By Ryan M. Gembala, Attorney, O'Toole, McLaughlin, Dooley, and Pecora
FSMA has ushered in new rules governing virtually all aspects of food handling. While we may be aware of the rules for safe handling in our fields and processing facilities, what about the rules for safely handling food in in our trucks? There are new rules governing the safe transportation of food and, like other FSMA rules, ignorance of the rules is no excuse. What you don’t know can hurt you, in the form of criminal penalties.
The FDA’s Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule is designed to keep food safe from contamination during transport. So, who is subject to this Rule? If your business includes shipping, loading, receiving, or carrying food by motor or rail vehicle, you are. If you transport exclusively by ship or air, you are excluded. Similarly excluded are those shipping food between Canada and Mexico, so long as none of the food is distributed in the U.S.
Since most of us are subject to the Rule, what does it require? In essence, the Rule mandates a top-down approach to sanitary transportation, with documentation and oversight at all levels. The Rule governs four specific components of transportation: (1) vehicles and equipment; (2) transportation operations; (3) training; and (4) recordkeeping. Compliance with each component is a must to avoid a federal investigation and possible criminal penalties.