Coverage of “hot” trucks may move Food and Drug Administration regulation of the transportation sector to the front burner.
After a recent “TODAY” show segment exposing food temperature violations in food delivery trucks stopped by police in Indiana, public attention increased.
Don Kraemer, acting deputy director of operations for FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in October at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Public Policy Conference that while the sanitary transportation regulation will lag behind some of the other Food Safety Modernization Act rulemaking — notably the produce safety rule for farms and the preventive control regulation for packinghouses — it will get done. He said the regulation will include transportation of food products, but also address shippers and receivers.
The FDA has previously issued voluntary guidelines on the issue.
Food safety regulation of the transportation sector is overdue, said Tommy Chase, transportation manager with Progreso Produce Ltd., Boerne, Texas.
“I think the government needs to step in and do something,” he said, “Everything else in the produce industry is regulated as far as food safety.”
Chase said there are no restrictions about what kinds of loads truckers can handle, nor is there any requirement that trucks sanitize trailers to prevent cross contamination.
“We are farmers and we know from the time we plant to the time we harvest it and pack it that everything is good until the time somebody pulls up in a truck that we don’t have any control of,” he said. “If something happens, whoever looks at a truck?”
While he acknowledged truckers are stressed by costs and additional regulation may drive some from the business, Chase said all parts of the supply chain need to be accountable. Chase also believes there should also be greater screening of truck drivers to prevent terror threats to the food supply.
Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers, said he believes California and Arizona shippers are focused on sanitation and pre-inspection for the for the trucks they use.
“The last thing we want to do is load an inappropriate vehicle,” he said.
McInerney said that if trucks are unsanitary, shippers will refuse to load them.
A spokesman for a group representing independent truckers hopes that FDA doesn’t act without becoming more informed about transportation issues.
Joe Rajkovacz, regulator affairs specialist with the Grain Valley, Mo.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said recent media reports about “hot trucks” carrying perishable food are mainly short-haul smaller trucks serving ethnic foodservice operators.
“Certainly what is going on in Indiana does put a black eye on part of the industry, but the police never found the same issues with long haul trucks coming out of California,” he said.