Food Safety Modernization Act - Are you Ready?

It has been estimated that by 2020, annual food sales in the U.S. will increase by $100 billion.  This figure represents opportunities for nearly every link in the cold chain, from farming to factories; retailers to restaurants, everyone involved from farm to fork are going to be held to some of the strictest quality standards and legislation in history.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (in effect as of 9/2016) is a regulation that changes the way America handles refrigerated cargo.  The reasoning behind this plan is that by making continuous improvements in food safety by the way the system handles producing, processing, transporting, and preparing foods, the safer our food supply will be.

As of September 2016, companies that distribute, supply, or receive human and animal food must comply with the FSMA regulations at their facilities.  Companies that handle the transportation of human and animal food must meet FSMA regulations by April of 2017.

Sanitary Transportation of Food  

In an effort to assist the transportation industry in preventing food-borne pathogen concerns during transport while implementing the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the following 13 safety concerns where food may be at risk for physical, chemical, or biological contamination during food transport were reported by the FDA:  

  1. Improper refrigeration or temperature control of food products (temperature abuse)
  2. Improper management of transportation units (or storage facilities used during transport) to preclude cross-contamination, including improper sanitation, backhauling hazardous materials, not maintaining tanker wash records, and improper disposal of wastewater;
  3. Improper packing of transportation units (or storage facilities used during transport), including incorrect use of packing materials and poor pallet quality;
  4. Improper loading practices, conditions, or equipment, including improper sanitation of loading equipment, not using dedicated units where appropriate, inappropriate loading patterns, and transporting mixed loads that increase the risk for cross-contamination;
  5. Improper unloading practices, conditions, or equipment, including improper sanitation of equipment and leaving raw materials on loading docks after hours;
  6. Poor pest control in transportation units (or storage facilities used during transport);
  7. Lack of driver/employee training and/or supervisor/manager/owner knowledge of food safety and/or security;
  8. Poor transportation unit design and construction;
  9. Inadequate preventive maintenance for transportation units (or storage facilities used during transport), resulting in roof leaks, gaps in doors, and dripping condensation or ice accumulations;
  10. Poor employee hygiene;
  11. Inadequate policies for the safe and/or secure transport (or storage during transport) of foods, e.g., lack of or improper use of security seals;
  12. Improper handling and tracking of rejected loads and salvaged, reworked, and returned products or products destined for disposal; and
  13. Improper holding practices for food products awaiting shipment or inspection, including unattended product, delay.

Key Requirements for the Transportation Industry

The FSMA establishes requirements for vehicles and transportation equipmenttransportation operationstraining, and recordkeeping.  For example, prior to loading food that is not completely enclosed by its container, loaders are required to determine that a vehicle is in appropriate sanitary condition for the transport of the food, e.g., it is in adequate physical condition, and free of visible evidence of pest infestation and previous cargo that could cause the food to become unsafe during transportation. As of September of 2016, operators of motor vehicles, railcars, and other equipment used in food transportation are now required to establish written procedures, subject to record keeping requirements, for cleaning and inspecting their vehicles and transportation equipment. The FDA can review these procedures and records.

The following, are key requirements for implementation of a food safety plan:

Vehicles and transportation equipment: The design and maintenance of vehicles and transportation equipment to ensure that it does not cause the food that it transports to become unsafe. For example, they must be suitable and adequately cleanable for their intended use and capable of maintaining temperatures necessary for the safe transport of food.
Transportation operations: The measures taken during transportation to ensure food safety, such as adequate temperature controls, preventing contamination of ready to eat food from touching raw food, protection of food from contamination by non-food items in the same load or previous load, and protection of food from cross-contact, i.e., the unintentional incorporation of a food allergen.
Training: Training of carrier personnel in sanitary transportation practices and documentation of the training. This training is required when the carrier and shipper agree that the carrier is responsible for sanitary conditions during transport.
Records: Maintenance of records of written procedures, agreements and training (required of carriers). The required retention time for these records depends upon the type of record and when the covered activity occurred, but does not exceed 12 months.