With all of the ruckus in the news about ELDs, speed-limiters and self-driving trucks, another major regulatory change is quietly leaving its mark on the trucking world. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law by President Barak Obama on January 4, 2011. The first major revision to food safety law in 70 years, the intent of the act is to safeguard the nation’s food supply from disease and contamination, whether accidental or intentional. The law also assists enforcement agencies in verifying compliance with prevention-based safety standards, as well as responding to problems.
While much of the law deals with importation of foodstuffs and storage and processing of human and animal foods, a portion of the legislation deals with transportation of food products. “It covers every facet of the food supply chain,” according to Avery Vise, president of Birmingham, Alabama, based Transcomply. “It requires that specific training on the requirements of the rule itself be provided to handlers, drivers, dispatchers and managers — anyone who has control over transporting food.”
According to Vise, those rules also require providing evidence that a carrier is in compliance. Files must be kept on trailer maintenance and inspections, and even receipts for trailer washouts while on the road. While a longer list of rules to follow doesn’t appeal to anybody, Vise credits the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the way new regulations were created and are being implemented. “They came in with a long, burdensome proposal,” he explained, “and the trucking industry immediately complained that the rules were cumbersome, costly, and would even result in delays of food deliveries.” To FDA’s credit, he says, “they went back to the drawing board, creating a new proposal that was easier to comply with while still achieving the agency’s stated goals.”
The specific portion of the FSMA that deals with trucking is the Sanitary Food Transportation Act, finalized in April 2016. The rule requires transporters of human or animal food by road or rail to comply with safety requirements for cleanliness, temperature control and protection of food being transported.
In a release announcing the rule, FDA Deputy Commissioner of Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael R. Taylor said, “Consumers deserve a safe food supply and this final rule will help to ensure that all those involved in the farm-to-fork continuum are doing their part to ensure that the food products that arrive in our grocery stores are safe to eat,”
The FSMA rules required carriers with more than $27.5 million in annual revenue to be in compliance with the FSMA as of April 6, 2017. Carriers with over $500,000 in annual revenue but less than the $27.5 million benchmark must be in compliance by April 6, 2018.
Those that don’t comply can face more than fines, according to a June 26 release from Iron Apple, a Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, firm that provides training and compliance solutions to carriers. Authored by Food Safety Training and Implementation Manager Lindsay Glass, the paper points out that the FDA can bring misdemeanor criminal charges against Senior Executives who have knowledge of and fail to react to a condition that leads, or could lead, to products being adulterated while in the company’s possession. The penalty for conviction on a single charge can be a fine of $250 thousand and up to a year imprisonment for each adulterated item.
While some drivers may relish the idea of a company executive in handcuffs, the law impacts them, too, according to Glass. “Anyone involved must be trained in sanitary transportation practices,” she said. Iron Apple provides a training course that takes 20 minutes to complete, followed by a 15-question quiz. The course can be accessed through the company’s education portal, but some carriers who use the training make it available through their own, internal systems. Completion of the course (and passing the quiz) certifies the driver as trained under FSMA requirements.
“Every driver should know the requirements,” she said, “and the training helps them accomplish this.”
Knowing the requirements, however, is only a start. “Drivers must follow the rules for trailer cleanliness,” she explained, “and specifications for temperature control. They also must follow the shipper’s instructions for handling, temperature, and other factors,” she continued. “They need to be aware of the condition of their trailer.”
Keeping records can be important, too, says Glass. Iron Apple provides guidance for procedures and recordkeeping to their carrier clients, arranging for third-party audits to ensure compliance. Drivers may be required, for example, to save the receipt from a trailer washout or trailer repair, or equipment inspection documents.
Glass says that, once the load is accepted, reporting is crucial. “If anyone in the chain feels that food may be out of compliance,” she explained, “they should contact someone.” If the driver delivers the load without notification and the food is adulterated in any way, she said, the driver could be held liable.
Glass provided the example of a refrigerated load, where the customer specified a temperature range of 34 to 38 degrees. If a malfunction with the refrigeration unit allows the temperature to climb higher than the specified range, the entire load could be compromised and the shipper must be notified for disposition of the product. She recommends that drivers follow carrier instructions for notification so that any issues can be dealt with quickly and a detailed record can be maintained in case of later investigation.
According to Glass, more than 5,000 transportation employees have already taken the company’s FSMA certification training. As the next phase becomes effective next April, food transporting drivers who must comply with new regulations will know that their efforts have a direct impact on the safety of the food their families at home are consuming.