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New food safety rules: Are you ready?

March 30, 2017
FMSA begins to take effect in April

The date for carriers to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new food safety rule is around the corner. The rule falls under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which passed in 2011 in response to listeria and salmonella outbreaks mainly stemming from the manufacturing, processing, and handling of food.

Jon Samson, executive director of the agricultural and food transporters conference for the American Trucking Assns., broke down FSMA and what carriers need to do to comply with the rules during a recent Spireon webinar.

The FDA finalized its new food safety rule in April 2016 to prevent food contamination during transportation. The rule requires those involved in transporting human and animal food – shippers, loaders, carriers and receivers – to follow best practices for sanitary transportation, such as properly refrigerating food, adequately cleaning vehicles between loads and properly protecting food during transportation.

Small businesses other than motor carriers that are not also shippers and/or receivers, employ fewer than 500 persons and motor carriers having less than $27.5 million in annual receipts have to comply with the new rules April 6, 2018, two years after the publication of the final rule. Other businesses that are not otherwise excluded from coverage have to comply one year after the publication of the final rule – April 2017.

The rule establishes requirements for ensuring food is properly refrigerated, that vehicles and equipment are properly cleaned and sanitized, and ensuring food is protected during transport. It does not, however, address food security, such as seals and locks, Samson noted.

“The proposed rule had several areas of concern,” he explained. “The FDA verbally committed to keeping this flexible and really understanding the processes in the industry, but when they initially proposed the rule, it didn’t quite match up with that. By the time we got to the final rule, we were mostly satisfied with what they wrote.”

 ::Exempt from the rule::

  • Shippers, receivers, or carriers engaged in food transportation operations that have less than $500,000 in average annual revenue
  • Transportation activities performed by a farm
  • Transportation of food that is transshipped through the United States to another country
  • Transportation of food that is imported for future export and that is neither consumed or distributed in the United States
  • Transportation of compressed food gases (e.g. carbon dioxide, nitrogen or oxygen authorized for use in food and beverage products), and food contact substances
  • Transportation of human food byproducts transported for use as animal food without further processing
  • Transportation of food that is completely enclosed by a container except a food that requires temperature control for safety
  • Transportation of live food animals, except molluscan shellfish

In order for vehicles and transportation equipment to comply, they:

  • Must be designed and made from material that can be adequately cleaned and sanitized. “One of the concerns we have is there is no definition for what is adequately cleaned and sanitized” Samson explained. “So as many as these requirements are, the discretion is up to the shipper to make that determination.”
  • Must be maintained in sanitary condition where the food will not become unsafe. For instance, broken pallets that could puncture the product might not be allowed in trailers.
  • Must be stored in a manner to prevent pests or contamination that could result in food becoming unsafe.
  • For TCS (time and temperature controlled food), equipment must be designed, maintained, equipped to provide proper temperature control.
Under the FDA's new food safety rule, protective measures must be taken to protect food from contamination.

In addition, protective measures must be taken to protect food from (cross) contamination by raw and non-food items. Samson mentioned that going forward, the FDA will offer a one-hour web-based training on the basics of the rule.

To prepare for the new rule, Kevin Boydstun, director of operations at Sharp Transportation, noted Sharp has been working to keep its employees educated to better comply with the rule. He explained Sharp has been ensuring managers and dispatchers get the necessary information out to the drivers, keeping tabs on temperatures, and planning ahead more.

Stressing the importance of all employees working together, Boydstun suggests:


  • Pay attention more to what is coming in and equipment needed.
  • Note whether a driver is experienced.
  • Ask whether the trailer needs to be washed prior to loading.
  • Let driver know what timeframe of pickup is. Plan to have enough time to wash out.
  • Monitor dropped load temp controls.


  • Communicate instructions to drivers.
  • Confirm loaded set/box temps as sent in from the driver. Double check setting vs. temperature range.
  • Monitor temperature reading while the load is in transit. Get with the driver if there are any discrepancies.
  • Notify inbound planners to make sure they know what it coming in and what to expect.
  • Monitor seal integrity. Making sure seal numbers are entered into the loaded, stop off empty calls.

He also noted the company offers web-based continuing education for drivers to stay up-to-date on rules and new regulations.

In addition, drivers:

  • Conduct pre-trip inspections, including reefer units.
  • Check trailer condition – air chute and door seals.
  • Are trained in reefer unit operations.
  • Inspect product prior to loading. Check for extra condensation and leaking.
  • Notify dispatch if backed in for an extended amount of time loading/unloading.
  • Reefer tank fuel levels and additives.
  • Check box temp every four hours or when stopped.

Boydstun also stressed the importance of preventive maintenance and repairing and replacing equipment when needed.

“It gives us peace of mind knowing that our units are running at the top specs they can,” he said. “They say if you got it, a truck brought it. With FSMA, I want to make sure I didn’t bring anything that made you and your family sick. These are some of the things we try to do as a corporation for society.”

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