Beginning April 6, 2017, all U.S. shippers and carriers of human food must comply with the food safety regulations outlined in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which are designed to standardize and better document the process of loading, unloading and transporting the 85 million shipments of perishable food for human and animal consumption food per year. The goal of this rule is to prevent practices during transportation that create food safety risks, such as failure to properly refrigerate food, inadequate cleaning of vehicles between loads and failure to properly protect food.
Ruan has been working diligently with our shipper partners to ensure compliance with the regulations.
Much of the burden of the new standards lies with shippers—defined in the rule as a person, manufacturer or freight broker who arranges for transportation of food in the U.S. by a carrier—to properly outline and document sanitation guidelines for the vehicles for each food product hauled. Essentially, the shipper dictates to the carrier the requirements of the load. As a result, partnership between shippers and carriers is critical.
“Every shipper could have different requirements as far as proper trailer temperatures, inspections before loading/unloading and documenting procedures, among other things,” said Lisa Gonnerman, Ruan’s vice president of safety. “Our operations leaders are working with our food-related customers to learn what those requirements are. Then we’ll implement any necessary changes in our processes.”
Ruan’s safety department has conducted training with our operations and brokerage staff to cover details of FSMA so they can work with our valued food customers to create and understand written procedures. Some of Ruan’s largest food-related customers include Whole Foods Market, Target Corporation, Kroger, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Butterball, MGP Ingredients, Flowers Foods and Unified Grocers.
Most shippers already have stringent food transportation safety standards; much of ensuring compliance with the FSMA will require changes to written standards and procedures, as well as how the documentation is maintained and stored.
“Once we have written procedures and contract updates from all our food-related customers, we’ll provide customer-specific training to our terminal staff and professional drivers. Per the ruling, this training must be documented with records retained for a time period that each shipper will specify. I’m confident our team members won’t see significant changes as we already take the utmost caution when hauling food products to ensure the safety of consumers.”
According to Commercial Carrier Journal, shippers are responsible for clearly communicating to a carrier how a trailer must be designed, stocked, loaded and unloaded, and each step in the communication process must be dictated and noted for the record. Any failure by a shipper to dictate a step, or a failure by a carrier to follow through, will have the potential to result in fines.
Shippers must develop and implement procedures for:
- Cleaning and sanitizing equipment
- Inspection of equipment before loading
- Preventing food contamination (includes outlining segregation, isolation and protective measures)
- Ensuring food is transported under adequate temperature controls
- Ensuring the contents of three previous bulk vehicle loads will not make food unsafe
Shippers are also responsible for compliance with state laws regarding food safety.
The rule does not apply to transportation of shelf-stable food that is completely enclosed by a container, like bread; foods enclosed in a container that are not temperature controlled for safety (i.e., chocolate may be refrigerated to prevent melting, but the purpose is not for food safety); and food already regulated by the USDA.
There are several key requirements for carriers.
Food haulers must continue to train drivers to ensure their refrigerated trailers are pre-cooled prior to loading food, as well as regulating temperatures during the loading process when trailer doors are open, allowing cool air to escape.
Second, carriers and drivers must have documented proof available to shippers and receivers that appropriate temperatures were maintained for the food being hauled. The shipper will determine the appropriate temperatures for their products.
Third, carriers must develop and implement procedures that specify their practices for cleaning, sanitizing and inspecting their equipment. Equipment must be used, maintained and stored in a manner that does not cause food to become unsafe during transportation. This means ensuring that trailers are free from pests, including birds, rodents, flies, larvae, etc.