TT Talk - Carriage of food to or within the US could become more complex


Proposals put forward by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), aimed at improving the prevention of food safety problems through the food supply chain within the US, could have significant ramifications for operations within the transport and logistics industry, including those initiating a move into the US from elsewhere in the world. The time period for submission of written or electronic comments has been extended to 31 July 2014.

Those involved in the transport of food under though bills of lading from overseas locations to inland points in the USA and food shipments moved by rail and truck from Mexico and Canada to the USA need to review the proposed US food safety transportation rule, required by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (‘FSMA’), intended to help maintain the safety of both human and animal food during transportation. Establishing criteria for the sanitary transportation of food, the proposed rule contains many requirements that are currently not adopted by shippers, receivers, international transportation companies, truckers, railroads and logistics companies.

“the proposed rule contains many requirements that are currently not adopted by shippers, receivers, international transportation companies, truckers, railroads and logistics companies”

While the focus of the proposed rule is US domestic parties, the reality is that a broad spectrum of the supply chain industry would be impacted. The proposal specifies ‘sanitary transportation practices to be used by shippers, carriers by motor vehicle and rail vehicle, and receivers engaged in the transportation of food to ensure that food is not transported under conditions that may render the food adulterated’; it would exempt food that is transhipped through the US to another country, and food that is imported for future export and is neither consumed nor distributed in the United States.

The US Federal Register that sets out the detail of the proposal estimates the start-up and on-going costs involved, but candidly admits that there is insufficient data to quantify the potential benefits. However, experts dispute the FDA assertion that ‘small changes in behaviour’ will be required and believe that the new proposed rule will place additional costs on carriers, delay shipments and/or cause shipments to be refused entry into the US.

Based on feedback from shippers, carriers and receivers, the proposed rule, as currently written, would regulate food cargoes with no history or evidence of food safety problems and would markedly increase the cost of carrying food cargoes, including potentially increased cargo claims, costs of safe disposal of food deemed ‘adulterated’ during transportation, let alone increased training costs and extensive record keeping.  Furthermore, requirements relating to precooling of reefer equipment appear to deviate from accepted good practice (see, for example, TT Talk 177, and may be increasing the risk of food safety problems. 

Below are some starting comments for carriers and others to consider..

Temperature management
Proposed Rule § 1.908(d)(2)(i):  The carrier, upon request by the shipper and/or the receiver, must demonstrate that the carrier maintained temperature conditions during the transportation operation consistent with the shipper's specifications.
Comment:  There may be a distinction between the thermostat setting specified by the shipper for maintenance of the quality and condition of food, and that deemed optimal for the safety and wholesomeness of the food. Upper temperature limits for the carriage of the food are generally not specified.  Safe shipments of food could be rendered ‘adulterated’ if the recorded temperatures deviate from the specified temperature, albeit not approaching a temperature that would render the food unsafe for human or animal consumption.

Precooling reefer equipment
Proposed Rule § 1.908(d)(3):  The carrier would be required to pre-cool each mechanically refrigerated freezer and cold storage compartment as specified by the shipper before offering a vehicle or transportation equipment with an auxiliary refrigeration unit.

Comment:  This pre-cooling requirement directly conflicts with generally accepted equipment pre-cooling.  When perishable cargo is loaded in a hot humid ambient environment, moist air can enter the interior of the pre-cooled container when the doors are opened.  In such circumstances, moisture is likely to condense on the interior surfaces of the pre-cooled container and ‘rain’ on any exposed cargo or cargo packaging.  In an apparent contradiction, the proposed rule also states that if the interior of reefer equipment exhibits any signs excess water under which food may become contaminated, the reefer equipment would not generally be considered to be in an appropriate sanitary condition for the transport of food.

Equipment design & cleaning
Proposed Rule § 1.906(a):  The design of transportation equipment used in transportation and the materials used in their manufacture must be suitable and adequately cleanable for their intended use. The food contact surface coatings on vehicles or transportation equipment that are not corrosion resistant or are flaking or chipping could contaminate food due to chemical contamination or by causing the food to become unfit, and would render the vehicles or equipment as not suitable for their intended use.

Comment:  There have historically been allegations that food cargoes have deteriorated as a result of corrosion residues from aluminium alloys used in the manufacture of some reefer containers. If the caustic wash solutions used in processing facilities are used to wash reefer trailers and containers, it might be argued that the materials used in manufacture of reefer equipment is not suitable. How clean is clean? Will the equipment need to be microbiologically clean?

Since previous cargo information may be disclosed, there may be restrictions applied for backhauls of specific cargoes or regarding potential cross contamination.

Conclusion
While those familiar with the new CTU Code will find echoes in these requirements, the proposed rule extends responsibilities further, including potentially onerous requirements concerning record keeping and retention, as well as training.

The entire ‘docket’ requires detailed analysis. The TT Club urges those involved in the transport of foodstuffs to or within the US to review the proposed rule; this is an opportunity to help shape regulations that will govern food transportation operations. Comments can be sent to the FDA either in writing or electronically and should reference Docket ID: FDA-2013-N-0013 and/or RIN: 0910-AG98.

“TT Club urges those involved in the transport of foodstuffs to or within the US to review the proposed rule”  

 

We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.
 
We look forward to hearing from you.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox
Risk Management Director, TT Club

24 Hour Claims Hotline
+44 7000 882582

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