The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011 and the Sanitary Transportation Act was introduced early this year.
An offshoot of FSMA, the proposed Sanitary Transportation ruling aims to minimize in-transit food safety risks from unsafe or unsanitary practices.
FSMA shifts the focus from reactive to proactive measures.
Preventing food contamination
Unsafe practices range from improper refrigeration to cross-contamination of containers due to improper sanitation, backhauling of hazardous materials or inadequate packaging.
Steve Alberda, director of safety and health at Ryder System, said there was great interest as it remained the ‘great unknown’, with the framework not spelling out exactly what companies are required to do.
“A lot of companies are doing what they need to do to ensure food safety but not taking additional measures until they understand what the regulations mean as they can be open to interpretation,” he told FoodQualityNews.
“But in 2015 food safety initiatives will be top of the agenda for the transport group, to put in place a framework and take the lead in the area so we are not a follower.”
The ruling was proposed in January 2014, the FDA is working through industry feedback and possible changes based on input and once published, the ruling will take effect 60 days later, with compliance dates tiered based on business size.
Other abuses include improper loading practices (mixing loads that could cross-contaminate foods or leaving raw materials on unrefrigerated docks), poor pest control, lack of driver training, poor employee hygiene and improper holding practices.
Alberda said the ruling was expected no later than June 2015.
“There will be information exchange requirements on prior cargos, what was shipped in the container before cleaning and data on temperature control between companies,” he said.
“Food safety training requirements will be made for drivers and a record of the requirements related to equipment cleaning. For example, not transporting hazmat chemicals and then food without proper cleaning.”
Ryder is a commercial fleet management and supply chain company, with operations in the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Asia
The company operates behind the scenes, managing transportation and logistics functions.
There will be new vehicle and transportation equipment design and maintenance so food is not contaminated in the distribution chain, said Alberda.
“So in a semi-trailer, making sure there is no water or debris so it’s properly sealed and the equipment in transport is properly maintained,” he said.
“It affects transport operations in terms of measuring to ensure temperature is maintained during transport and refrigeration of food products.
“There is technology to help with that. Wireless temperature probes, thermometers placed inside the trailer and monitored 24/7 and datalogging and thermometers so you can see a record of the temperature at all stages in the supply chain.”
The onus is on exporters to properly refrigerate and protect food while it’s being transported by making sure containers are properly sealed, nothing is shipped that could harm consumers and no one can tamper with food cargo.