5 Ways The Food Safety Modernization Act has Transformed the Shipping Industry

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law by former President Obama on January 4, 2011. At the time this act represented the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years. Its aim is to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.

The FSMA’s proactive approach to food safety introduced a far-reaching impact on all levels of the food supply chain. Listed below are the top five ways that FSMA has transformed the shipping industry since being enacted.

#1: More Record Keeping

One of the biggest impacts of the FSMA has been the increase in required record keeping. Shippers are now obligated to specify, in writing, all sanitary requirements of the shipment to the carrier. Also, before the shipment is loaded the Shipper must inspect the trailer for cleanliness, confirm sanitation and temps, and keep documented records of all findings. Likewise, Carriers must be able to provide shippers with information about three previous cargoes hauled in the equipment to be loaded and the intervening cleaning between each of them. Upon delivery, Carriers are also required to show the receiver that it has maintained appropriate temp control during transport.

#2: Increased Training

Whether you’re a Shipper, Carrier, or Receiver, the FSMA mandates employee training on food safety, sanitary practices, and the responsibilities of members throughout the supply chain.

For example, Shippers must be trained on defining the temperature and sanitation specs for each shipment and communicating them downstream to the carrier. These specs must include a high and low temp range with time constraints, allowing for fluctuations and reducing the risk of degraded product.

Carriers, on the other hand, are required to know how to maintain their vehicles in accordance with proper sanitation practices. They must also be trained on how to monitor refrigerated products, making sure defined temps are maintained throughout transportation.

Lastly, for Receivers the training is focused around safe food handling and what items to consider before accepting food deliveries.

The FSMA requires all training records be maintained for 12 months from the time at which the person no longer performs duties for which the training was provided. Since the inception of the FSMA all participants in the food supply chain have increased their understanding and knowledge regarding food safety.

#3: Changes to Brokers and 3PLs

The impact of the FSMA even extends to non-asset based Brokers and 3PL (third-party logistics) Providers involved with transporting perishable food. They’ve been forced to change their procurement and tendering processes to align with the new standards. 3PLs and Brokers now need to ensure food shipments are handled by only FSMA-compliant carriers. This requires an additional layer of carrier vetting be put in place with more stringent requirements.

#4: Improved Technology

In most of the preceding items you’ll notice a common theme of increased record keeping and information sharing among all layers of the supply chain. In doing so, the FSMA standards has made technology less of a competitive advantage and more of a prerequisite for doing business. As a result there’s been a wave of IT transformation across the industry. So what does this mean? In simplest terms it means retiring paper-based processes in favor of digital solutions to handle daily operations such as track and trace, document management, and EDI transactions.

While the need for new tech is usually seen as a burden, many food shippers, carriers, and 3PLS have realized the additional benefits it can offer. They’ve turned these new requirements into an opportunity to digitize their business, and in doing so, differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd.

#5: Cargo Claims

The last notable impact of the FSMA is the gray area it’s introduced with regards to carrier liability and the adulteration of food shipments while in their possession. In simpler terms, if the carrier violates the shipper’s required handling specs for the shipment will it automatically equate to “damage” (actual loss) that the carrier must repay? So far the answer appears to be that “it depends” on a case by case basis. What is certain is that having a shipment “deemed adulterated” from being transported out of the required specs is much different than testing for, and finding “actual” adulteration to the load. The latter appears to still be the legal standard for proving retribution for damages are warranted back to the shippers.


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