How Shippers Can Get Ready for the New FDA Sanitary Transport Regulations

Sunset’s St. Louis Managing Director Brian Pierce shares tips on how shippers should prepare their temperature-controlled shipments to comply with upcoming FDA Regulations. Read more to ensure you’re prepared!

4 logistics best practices to avoid food safety failure in transportation, gain compliance with the new rule

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released their final ruling, Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food, effective April 6, 2017. This new rule is designed to address persistent food safety and sanitation issues during the entire shipping process.

With some important exceptions, the types of food covered under the ruling are goods subject to spoilage and those that require a temperature controlled environment. The agency also amended the definition of a “shipper” to include Third Party Logistics firms (3PLs) as a responsible party.

Congress mandated that the FDA take a preventative approach to food safety to avoid foodborne illness outbreaks, like the 2006 E. coli outbreak linked to fresh spinach that sickened 205 and killed three people. This is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011.

Sanitary transport cover photo

A single food safety failure at any stage in transportation can have disastrous civil, regulatory and criminal consequences to shippers.

Sanitary Transport Best Practices

To help you, the shipper, avoid costly consequences and get ready for compliance, we wanted to share our team’s expertise and advice on best practices for food safety.

There are four key areas where the Sanitary Transport rule establishes requirements that must be clearly defined and documented by a shipper before a carrier or 3PL can comply.

1. Transportation Operations

For any shipper, regardless of what they ship, a standard practice should be clearly defined and documented shipping and receiving procedures. However, this is especially important when shipping food. The objective of these procedures are to instruct warehouse personnel on a standard operating procedure (SOP) to properly receive and package quality safe materials.

2. Vehicles and Transportation Equipment

As part of the shipping and receiving guidelines, completing a trailer inspection report is an essential practice. This report documents and ensures all steps are followed by the warehouse staff before accepting a piece of equipment into your facility for loading or unloading.

The Trailer Inspection Report helps a shipper and receiving staff through a unified process, which is designed to review areas such as: adequate temperature controls, prevention measures for contamination of ready to eat food from touching raw food, protection of food from contamination by non-food items in the same load or previous load, and protection of food from cross-contact, i.e., the unintentional incorporation of a food allergen.

For example, truck temperature, cleanliness of the equipment and prior shipments hauled on the equipment are suggested checklist items to include.  By working through your company’s specific guidelines for receiving, shipping quality and safe ingredients, you will identify what it takes for a vehicle to be in compliance.

Download Sunset’s Trailer Inspection Report in PDF format.

3. Training

A company can develop documentation to be in compliance, but if it’s unavailable or not shared with the correct parties—such as the driver, carrier or 3PL—then those parties may not be legally fulfilling their compliant responsibilities.

For a carrier or 3PL to uphold their end of the deal, they need to receive good information from their shipper regarding the commodity and the expectations for food safety.

A purchase order is often used to communicate to the carrier or 3PL the material being shipped and the requirements for the shipment.  The shipper’s ERP system should store this information so it is an automated process to document the instructions.

Shipment requirements that should be communicated:

  • Commodity being transported—Example: Coleslaw
  • Equipment type needed—Example: Reefer
  • Requirements for the equipment prior to loading—Example: Clean trailer, preset to 32 degrees
  • Requirement for the equipment during transportation—Example: 32 degrees
  • Loading and transportation requirements—Example: Seal must be intact at delivery
  • Wash Ticket Requirement
  • Contact information for emergencies

Upon arriving upon your facility, the driver/carrier/3PL should be provided with the complete load requirements, which should also include or accompany the above, in addition to any special handling requirements that the driver/carrier/3PL needs to understand to prevent contamination.

Another good practice for a shipper to adopt is a standard driver check-in policy as part of your standard operating procedures (SOP).

Driver check-in policy in your SOP should include:

  • Photograph of the driver
  • Copy of their driver’s license
  • Picture of the equipment and loaded product
  • Documentation of truck and trailer number
  • Training administration (if needed) or a documented process for receiving paperwork and the load (required)

4. Records

While a shipper should have a standard practice for keeping and maintaining standard operating procedures, their liability doesn’t stop there.

The Sanitary Transport ruling is requiring shippers (which now includes trucks and 3PLs) to retain records of written procedures, agreements and training for 12 months.

Thankfully, most 3PLs and carriers have a way to capture and store an image, such as a PO for each shipment.  This is the document that is often used by a carrier to bill a shipper.  In the case of working with a 3PL, the PO will be used to produce a rate confirmation to secure a transaction between a broker and a carrier on behalf of a shipper.

The PO documentation should include the shipper’s instructions for food safety compliance and is produced from the 3PLs’ system. This is signed and returned by the carrier as confirmation and for payment. These PO records often live in a 3PLs’ system for up to 7 years.

Impact and Timeline of the Sanitary Transport Regulation

Subject to certain exceptions, the new rule governs shippers, receivers, loaders and carriers who transport food in the United States by motor or rail vehicle, whether or not the food is offered for or enters interstate commerce. Basically, if you load, receive, or transport human or animal food that is not entirely enclosed, or if it must be temperature controlled and is shipped via truck or rail, you are subject to the new requirements.

Based on the size of your operation, you have until either April 2017 or April 2018 to implement the new rules.

Need Help?

If you have any questions or need any help ensuring your company and carrier partners are prepared for FDA’s Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Ruling, reach out to our team at Sunset. We can help with consulting or creation of these crucial documents and best practices so your company is ready to be in compliance when the Sanitary Transport rule goes into effect on April 6, 2017.

You can reach us online or by phone at 800-849-6540.


View the FDA Sanitary Transport ruling information

Download Sunset’s Trailer Inspection Report in PDF format.


Food Safety News

Food Industry Council

Transportation Intermediaries Association

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Sunset Transportation Best Practices