Breaking down FSMA and SFTA – what you need to know about food transportation

Given the April 6, 2017 date for general implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), transportation professionals have been scrambling to shore up their processes to meet compliance standards.  From farm to table, keeping human and animal foods safe from contamination during transportation is a responsibility affecting the entire U.S. domestic supply chain.

In short, FSMA aims to assure the safety of food throughout the supply chain through the introduction of new protocols to food manufacturers, processors, transporters and distributors must adhere to.

The FSMA legislation consists of seven (7) new regulations. The key regulation around food transportation is the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food (SFTA, or the Sanitary Food Transport Act), which defines requirements around:

  • Vehicles and transportation equipment: ensuring the design and maintenance of vehicles and transportation equipment does not cause the food that it transports to become unsafe, or contaminated.
    • e.g. They must be suitable and adequately cleanable for their intended use and capable of maintaining temperatures necessary for the safe transport of food.
  • Training:  applying adequate training and documentation for carrier personnel in sanitary transportation practices. This training is required when the carrier and shipper agree that the carrier is responsible for sanitary conditions during transport.
  • Records: Maintenance (or creation) of records, written procedures, agreements and training (required of carriers).
    • Note:  The required retention time for these records depends upon the type of record and when the covered activity occurred, but does not exceed 12 months.
  • Transportation operations:  implementing measures to be taken during transportation to ensure food safety.
    • e.g.  Measures to regulate proper temperature controls, preventing cross-contamination between ready-to-eat and raw food, protection of food from contamination by non-food items in the same or previous load, and the unintentional exposure to food allergens.

Shippers, Carriers & Receivers

SFTA specifically requires compliance from any food transportation company with revenues over $500,000 that serves as a shipper, loader, carrier or receiver.  To clarify, the terms of each are defined below:

  • receiver is any person who receives food after transportation, whether or not that person represents the final point of receipt for the food.
    • A receiver may be a carrier or a shipper but not individual consumers or others who are not in the business of distributing food.
  • shipper (including 3PLs) is a person who arranges for the transportation of food in the United States by a carrier or multiple carriers.
    • The shipper/3PL is responsible for communicating appropriate food handling requirements to the carrier and providing an accurate Bill of Lading (BOL).
    • A person may be subject to these requirements in multiple capacities. For instance, the shipper may also be the loader and the carrier.
  • carrier is a person who owns, leases, or is otherwise ultimately responsible for the use of a motor or rail vehicle to transport food.
    • The carrier is responsible for complying with requirements during transport.
    • Carrier does not include a person that transports food while operating a parcel delivery service.
  • loader is a person who loads food onto a motor or rail vehicle used during transportation operations.

Expert Q&A

As a 3PL, Sunset Transportation is acutely aware of the responsibility placed on shippers and carriers by this regulation in multiple industries.  One of Sunset’s resident experts on the subject, Nashville Managing Director, Jonathan Falcon, answers question and provides best practices to get ahead of the regulatory movement when moving your most “temperamental” goods.

Q:  What types of food are affected by FSMA? 

A:  Foods affected include:

  • FDA-regulated human food including raw materials and ingredients
  • USDA-regulated meat, poultry and egg products
  • Molluscan shellfish such as oysters and scallops

Foods not affected:

  • Foods completely enclosed by a container
  • Compressed food gasses
  • Human food byproducts for use as animal food without further processing
  • Live food animals
  • Other commodities requiring temperature control (e.g. plastics, chemicals, adhesives, cosmetics, and automotive parts)

Q:  As a shipper, what can I be doing today to be compliant with FSMA and SFTA?

A:  Shippers are primarily responsible for determining appropriate transportation operations, documenting, and communication procedures to parties across the supply chain.  The new regulations can be overwhelming to large and small shippers, we get it!

Working with a food savvy 3PL like Sunset will ensure the best practices below are followed and that carrier safety, incident, and claims occurrences are tracked and measured on each shipment:

  1. Work with your 3PL/carriers to develop and implement written procedures on required temperature handling and sanitation practices for different load types during loading, transportation and unloading.
  2. Communicate load temperature control, handling and sanitary requirements to carriers in writing.
  3. Trace the transportation chain and ensure that all food-contact surfaces are clean.
  4. Set policies with carriers ensuring all surface coatings on vehicles and equipment be corrosion-resistant and free of chips and flakes.
  5. Get informed about trailer designs that meet sanitary and temperature control requirements.
  6. Inspect pallets and transportation equipment to ensure they are in good working condition and cannot lead to food exposure or contamination.
  7. Ensure proper segregation of raw foods and non-foods.
  8. Hire/assign internal staff to ensure responsibility of compliance and regulations.
  9. Communicate with carriers regarding adequate temperature monitoring, ranges and recording mechanisms during the transportation phase.
  10. Plan with carriers how to deal with potential temperature violations and loads that may have been compromised.

