FSMA rule requirements already best practice - C.H. Robinson

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/soleg
©iStock/soleg

Related tags: Food safety

Industry is already complying with requirements of a FSMA rule that comes into effect this month, according to a produce and cold chain logistics company.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food (STHAF​) focuses on practices that create food safety risks, rather than those that affect quality but don’t make consumption dangerous.

The goal is to prevent practices during transportation that create risks, such as failure to properly refrigerate, inadequate cleaning of vehicles between loads and failure to protect food.

Compliance starts from 6 April for large companies and the same date in 2018 for small firms.

Shippers, receivers or carriers who transport food that have less than $500,000 in average annual revenue are exempt.

Focus on safety risks

Chris McLoughlin, risk manager at C.H. Robinson, said under the rule it was technically a shipper and will be doing internal training for employees every three years.

“We are finding from industry that most shippers aren’t willing for a tiered basis of compliance for suppliers, they want all of them to be compliant now. Most shippers don’t feel happy to say to their large base ‘be compliant now’ but to small carriers ‘you’ve got another year’,” ​he told FoodQualityNews.

Exempt from rule

  • Businesses holding valid permits inspected under the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments’ Grade “A” Milk Safety Program, only when transporting Grade “A” milk and milk products
  • Businesses transporting molluscan shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels or scallops) certified and inspected under requirements by the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference’s (ISSC) National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) and that transport shellfish in vehicles permitted under ISSC authority
  • Food sites authorized by authorities to operate as receivers or shippers and carriers in operations in which food is delivered directly to consumers, or other locations the establishments or affiliates operate that serve or sell directly to consumers. (restaurants, supermarkets and home grocery delivery services)

“We have got questions about how we intend to address it, what are the best practices, is the product I have subject to the rule. We help and point in the direction of the FDA or industry groups such as the Western Growers and Transportation Intermediaries​ Association, we don’t make the determination.”

The rule applies to items shipped open to the air, temperature controlled for safety or shipped in bulk trailers or tankers via truck or rail.

McLoughlin said on the temperature side, FDA specifies it is for safety purposes.

“It is just industry best practice but more formalised. Issues of foodborne illness linked to transportation are few and far between,” ​he said.

“Most produce is temperature controlled for quality purposes and to extend shelf life. For chilled chicken it is a safety control. The scope of products covered is ‘open to the air’ so loading potatoes to go on the floor of a trailer, chicken in an open-air bin or apples in crates.

“The rule defines what FDA roles mean from a rule perspective, don’t make assumptions and get familiar with the language.

“We’ve seen anecdotally some entities read one rule under FSMA, the produce rule for example – it goes a long way to define categories of produce, when it should be applied and when not, different standards based on attributes of produce, but you cannot apply standards under the produce rule to the sanitary transportation rule.”

STHAF applies to shippers, receivers, loaders and carriers who transport food in the US by motor or rail vehicle.

It builds on the 2005 Sanitary Food Transportation Act (SFTA).

McLoughlin said importers are subject to the rule.

“We are finding a lot of similarities between the importer rule and sanitary transportation and sanitary transportation and preventive controls rule on responsibility of the loader and receiver,” ​he said.

“The training and record-keeping will impact the carrier community. There will be more formality and training for drivers. It might lead to tweaks but the requirements are not new, they are things we have already been doing.

“Industry is open to the rule, it didn’t happen overnight. The FDA took in feedback from several hundred comments and used them as the rationale for the final rule. We suggest talking to people in your supply chain. To providers, carriers, vendors, warehouses up and downstream.”

DUNS number

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will recognize the DUNS number to identify importers.

This will ensure accuracy of its inventory of importers responsible for meeting the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) rule.

Compliance dates for importers subject to the FSVP rule begin from May 30 this year.

FDA issued guidance formally recognizing the Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number as a unique facility identifier (UFI) for FSVP.

The FSVP rule, mandated by the FSMA, requires an importer to provide its legal business name, electronic mailing address and UFI recognized as acceptable by the FDA for each line entry of food product for import to the US.

The DUNS number, assigned and managed by Dun & Bradstreet, is free of charge to importers.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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