The FSMARule on Sanitary Transportation is one of seven foundational rules proposed by the FDA to create a risk-based framework for food safety. The overall objective of the rule is to prevent practices during transportation that create hazards, such as failure of refrigeration, inadequate cleaning of vehicles, and inappropriate packing materials. Ultimately, the rule was put in place to minimize the potential of a foodborne illness outbreak among consumers.
Who Is Covered by the Transport Rule?
Primarily, the Transport Rule establishes requirements for shippers, loaders, carriers by motor or rail vehicle, and receivers across the food supply chain. The requirements do not apply to transportation by ship or air.
While it may not be specifically directed at restaurants, it is having a significant impact on the industry. Assuming you do not own and operate your supply chain, your supplier is responsible for meeting the requirements of the Sanitary Transport Rule. However, you are obligated to ensure the integrity of the ingredients received because it is your brand on the line if someone gets sick, not your distributor’s brand. Working with a trusted partner and having detailed SOPs is key to ensuring food safety.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the requirements of the Sanitary Transport Rule and what you can do to protect your brand.
Vehicles & Transportation Equipment: The vehicle being used for the transport of food must be designed and maintained so it does not cause the food it transports to be unsafe. The internal temperature of the truck needs to be stabilized and monitored, and the environment needs to be easy to clean.
Transportation Operations: Must ensure adequate temperature controls and prevent cross-contamination of ready-to-eat food with raw food, allergens, and non-food items in the same load or previous load.
Training:Must provide carrier personnel with best practices in sanitary transportation and documentation.
Records: Must maintain records regarding written procedures, agreements, and training.
Waivers:Allows FDA to waive the requirements of the rule if it determines that the transport of food is occurring under safe conditions (e.g., restaurants holding valid permits issued by a relevant regulatory authority when engaged as receivers, shippers, and carriers during operations that provide food to customers).
How to Protect your Brand
Standard Operating Procedures: Establish detailed SOPs with your suppliers. The relationships you have with your suppliers are some of the most important relationships to protecting your brand. Set detailed, specific expectations for your suppliers and revisit them regularly. Establish a food safety checklist for the receipt of every delivery. Use a temperature probe to spot check the temperature of the ingredients received. And most importantly, do not accept the delivery of anything that does not meet your strict food safety requirements.
Documentation: Require your suppliers to provide detailed documentation. Ask to receive copies of their food safety plans and training materials. Most importantly, require your suppliers to provide temperature logs for every delivery. These logs will give you the peace of mind you need to know the ingredients you receive have been kept at appropriate temperatures and are safe for consumption.
Inspection: As a part of your food safety checklist, regularly inspect the condition of the delivery vehicles. Ensure the cleanliness of the vehicle, as well as the absence of cross-contamination.
You have to be able to trust your suppliers, especially if you receive key drop deliveries when your restaurants are closed. Establishing detailed rules and expectations with your suppliers will help maintain that trust and ensure the safety of your consumers, and as a result, protect your brand.
For more detailed information about the Transport Rule, download the Federal Register notice.