Q:  What as a carrier can I be doing today to be compliant with FSMA and SFTA?

A:  For food subject to temperature control requirements, the rule requires carriers to demonstrate that the refrigerated vehicle has been satisfactorily pre-cooled.

Be advised that the FSMA allows a temperature range, and carriers are also responsible for providing temperature records upon request to demonstrate appropriate ranges were maintained during transport.

Furthermore, carriers will be required upon request to provide information to shippers, loaders and receivers about previous cargo hauled in bulk vehicles and cleaning of those vehicles.  The new regulations will require carriers to invest in process, equipment and potentially monitoring systems/software.

Here are 10 things we recommend our carriers do to remain compliant and a carrier in good standing with our shippers:

  1. Implement a system that enables trailers to be pre-cooled prior to loading.
  2. Implement or upgrade a temperature monitoring and control system to properly manage cargo area temperature during transport.
  3. Develop processes to communicate temperature profiles during the transportation cycle to both the shipper and the receiver.
  4. Create and maintain a record repository of temperature profiles for past loads.
  5. Ensure that temperature-sensitive cargo has limited exposure to non-temperature controlled areas.
  6. Develop processes to deal with temperature violations that can occur during transportation as well as loading and unloading.
  7. Phase out refrigerated trailers with wood interiors.
  8. Update fleet with trailers that meet sanitary and temperature control requirements.
  9. Develop proper sanitation practices and procedures for equipment and vehicles used for food transport.
  10. Train your drivers on the use of refrigeration units, loading and unloading procedures for temperature-sensitive goods.

Q:  What as a receiver do I need to be doing today to be compliant with FSMA and SFTA?

A:  Under the FSMA rule, receivers are required to provide washing facilities to vehicle operators if they are expected to handle, load or unload foods that are not completely enclosed.   The receiver may also request proof from carriers that they have maintained appropriate temperature controls for the food during the transportation cycle before accepting the load.

Q: How will the FDA implement and enforce the sanitary transportation practices in this new rule?

A: As with the other FSMA rules, the FDA is committed to developing training and technical assistance. Food industry training will be a critical component of successful implementation of FSMA, as will outreach to foreign trading partners.

The agency will also use its partnerships with other Federal agencies (such as the U.S. Department of Transportation) and with state, local and tribal entities to implement this rule.  FDA will carry out some inspections, and the Department of Transportation, under the 2005 SFTA, will also establish procedures for transportation safety inspections to be conducted by DOT or state personnel. The FDA maintains its ability to take enforcement action when agency efforts to work with a company fail to achieve compliance, but promoting a strong food safety culture is the FDA’s priority.

Q: What are the compliance date deadlines?

A: Recognizing that businesses, especially small businesses, may need more time to comply with the requirements, the compliance dates are adjusted accordingly.  The final FSMA SFTA rule was published on April 6, 2016.

  • Small Businesses – businesses other than motor carriers who are not also shippers and/or receivers employing fewer than 500 persons and motor carriers having less than $27.5 million in annual receipts require compliance two years after the publication of the final rule:  04/06/2018.
  • Other Businesses – a business that is not small and is not otherwise excluded from coverage would have to comply one year after the publication of the final rule:  04/06/2017.

In basic terms, these best practices should help each link in the supply chain meet the new regulations head-on.

Sunset’s customers can rest easy; as their transportation 3PL, we have the knowledge, tools, processes and experience needed to ensure their freight is managed in compliance with FMSA and SFTA.

About the Expert: 

Jonathan Falcon, Managing Director of Sunset Transportation’s Nashville Tennessee branch, has a deep background in transportation spanning a decade of service in asset-based fleet management, 3PL carrier relationship management, procurement, business development, and driving. An MBA graduate, he also holds a current Class A CDL, and several Transportation Intermediaries Association certifications, including Certified Transportation Broker (CTB).

Jonathan has gained several years of food shipping experience and knowledge from management of temperature controlled food and non-food commodities, heavy haul shipments, and dry goods. Relocated from the Northeast, Falcon is now based in the Nashville area and enjoys travel, the outdoors, and margaritas on Fridays.

[email protected] • 314.756.8519 • 105 Threet Industrial Road, Suite 1003 • Nashville, TN • 37167