WASHINGTONThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed a rule to safeguard food while it's being transported by motor or rail vehicles.
The agency has proposed criteria for sanitary transportation practices such as cleaning vehicles between loads and refrigerating it.
The proposal is the seventh major rule that is intended to prevent foodborne illness under the 3-year-old Food Safety Modernization Act.
This proposed rule will help reduce the likelihood of conditions during transportation that can lead to human or animal illness or injury," said Michael Taylor, the FDAs deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, in a statement. We are now one step closer to fully implementing the comprehensive regulatory framework for prevention that will strengthen the FDAs inspection and compliance tools, modernize oversight of the nations food safety system, and prevent foodborne illnesses before they happen."
Shippers, carriers and receivers that transport food by motor or rail vehicles would be subject to the rule.
"The proposed rule would also apply to international shippers who transport food for U.S. consumption or distribution in an international freight container by air or by oceangoing vessel and arrange for the transfer of the intact container onto a motor vehicle or rail vehicle in the United States," FDA explained.
However, the proposal would exclude the following:
· shippers, receivers, or carriers that have less than $500,000 in total annual sales;
· the transportation of fully packaged shelf-stable foods, live food animals, and raw agricultural commodities when transported by farms;
· shippers, receivers, or carriers who transport food that is transshipped through the United States to another country; and
· food that is imported for future export and that is neither consumed nor distributed in the United States.
The agency is proposing staggered implementation dates for the proposed rule based on the size of a business, ranging from one to two years after publication of the final rule. FDA plans to discuss the proposed rule at three upcoming public meetings: Feb. 27 in Chicago; March 13 in Anaheim, Calif.; and March 20 in College Park, Md.
Although food is rarely contaminated during transportation, FDA has "received reports of unsanitary practices" and wants to minimize transportation as a potential source of foodborne illness, Taylor stated today in a blog.
"As with the other proposed rules, we will work with all stakeholders including consumers, industry and researchers to ensure that what were proposing is practical and feasible while meeting our food-safety standards," Taylor wrote.