This question has come up frequently in our FSMA Sanitary Transportation workshop. Just as with all the parts of FSMA, the focus of the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food regulation is on addressing hazards that may be present throughout the food chain and assigning responsibility (liability) for preventing those hazards. There are very few specific requirements—most of it is couched in very general language, for flexibility on both sides (FDA’s and industry’s).
While the regulation does not specifically address locks or seals on trailers, the FDA has stated publicly that they intend to enforce the adherence of industry to generally accepted best practices. Sometimes, as in the case of certain animal food applications, the FDA has stated they will accept mild steel transports instead of stainless (as would typically be required for hauling food) because it’s all about the risk, and mild steel is not a risk in those applications. What is the risk of an unlocked load to the food being hauled, and to the business being conducted? Maybe a seal or lock on an LTL can protect a significant investment from an identified hazard.
Generally, in most food hauling operations, seals or locks are required on trailers by businesses in order to protect their investments. They are also expected under GFSI-approved food safety management systems, used by most food manufacturers (which are private, voluntary standards, not regulatory). They are definitely required if you want to haul 100% juice under Juice HACCP and the JPA guidelines.
There are so few straightforward answers with FSMA. You must always look at your operation, your risks, and decide if controls are necessary. Document the basis for your decision, ensuring it is based on facts. If the FDA inquires, you must make your case for your decision. Do you feel comfortable defending it, all the way to a court of law if need be? If so, then stand by it.
If there are potential risks to food that is being hauled (don’t forget about defense-type risks as well, like the truck being stolen or misrepresented) then you must take reasonable, industry-standard precautions to prevent those hazards from occurring.
Of course, you want to do this anyway because it is smart business.