After Five Years, FDA Takes Initial Steps to Use Sanitary Food Transport Authority

May 6, 2010

By Riëtte van Laack

In 2005, the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005 (“SFTA”) was enacted.  This law shifted responsibility for safe transportation of food from the U.S. Department of Transportation to FDA.  Among other things, the SFTA amended the FDCA to include section 416, which requires FDA to develop regulations addressing sanitation, packaging, limits on transport vehicles, information exchange among carriers, manufacturers and other persons involved in transportation of food, and transportation-related record keeping.

At the end of April, 2010, FDA took the first step in developing the new regulations.  The Agency issued both an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (“ANPR”) and a new guidance addressing transportation of food.  In the ANPR, FDA provides an historical account of the law concerning transportation of food, documented events of food-borne illnesses associated with transportation of food, and describes recent studies concerning food transportation practices, procedures and safety.  FDA requests input regarding the food transportation industry and its current practices such as characteristics of firms subject to the FSTA, including the types of vehicles used; current practices by firms subject to the FSTA including sanitation practices; communication and information sharing among parties involved in transportation of food;  the practice of transporting food and nonfood in the same vehicle (simultaneously or consecutively); and possible criteria to exempt certain classes of persons and vehicles from the new regulations.  FDA also asks for data and information concerning the past contamination of transported food and the risk for food borne illness.

The ANPR is only the first step in its rulemaking process, and it likely will be some time before regulations are proposed and finalized.  In the interim, FDA suggests that food transporters follow the newly issued guidance.  The guidance is a very general level 2 guidance intended to apply to a wide range of transportation entities, modes and activities.  Data collected by the Eastern Research Group characterized baseline practices and identified risk areas in transportation of food, none of which are particularly surprising.  Based on these data, FDA recommends that parties involved in food transportation concentrate on five areas: temperature control during transport; sanitation, packaging of food products, communications between the different parties involved in transportation, and employee awareness and training.  The guidance includes a list of regulation and guidance documents that address transportation of specific categories of food that, although limited in scope, may be helpful in addressing the identified focus areas.

Public comments are due by August 30, 2010.

Categories: Foods