Food Safety / Regulatory Compliance

FSMA Rules Also Extend to Shipping

Processors need to be aware of new rules relating to their truck fleets and those of contract carriers.

By Jerry Robertson of Bolt System

Federal regulation enacted earlier this year will soon require carriers to constantly monitor temperatures inside refrigerated and non-refrigerated trailers and vans when they haul certain perishable food for human or animal consumption.

Among other things, the sanitary transportation rule — Section 111: Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 — will also require bulk food haulers to clean after each trip any trailer surfaces or equipment that come into direct contact with food so that the next load isn’t contaminated by possible allergens. The carriers must also be capable of exchanging information with shippers about prior cargos. Carriers must also keep copies of their compliance records for up to 12 months, providing enforcement officers immediate access to data for the last six months.

Large carriers with revenues in excess of $27.5 million and private fleets with more than 500 employees must meet the new sanitary transportation requirements by April 6. Smaller carriers will have another year to come into compliance.

Fleet management systems must provide the levels of cargo monitoring and record keeping that meet these new requirements. Even better if your system can monitor and track cargo and provide that information to shippers in real-time while it’s in transit.

The sanitary transportation rule is one of seven new federal regulations enacted to prevent certain food products from being spoiled by high temperatures or cross-contaminated with allergens from the time they’re manufactured or processed to the time they’re delivered to grocery stores and restaurants. Some food products, such as raw agricultural commodities, fully contained food such as canned items and milk products already regulated under other rules, are exempt. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration adopted the rules earlier this year to enforce the Food Safety Modernization Act, which Congress approved and President Obama signed into law in 2011.

The Food Safety Modernization Act also required shippers and warehouses to have food safety plans drawn up this year identifying the steps and procedures they will take to ensure the integrity of their manufacturing, processing and storage facilities. As part of those safety plans, they are also required to identify what steps must be taken to secure their transportation operations and provide them to their carriers.

Carriers both large and small may be surprised to learn that if their van bodies or trailers have separate compartments for refrigerated and frozen items, the refrigeration units on their trailers may not be able to monitor each compartment. As a result, they may have to replace them much sooner than expected. Non-compliance could result in the loss of an entire shipment if an enforcement officer takes a reading in the middle of the van or trailer and finds a higher temperature than allowed.

This could be a particular problem for fleets whose trucks make multiple stops since each time the door opens, the temperature can rise several degrees or more.

While the FDA will be the primary agency responsible for enforcement of the sanitary transportation rule, trucking companies could eventually see stricter enforcement as state Dept. of Transportation inspectors receive training and become more familiar with the requirements.

However, for fleets the pressure to come into compliance with the new regulation may likely come from another source – their shippers. Since shippers are ultimately responsible for their products throughout the entire supply chain, they will likely require carriers to make any necessary changes to bring themselves into compliance or risk losing their business to those carriers who can.

There’s no doubt that for smaller trucking companies the burden of complying with the sanitary transportation rule will be more difficult as they replace their older equipment. But once they do have refrigeration units that can monitor multiple temperature sensors and send that information electronically, they will need software systems that can provide inspectors or shippers up to 12 months of compliance data. And they will have ready access to it on any internet-capable device.