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Foreign Food Exporters Would be Subject to FDA Proposed Rule on Sanitary Transportation

Monday, February 03, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Food and Drug Administration issued Jan. 31 a proposed rule designed to prevent the contamination of human and animal food during transportation by motor or rail vehicles. According to the FDA, the goal of this rule is to prevent practices that create food safety risks, such as improperly refrigerating food, inadequately cleaning vehicles between loads and failing to properly protect food during transportation, by establishing requirements for the following.

- the design and maintenance of vehicles and transportation equipment to ensure that they do not cause the food transported to become contaminated

- the measures taken during transportation to ensure food is not contaminated, such as adequate temperature controls and separation of food from non-food items in the same load

- procedures for exchange of information about prior cargos, cleaning of transportation equipment, and temperature control between the shipper, carrier and receiver, as appropriate to the situation

- training of carrier personnel in sanitary transportation practices and documentation of the training

- maintenance of written procedures and records by carriers and shippers related to transportation equipment cleaning, prior cargos and temperature control

- procedures by which the FDA will waive any of these requirements if it determines that the waiver will not result in the transportation of food under conditions that would be unsafe for human or animal health and that it is in the public interest

With some exceptions, this proposed rule would apply to shippers, receivers and carriers who transport food in the U.S. by motor or rail vehicle, whether or not the food is offered for or enters interstate commerce. It would also apply to a person outside the U.S., such as an exporter, who ships food to the U.S. in an international freight container by oceangoing vessel or in an air freight container and arranges for the transfer of the intact container in the U.S. onto a motor vehicle or rail vehicle for transportation in U.S. commerce, provided that the food will be consumed or distributed in the U.S. The rule would not apply to the transportation of fully packaged shelf-stable foods, live food animals, and raw agricultural commodities when transported by farms.

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 $25.5 million in annual receipts) would have two years after the publication of a final rule to comply, while other businesses would have one year. The proposed rule would not cover shippers, receivers or carriers engaged in food transportation operations that have less than $500,000 in total annual sales.

Comments on this proposal are due no later than May 31. The FDA is also planning on holding three public meetings concerning this rule: Feb. 27 in Chicago and March 13 in Anaheim, Calif. (by extending meetings already scheduled to discuss a proposed rule on the intentional adulteration of food) and March 20 in College Park, Md.

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