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FDA Proposes New Rules for Transporting Food

February 3, 2014

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will officially propose a rule that would 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.

Part of the implementation of the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005, the proposal marks the seventh and final major rule in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act’s central framework aimed at systematically building preventive measures across the food system.

It is set to be published in the Federal Register on Feb. 5. and will be open for public comment through May 31. A preview of the regulation is available online

 “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. “We are now one step closer to fully implementing the comprehensive regulatory framework for prevention that will strengthen the FDA’s inspection and compliance tools, modernize oversight of the nation’s food safety system, and prevent foodborne illnesses before they happen.”

The proposed regulation would establish criteria for sanitary transportation practices, such as properly refrigerating food, adequately cleaning vehicles between loads, and properly protecting food during transportation.

The proposed rule would apply to shippers, carriers, and receivers who transport food that will be consumed or distributed in the United States and is intended to ensure that persons engaged in the transportation of food that is at the greatest risk for contamination during transportation follow appropriate sanitary transportation practices. For example, the proposed rule would require that shippers inspect a vehicle for cleanliness prior to loading food that is not completely enclosed by its container, such as fresh produce in vented boxes, onto the vehicle.

It would also apply to international shippers who transport food for U.S. consumption or distribution in an international freight container by air or by oceangoing vessel and arrange for the transfer of the intact container onto a motor vehicle or rail vehicle in the United States.

The proposed rule would not cover shippers, receivers, or carriers engaged in food transportation operations that have less than $500,000 in total annual sales. In addition, the requirements in the proposed rule would not apply to the transportation of fully packaged shelf-stable foods, live food animals, and raw agricultural commodities when transported by farms.

The requirements would also not apply to shippers, receivers, or carriers who are engaged in transportation operations of food that is transshipped through the United States to another country, nor to food that is imported for future export and that is neither consumed nor distributed in the United States.

The FDA is proposing staggered implementation dates for the proposed rule based on business size, ranging from one to two years after publication of the final rule.

The administration will discuss the proposed rule at three upcoming public meetings: Feb. 27, in Chicago; March 13, in Anaheim, Calif. and March 20, 2014 in College Park, Md.

A fact sheet has been issued by the FDA about the proposed regulation and there is more information about the Food Safety Modernization Act on the agency’s website.  

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