first step in a process that could lead to more regulatory oversight of shippers, receivers and truckers.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer