How to comply with FDA's Food Hauling Rules

In September 2018, the Food and Drug Administration’s Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule imposed that all companies delivering food for both humans and animals follow a specific set of rules. These rules are made obligatory to uphold the Food Safety Modernization Act 2011. It was a big step in a forward direction to ensure food is delivered in a clean and hygienic environment which has been neglected for decades in the past. For trucking companies, these rules might be unappetizing due to restrictions and the vision of hygienic food from farm to fork can lead to drastic changes in the overall workflow of any transportation company. However, the transportation companies can find solace with one STF rule which states that the company must adhere to the shipping requirements advised by the shipper. This means that the set of requirements provided by the shipper must be followed allowing the company to follow specific instructions rather than going through every rule in the book to comply. This way, the companies can maintain hygienic conditions for food to be transported and the shipper is also satisfied that the items will be delivered in premium quality as temperature-controlled transportation is now a reality.

As the executive summary of the FDA states that  “This rule builds on current safe food transportation best practices and is focused on ensuring that persons engaged in the transportation of food that is at the greatest risk for contamination during transportation follow appropriate sanitary transportation practices.” This statement opens up the flexibility part where best practices can be followed to make sure that the reefers or trucks are clean, inspection is done on time, proper maintenance of the vehicles is carried out, and pallets can be loaded and unloaded safely without damaging the consignment, and overall equipment efficiency is monitored and enhanced if necessary.

However, the terms and conditions might sound flexible but failing to comply can result in a huge penalty as FDA clearly states that any failure in controlling the temperature will render the food useless and it cannot be sold. Those costs will affect the transporters and more business opportunities will never open up. Failing to comply with the FDA rules can result in an injunction and criminal prosecution.

FDA puts whole responsibility on the shipper who is initiating the shipment but IRTA re-enforces the STF ruling of carriers, loaders, and receivers and stresses that everyone must abide by the rules for smooth business conduct. Shippers came up with a probable solution to develop guidelines and safety plans depending on the best practices adopted by the industry to ensure perishable food is delivered in sanitary conditions. This leaves the carriers with an optimal choice of maintaining pre-requisite process documentation which can support and help in case of any lawsuits against the company. The documentation should follow all the rules and safety requirements for the transportation of perishable food and those papers will serve as proof of legal transportation.


Menu items

The documentation itself can help in proving that the FDA rules are followed properly, however, any claims of food spoilage might get out of hand. IRTA recommended carriers seek legal counsel along with experts on risk assessment so they can map out a risk assessment plan pointing out which scenarios are likely to happen and risk is high. This way the carriers can deploy countermeasures to tackle any incidents. The legal team will make sure that the documentation is compliant with the rules and that they are regularly updated as per best practices.

This documentation can also help with insurance claims in case of any mishaps as the carriers were taking care of the vehicles and temperature-controlled equipment properly to comply with FDA rules. Recordkeeping requirement ensures that the equipment and vehicle are safe to deliver sanitary food maintaining a compliant supply chain network.

Clean it

Shippers and loaders have the right to ask about it before cargo is hauled by carriers in the vehicles. They can inspect the vehicle, temperature-control system, and cleaning regimes to ensure the hygienic condition of the container. Carriers are bound by law to give all the necessary details when requested. Before loading, the cleanliness of the container must be ensured and a health checklist can serve as the required document which proves that all standard operating procedures are met.

Clean containers are vital to stop any cross-contamination as food items can be spoiled by foreign matter or residual matter from the previous shipment. By following a cleanliness checksheet and following best practices these kinds of problems can be easily averted.

As per the guidelines, there is no fixed time after which containers need to be cleaned. The responsibility is on the shipper and carrier to make sure that food items are transported in safe conditions. On top of that, records must be maintained which will demonstrate that a proper cleaning regime is followed and best practices are implemented.

Cool it

For transporting food items, the critical point is that vehicles are pre-refrigerated and food is moved from one cool place to another. This will help in maintaining the quality of the food products. Temperature is monitored and recorded regularly and documentation can be brought up to demonstrate appropriate temperature is maintained at all times.

Carrier and shipper both agree to pre-cool the vehicle as shifting cold products to warm containers can change the properties of certain products and the refrigeration system might take some to bring the warmer temperature down to optimal. Along with pre-cooling, the temperature needs to be monitored during transit, and insulations and doors need to be checked before the journey. These checks are crucial as a slight increase in temperature can facilitate bacterial growth which can result in food contamination. So, proper monitoring is required. However, rules do not state real-time temperature monitoring but companies are providing such facilities to gain the trust of customers. Telemetry will be used by some of the more advanced shippers to track temperatures as they are traveling. So that when the temperature reaches an unsafe level, a sensor can warn the driver or the main office, prompting rapid action to redirect the truck or address the problem.

If a shipper needs to stop the delivery, fleets can utilize transportation management systems and GPS tracking to locate a load precisely. In the case of a food safety emergency, radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology on pallets can also guarantee rapid and simple traceability.

·  Establish procedures to communicate temperature profiles gathered during transit to the shipper and receiver.

·  Establish and maintain a repository of temperature profiles for previous loads.

·  Minimize the exposure of temperature-sensitive cargo to uncontrolled areas.

.  Determine how to handle temperature violations that may occur during transportation as well as during loading and unloading

Teach it

The truck driver also has a responsibility to ensure that the reefer equipment is clean and functioning properly at the start of the journey and remains that way throughout. Driver education takes this reality into account. Drivers will maintain their customer orientation regarding defensive and collision-avoidance driving. However, they also require specialized training in hygienic transportation and safe food handling. The new regulation mandates that this training is documented.

Because carriers are generally not subject to the training provisions in other human and animal food safety regulations, the final rule imposes specific training obligations on carriers engaged in transportation operations… the carrier must provide adequate training to its personnel about potential food safety problems that may occur during transportation and basic practices to address those problems.



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