F.D.A. warned of transportation capacity impact of new sanitation rules

by Editorial Staff
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WASHINGON — The National Grain and Feed Association in a statement recently submitted to the Food and Drug Administration urged the agency to recognize transportation capacity constraints confronting U.S. agriculture in implementing the Sanitary Food Transportation Act (S.F.T.A.) of 2005. The statement was in response to the F.D.A.’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking in connection with the agency’s responsibility for developing regulations to implement the law.

Out of concern steps had to be taken to protect food and feed from foodborne hazards during transport, Congress passed the Safe Food Transportation Act in 1990 and delegated the responsibility for developing and implementing regulations to the Department of Transportation. But the D.O.T. said it did not possess the necessary expertise to implement the law’s provisions. Congress later passed a new version of the law in 2005 and directed the F.D.A. to develop the implementing regulations.

The F.D.A. noted in recent years it addressed the sanitary transportation of food in several regulations and guidance documents.

“However, each of these regulations and guidance documents was limited in scope, e.g. to a particular circumstance, such as decontamination of food transport vehicles that have been flooded or otherwise affected by hurricanes, before being placed back in service to transport or store food, or to a particular segment of the food industry, such as fresh produce,” the F.D.A. said.

The advance notice of proposed rulemaking, announced April 30, was the first step in writing federal regulations that will govern sanitary practices by all shippers, carriers by motor vehicle or rail vehicle, receivers and others engaged in the transportation of food for humans and animals. Comments on the notice, including those submitted by the N.G.F.A., were accepted until Aug. 30. After considering the comments, the F.D.A. was expected sometime in 2011 to develop and submit for public comment proposed regulations to implement the law.

Also on April 30, the F.D.A. issued a guidance for industry on the sanitary transportation of food, which reflected the agency’s thinking on the issue.

“This guidance differs from prior regulations and guidances in that it provides all sectors of the food industry with broadly applicable recommendations,” the F.D.A. said.

The N.G.F.A. statement in relation to the advance notice of proposed rulemaking affirmed it is the transportation provider’s legal responsibility to supply clean, appropriate and safe conveyances suitable for transporting food and agricultural commodities.

“This legal obligation is reasonable because it is the carrier or other provider of transportation vehicles that knows the contents of the previous loads and is responsible for implementing prudent and effective cleanout procedures to preserve product safety,” the N.G.F.A. said.

But the N.G.F.A. also pointed to the already heavy demand for conveyances needed to transport food and agricultural products, including grains, oilseeds, feed and feed ingredients. It noted transportation demand from U.S. agriculture is forecast to increase dramatically given the growing demand for food, feed and biofuels in domestic and export markets.

Also cited was a major study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the D.O.T. and published in April that projected overall freight demand may double by 2035. The study showed competition for finite transportation resources is intense with U.S. agriculture the single largest user of freight transportation, accounting for 22% of all tonnage and 31% of all ton miles in the most recent year (2007) for which data are available. The study also showed between 2002 and 2007, the value of all U.S. transported products (agricultural and nonagricultural) grew 41%, while the tonnage hauled increased 12% and ton-miles transported increased 11%.

“In this environment of constrained transportation capacity and expanding demand from the U.S. agricultural, food, feed and nonagricultural sectors for transportation of all modes — truck, rail, barge and vessel, we urge the F.D.A., whenever possible, to recognize existing cleanout procedures that are appropriate and suitable for conveyances transporting food and agricultural products for their intended uses, rather than banning the use of certain conveyances that have dual uses in hauling other products,” the N.G.F.A. said.

The N.G.F.A.’s statement also emphasized the association’s initiatives on food and feed safety pertaining to transportation, including the inclusion of provisions in the association’s trade rules that require shipments to be free of objectionable extraneous material and that buyers/receivers verify the condition of inbound shipments to ascertain they conform to contract specifications, including for product safety and wholesomeness. The N.G.F.A.’s trade rules are incorporated by reference into the vast majority of commercial U.S. grain and feed transactions, it said.

Additionally, product safety provisions were incorporated by the N.G.F.A. that apply to transportation conveyances in its Model Feed Quality Assurance Program, which was developed in 1994 as the first feed industry trade association program. The N.G.F.A.’s statement referred to its development of model procedures in conjunction with the F.D.A. to safeguard against residues of prohibited mammalian material in conveyances in response to the agency’s regulations designed to prevent bovine spongiform encephalopathy (B.S.E.).

The N.G.F.A. made reference to the release in September 2009 of an expanded version of its Facility Risk Assessment and Security Guide for Grain Elevators, Feed/Ingredient Manufacturers, Grain Millers and Oilseed Processors, which includes suggested receiving and shipping procedures to protect against intentional contamination incidents.

Concerning other aspects of F.D.A.’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking on implementing the S.F.T.A., the N.G.F.A. provided data, much of it derived from the U.S.D.A.-D.O.T. transportation study, on the types of conveyances used to haul bulk grains, oilseeds, feed, feed ingredients and other agricultural products, as well as the quantities transported. It discussed transportation sanitation practices typically used in the grain, feed and processing industry, including sweeping,

vacuuming and washing. It noted shipments of bulk grains, oilseeds and grain products, as well as bulk and bagged feed and feed ingredients, typically are transported in full-lot quantities in conveyances that haul only those types of products in the same shipment. And it cited the current requirement under the Bioterrorism Act that facilities establish and retain for one year records of transporters used for commercial shipments.

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