Food Transportation Safety Rules Proposed by FDA

Federal food regulators have proposed a new set of rules meant to increase the safety of food during transport. 

The FDA proposed new food safety rules on January 31, aimed at preventing contamination of food during transportation by motor vehicle or rail. If approved, the rules would be the seventh and final administrative component to the Food Safety and Modernization Act, which has been heralded as the biggest change in food oversight in 70 years.

The new food transportation safety rules would require shippers, receivers and carriers who transport food to take what the FDA considers to be proper steps to prevent contamination during transport.

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The proposed regulations would apply to shippers and receivers who transport food that will be distributed within the United States. These rules would also apply to international shippers, who transport food for consumption within the U.S. or distribute food internationally by freight containers by sea or air, but transfer the food by way of rail or motor vehicle within the U.S.

They would include criteria to create proper sanitary conditions for food transportation. The rules specify proper refrigeration, cleaning of the vehicles between food loads and proper protection of the food during transportation.

Shippers would also be required to inspect vehicles for cleanliness before loading food that is not completely enclosed by a container, such as fresh produce in vented boxes.

“This proposed rule will help reduce the likelihood of conditions during transportation that can lead to human or animal illness or injury,” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

The rules do not cover shippers or transportation companies that have less than $500,000 in total annual sales. It would also not apply to companies that ship fully packaged shelf-stable foods, the shipping of live animals or raw agricultural food transported by farms.

Food which is transshipped through the U.S., but intended for another country or which will not be consumed or distributed within the U.S., will also not fall under the provisions of the new rules.

Rules Designed to Prevent Contamination

The rules are preventive measures for the food safety system, ensuring proper sanitary transportation practices are in place and followed. The rules are meant to ensure the food shipped within the country avoid the greatest risk of contamination during transit. It also offers the FDA more power to intervene with shippers and receivers before a full scale outbreak occurs.

The FDA plans to roll out the regulations in a staggered implementation schedule over the next two years after the final ruling is publicized. The proposal will be open for public comment until May 31, 2014.

Late last year, the FDA also proposed the Food Defense Act which addressed another portion of the FSMA. That new rule was aimed to protect the public food supply against potential terrorist attack.

The Food Defense Act placed restrictions on the largest food businesses in the United States and abroad in an effort to prevent them from becoming targets of intentional terrorist attempts to contaminate the food supply in this country.

It was the first FDA proposed regulation which focused on the prevention of intentional contamination. The FDA maintains it is merely a preventive measure and no attempts of food terrorism have been made which threaten the safety of the U.S. food supply.


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