Well folks, the wait is over. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally released the final Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) ruling on April 5th, 2016. Last month, I wrote a blog about the anticipated ruling and how it might impact the food supply chain. We are fortunate to work with many great food manufacturers and pet food manufacturers and to witness first hand, their dedication towards the safety of our food. As we all comply with these new rules and implement any changes, I should mention that the new ruling is a total of 283 pages. While this is equivalent to a mini novel, I doubt we will see many bound copies at the airport book stores.
Since FSMA’s enactment in 2011, the FDA had a very influential hand in the safety procedures for food transportation. As foreseen, the new ruling officially altered the role of the FDA in food safety and has given human and pet food manufactures a more active role in maintaining sanitary food transportation. They also redefined the roles and responsibilities each party in the food supply chain must acquire, including adding loaders under the umbrella of Food Safety. One thing I find interesting is that shippers can now set certain sanitizing regiments and temperature monitoring procedures for carriers. When carriers enter into a contract with manufacturers or an outsourced transportation provider such as ourselves, they are obligated to meet the standards set by that specific manufacturer. Although it may seem easy to cast blame on one particular party if anything should go wrong moving forward, shippers, carriers, loaders, and receivers are all covered by the rule and therefore, must adhere to all the regulations. Granddad would say ‘…everyone pulling the wagon the same way”. According to the new Safety Transport Portion, if the food is compromised during transport and is deemed unsafe to sell to customers and the receiver is not informed of this, carriers can be held responsible. The same standard applies to shippers and receivers – if food is compromised at any time between production and shipment and not addressed or received despite food adulteration, they also can be held responsible. Not only will they be fined, but will also be found guilty of a misdemeanor. Although this may seem harsh to some folks, I know our friends in D.C. value the safety of the food our families and pets enjoy just the same as we do.
Although I was fairly confident that our current safeguards at NT would need few alterations, we were also anxiously awaiting any potential necessary changes. After reading over the Sanitary Transportation regulations, I was pleased to know that many of our current practices were validated. The standard we and our great manufacturers uphold for food safety will remain unchanged when compared to the new rule. These new Sanitary Transportation mandates include making sure trailers are kept at the right temperature, checking the sanitation of trailers prior to loading, and not loading products that could cause cross-contamination. In addition, carriers are required to preserve documentation of past loads for one year. Everything that is done to ensure food safety – temperature validation, sanitation and procedure implementation, and food adulteration – must always be documented. This may seem like common sense to some folks, but FSMA is basing their new ruling on past occurrences; they want to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to food safety. The way I see it, this new ruling allows us all to work more closely together to maintain a quality of food safety we have always strived for. Every person involved in the food transportation industry recognizes the value that these measures have in maintaining food safety. The goal of the Sanitary Transportation Portion of the FSMA ruling is to take a more proactive approach to preventing contamination rather than responding to it. In other words, we are taught how to respond to an outbreak, but this rule explains how to prevent one. For example, flu season – we see so many advertisements for flu shots in order to prevent the virus from taking root. People are being encouraged to take preventative action against the flu virus. The same concept applies to the FSMA ruling – We need to work together to implement preventative measures that will keep our food safe rather than strengthening our response plans to contamination.
I can’t help but think about the notorious “What If?” question. What if something happens that could cause the food to be adulterated? Prior to the new Sanitary Transport Portion, if there was any kind of compromise, the food would be automatically deemed adulterated. Because the FSMA ruling has altered the role of the FDA, receivers are now able to make a judgement call on the food’s sanitation. The FDA requires all food receivers to implement new training and operation procedures to support this new responsibility.
Large companies have a year to enact these new procedures, while smaller businesses have two years. Our team at NT Logistics will continue to work to ensure that our carriers provide the quality of service and safety our great customers have grown to expect.