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FSMA Sanitary Transport Rule: What You Need to Know

By Michael Biros
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Who does the proposed Sanitary Transport rule apply to and what will be its impact on the various transportation industries? This Q&A offers some insights and key takeaways from the critical rule.

On January 31, 2014, FDA announced the “Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food” rule which will require certain shippers, receivers and carriers who transport food by motor or rail vehicles to take steps to prevent the contamination of human and animal food during transportation. The proposed rule establishes requirements for vehicle and transportation equipment, transportation operations, the exchange of information, training, written procedures and records. The proposed FSMA rule is broad and comprehensive and will likely have far-reaching effects across the food transportation industry.

In a recent FSMA Fridays webinar, sponsored by SafetyChain Software, Melanie Neumann and Jennifer McEntire, from The Acheson Group, answered some questions about the extent and implications of this rule.  We present some excerpts below. 

Who does the Sanitary Transport rule apply to?

Compared to other FSMA rules, the Sanitary Transport Rule’s coverage is broad and comprehensive. It will apply to businesses regulated not just by FDA, but by USDA as well. It will apply to food for human consumption as well as animal consumption. It will apply to both intrastate and interstate commerce. 

However there are a few exemptions: Companies with annual sales less than $500,000 and foods that are fully packaged and shelf stable are exempt. 

What impact will this proposed rule have on various transportation industries?

When it comes to Shippers and Carriers, this rule will affect everyone. Shippers need to establish and communicate with carriers about specific conditions for the food such as temperature control, cross-contamination control, hand-washing facilities for loading and unloading, etc. Carriers need to ensure that they are meeting the shipper’s requirements. They need to make sure equipment is appropriate and clean. Like other FSMA rules, this rule will require documentation. Carriers also need to complete a fair amount of training to establish how they can achieve these expectations. 

Receivers, historically, haven’t had a lot of responsibility in ensuring sanitary food transport. Now they have a regulatory obligation to do so. This rule will apply to anyone receiving food including retailers, food service, and small convenience stores. They will be required to actively participate and are subject to more regulatory oversight than they have had ever before. 

What is a waiver in the context of this rule and who might be eligible?

There are opportunities to receive a waiver and waive out of this rule. Those who qualify for a waiver are those who can prove that they are under other practices, protocols, and ordinances that ensure safe transportation of the food. For instance, businesses that transport USDA Grade-A dairy and pasteurized milk may qualify for a waiver. 

What are some key takeaways about the Sanitary Transportation Rule?

A lot of industry members have already implemented many of the best management practices that will be mandated by the proposed rule. Companies will need to focus on documentation and training. Companies will need to develop procedures to communicate requirements across shippers, carriers, and receivers. They will also need to develop training regimens and validation systems to ensure that these requirements are being met. Documentation is critical. In the eyes of a regulator, if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.

More information visit www.SafetyChain.com/FSMA-Fridays.