Transportation part of food safety too
NEW ORLEANS — Transporting fresh fruits and vegetables that will be consumed within the United States is a sometimes-forgotten segment of new food-safety rules.
Those attending the Oct. 19 PMA Fresh Summit panel seminar “Avoiding a Produce Transport Meltdown” were reminded that the Food Safety Modernization Act has Sanitary Transport Rule requirements. Shippers, loaders, carriers and receivers all have a responsibility to meet these obligations.
“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” offered panelist Patrick Brecht, president of PEB Commodities Inc. Mandated food-safety rules are now a reality, Brecht said. “We can be proactive and prevent” problems, he said. Or wait to be reactive when a figurative fire has erupted due to neglect.
Brecht reminded corporate executives that criminal sanctions are a possibility in the cases of neglect.
The panel was moderated by Jim Gorny, PMA’s vice president of food safety and technology. The other panelists were Drew McDonald, vice president quality and food safety for Taylor Fresh Foods, and Stephen Neel, senior technical director for the Global Cold Chain Alliance.
Neel said April 6, 2017 was the compliance date for large businesses to comply with FDA’s Sanitary Transportation Food Rule. Small businesses must comply by April 6, 2018.
Neel said the rules do not tell shippers, loaders, carriers and receivers how to comply. The goal of it is to avoid practices during transportation that will create food-safety risks.
Neel specified that both motor vehicles and rail cars — including intrastate and international products — are within the rule.
He said transportation equipment must be properly designed and suitable for food-safe transportation. Of course, this includes the characteristic of being cleanable. The transportation equipment also must be capable of maintaining food-safe temperatures. Adequate temperature controls are required. Record keeping on shipments must be maintained for 12 months.
Neel said his Global Cold Chain Alliance has created an education program to train drivers on the food-safety matters.
McDonald said the industry needs commodity-specific research to conduct to assure the industry has the best practices. He emphasized the point by showing a Calvin & Hobbs cartoon in which the characters wondered how it was determined that a bridge’s load capacity was 10 tons. They decided that larger and larger trucks must have driven across until the breaking point was determined.
Therefore, the industry needs to work now to find proper handling techniques for all commodities — before a disaster strikes.