The U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized a new food safety rule Tuesday that will help to prevent food contamination during transportation.
The rule, under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), will require 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.
“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,” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.
The rule is the sixth of seven proposed since January 2013 and is part of a larger effort to focus on prevention of food safety problems throughout the food chain, and the rule implements the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005 (SFTA). The seventh rule, which focuses on mitigation strategies to protect food against intentional adulteration, is expected to be finalized later in 2016.
The new rule will apply to food transported within the United States by motor or rail vehicle, whether or not the food is offered for or enters interstate commerce. It was proposed in February 2014 and takes into consideration more than 200 comments submitted by the transportation industry, food industry, government regulatory partners, international trading partners, consumer advocates, tribal organizations and others.
“We recognize the importance of education and training in achieving widespread compliance, and we are committed to working with both industry and our government partners to ensure effective implementation of all of the new food safety rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act,” Taylor said.
Businesses would be required to comply with the new regulation one year after publication of the final rule, with smaller businesses having two years to comply with the new requirements.
Key requirements include:
- 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.