The FDA is stepping up safety regulations for food production and transportation via the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This act increases the FDA’s power by giving it oversight of food production and distribution including all involved parties, not just food manufacturers. That means new regulations for farmers, importers, warehouses, foreign food handling facilities, 3PLs, and transportation carriers. Under these new powers, the FDA is taking a proactive stance to preventing contamination to the food supply (prior to this act the agency was mostly reactive and became involved only after contamination was found).
Here are a few important highlights about the FSMA:
- The FDA now has the power to make recalls mandatory.
- Increased resources for inspecting facilities.
- Comprehensive guidelines for storage and transportation under the Sanitary Transport Rule.
- The FDA can refuse to allow imported food if it is deemed unsafe.
The FSMA’s Sanitary Transport Rule applies to all modes of transportation and focuses on preventing contamination in the food supply during storage or transport. This may seem redundant because 3PLs and carriers already take precautions when handling and moving perishable freight; however, this rule goes beyond what is already established. It also encompasses employee training, documentation, and communication. The rule aims to correct what the FDA calls food safety problems during transport.
The following readiness checklist for being in compliance with the rule:
- Equipment must be maintained so that there is no possibility of contamination.
- This includes pest control measures (fumigation), pallet or container design, building maintenance, wastewater disposal, maintaining temperature, etc.
- The loading and handling of food products must prevent contamination.
- Warehouse equipment must be sanitized, product must be rotated, quarantined products cannot be shipped, unloaded product cannot be left on the dock overnight, seals must be in tact, must use correct packaging, must not mix loads where cross-contamination could occur, etc.
- Employees must be trained on personal hygiene as well as sanitary cargo handling.
- Employees are also required to monitor and secure freight at all times so that it cannot be intentionally contaminated. All employees must know and follow policies for food safety. Policies and procedures must be written and updated.
- Documentation is required for all shipments and the warehouse, 3PL, and carrier all must have a written prevention plan as well as documented corrective actions.
- The plan must include science based standards for monitoring preventative measures.
- Communication must be captured and flow freely between parties.
- This is best done electronically using supply chain systems that can exchange information quickly like a WMS, TMS, visibility system, yard management system, etc.
- The information has to flow between involved parties-producer, distributor, transportation company, and consignee.
The FSMA and the Sanitary Transport rule apply to food consumed by humans or animals. Compliance deadlines are approaching! All companies must be in compliance within two years of the rule’s publication. Large businesses have one year to comply and small businesses have up to two years. Read the entire Sanitary Transport Rule on the FDA’s website here.