WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2014 – The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) is asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make “significant changes” in its proposed rules implementing the sanitary food transportation provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
The proposed rules establish certain criteria, including conditions, practices, training and record-keeping for the sanitary transportation of food. NGFA submitted its suggestions for the proposed rules during a comment period that ended July 31. It’s not known when FDA will release its final rules.
President Barack Obama signed FSMA into law in January 2011. The law is considered the most sweeping reform of the food safety laws in more than 70 years. In addition to a rule on sanitary transportation under the act, the FDA has also proposed: preventive control requirements for human and animal food, standards for produce safety, a Foreign Supplier Verification Program for importers, a program for the accreditation of third-party auditors, and focused mitigation strategies to prevent intentional adulteration of the food system.
The rules regarding sanitary food transportation would apply to shippers, carriers and receivers transporting agricultural commodities, food, feed and feed ingredients, and other agricultural products by truck and rail.
NGFA praised the agency for not applying the proposed rules to barge and vessel transportation, as well as for not prescribing specific sanitation practices for clean-out of rail and truck transportation conveyances and equipment. “This gives shippers, carriers and receivers the flexibility to continue to utilize appropriate sanitary transportation practices that have evolved over time,” the group noted.
NGFA also said it supports FDA's decision not to restrict access for human and animal food to certain classes or types of rail or truck conveyances or transportation equipment.
However, the association asked FDA to grant three additional exemptions:
--for transfers of human and animal food between facilities operating under the ownership of the same legal entity, such as the same parent or corporate entity. Intra-company transfers typically involve the use of dedicated fleets of trucks or rail cars to move agricultural and food products between a company's own facilities, NGFA said.
--for dedicated rail and truck transportation conveyances and transportation equipment used to haul the same type of human or animal food on a continual basis.
--for transportation of live food animals. Although NGFA supported a tentative conclusion from the FDA to exempt transport of live food-producing animals from regulations, it suggested adding that specific exemption to this section of the rule. Transportation of live animals is subject to the jurisdiction of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
NGFA also said it had asked FDA to make other changes to its proposed rules, including the following:
-Clarify the definition of “shipper” so that the requirement to notify carriers of any special clean-out procedures and to keep records applies to the party that loads a shipment, not to brokers or third-party logistics operators who arrange for the transportation to be provided.
-Modify the proposed requirement that carriers identify the previous three loads hauled in bulk trucks or rail cars. The NGFA said such a requirement is excessive and unnecessary.
-Eliminate the proposed recordkeeping requirement that electronic records be kept in a manner that complies with the agency's “onerous and costly” Part 11 rules that stipulate computer validation.
-Eliminate the proposal to exempt from the regulations those shippers, carriers and receivers that have less than $500,000 in total annual sales. NGFA said size-based exemptions are inappropriate for food safety. Instead, the association recommended that the agency provide small entities with additional time to comply with final regulations before enforcement begins.
-Clarify the definition of “transportation equipment” to apply only to those items (such as containers, totes and pallets) that actually are loaded onto a truck or railcar, or devices (such as pumps, fittings, hoses and gaskets) that are integral and affixed to the transportation conveyance.
-Delete the proposed requirement that convenient hand-washing facilities be provided for vehicle operators unless human contact with the food poses a hazard of causing the food to become adulterated or unfit for human or animal consumption.
FDA has also proposed a regulatory exemption for truck transportation of raw agricultural commodities by farms. NGFA recommended that the agency develop guidance on good transportation practices.
“Such guidance should stress the importance of cleanout procedures in non-dedicated farm transportation conveyances and equipment used to haul raw agricultural commodities and other products, and provide practical, realistic and effective sample clean-out procedures for such conveyances,” NGFA told FDA.
Additionally, NGFA emphasized that FDA’s regulations should not undermine the legal responsibility for rail carriers and truck transporters to provide clean conveyances and transportation equipment.
“This legal obligation is reasonable because the carrier or other provider of the transportation conveyance is in the best position to monitor the use of transportation conveyances and equipment, know the contents of the previous load(s) hauled, and implement prudent and effective clean-out procedures to protect product safety,” NGFA said.
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