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By Lisa Trymbiski, manager at Bryant Surety Bonds

How the sanitary food transportation rule affects freight brokers

If you are a freight broker, you must navigate complex regulations and laws to ensure that you remain in compliance. One of the reasons why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires freight broker bonds is to receive a guarantee that the companies will comply with all laws in their business operations. In addition to FMCSA regulations, freight brokers also need to be aware of the food safety regulations that were implemented for large brokers, shippers, and carriers in 2017 and for smaller companies in April 2018. If you violate these rules, you could face substantial penalties and claims against your BMC-84 freight broker bond. Here is what you need to know about the food safety rules and your obligations.

The sanitary transportation rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

In 2011, then-President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law. This federal law focuses on transforming the way in which foodborne illnesses are addressed and working to prevent rather than respond to outbreaks. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) promulgated a regulation called the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food, which became final in April 2017 for large businesses and in April 2018 for small companies with annual receipts of less than $27.5 million and fewer than 500 employees. This new rule applies to shippers, loaders, receivers, and carriers who are engaged in the transportation of food in the U.S. by rail or motor vehicle in both intrastate and interstate commerce.

Under the food safety regulations, freight brokers are treated the same as shippers. This means that the sanitary transportation rule also applies to brokers who broker food shipments in the U.S. It also applies to parties outside of the U.S. that ship food to the country when it is intended for U.S. distribution or consumption.

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Components of the sanitary transportation rule

Several requirements are included in the sanitary transportation rule and are meant to protect food from being contaminated during transportation within the U.S. The requirements cover record-keeping, training, operations, communication, equipment, and vehicles. The rule includes the following primary components:

  • Equipment and vehicle requirements: Equipment and vehicles used to transport food must be temperature-controlled and adequately cleaned to protect food during transport and must be properly maintained.
  • Operation requirements: Companies must prevent ready-to-eat products from contacting raw food products, and food must be protected from contamination with non-foods and cross-contamination with allergens.
  • Training requirements: All carriers must train their transportation personnel in sanitary food transportation practices and document the training provided. The training should address the recognition of potential food safety hazards, basic sanitary practices, and general duties under the rules.
  • Record-keeping requirements: Shippers and freight brokers must keep records showing that they provided food safety temperatures and specifications to carriers and maintain the records for at least 12 months after a carrier’s contract ends. Carriers are also required to keep training records for at least 12 months after a worker who underwent training ends his or her employment or ceases performing the training-related duties.

The FDA offers a free training module that carriers can access to use for the training requirement.

Waivers under the FSMA’s sanitary transportation rule

Certain businesses can obtain a waiver under the sanitary transportation rule if the following conditions apply:

  • Transporters of finished, bulk grade A milk/milk products that have been inspected by the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) that do not transport other food products
  • Food establishments that deliver food directly to consumers or to the establishments’ other locations
  • Transporters of shellfish who conform to the permitted modes of food transportation under the National Shellfish Sanitation Program’s (NSSP) authority

The following types of companies are exempted under the sanitary transportation rule:

  • Farms transporting food or live animals meant for food
  • Transporters of food shipped in the U.S. that will not be distributed in the country but will instead be exported
  • Transporters of food contact substances and food gasses that are listed in the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in section 409(h)(6)
  • Transportation of food enclosed by containers other than enclosed foods that need temperature controls for safety
  • Transportation of unprocessed human byproducts meant for use in animal food

Shipper and freight broker requirements

Since brokers are deemed to be equivalent to shippers under the sanitary transportation rule, they have the same responsibilities as shippers under the rule. These responsibilities include the following:

  • Determine, document, and communicate the appropriate modes of transportation for food products across the supply chain and the provision of accurate bills of lading.
  • Draft and implement policies and procedures covering required sanitation and temperature protocols for various types of food during loading, transporting, and unloading.
  • Communicate with carriers in writing all requirements for sanitation, handling, and temperature controls.
  • Make certain that all surfaces inside of vehicles that will come into contact with food are sanitized, free of flakes or chips, and resistant to corrosion.
  • Implement procedures for inspecting equipment for damage or other conditions that could cause food contamination.
  • Ensure that ready-to-eat and non-food items are kept separate from raw foods.
  • Communicate with carriers about how compromised loads or temperature violations should be handled.

Since brokers are considered equivalent to shippers under this rule, they must also comply with the above-listed duties. As a broker, you should ensure that your employees understand these requirements. You should also have fully documented policies and procedures for how to confirm that the shippers and carriers you work with are complying with the sanitary transportation rules. Make sure that you fully understand the food safety protocols your shippers follow and pass that information along to the respective carriers who will transport their loads.

Whenever new regulations are passed that apply to brokers, you must ensure that you understand the rules and fully comply with them. If you broker shipments of food products within the U.S., you must ensure you fully comply with the sanitary transportation rule. If you violate this or other laws, you could face substantial penalties and potential claims against your freight broker bond.

Lisa Trymbiski is the manager at Bryant Surety Bonds leading a team of talented professionals assisting clients in the surety bond industry. Education, superior service, and compliance are her top priorities in the completion of a successful business transaction.