Food Safety and Modernization Act rules mean big changes for the fresh produce industry.

Signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011, the goal of the FSMA is to ensure food safety standards for fresh produce are continually met. But these new, complex compliance requirements may cause a lot of produce companies to outsource shipping logistics.

“The cost of putting new management systems in place, or hiring new personnel to manage new systems, can be a game changer,” said Corey Rosenbusch, president of the Global Cold Chain Alliance, Washington, D.C.

FSMA has four main regulatory themes — prevention, inspection and compliance, import safety, and partnerships (between the federal government and state governments, industry members and international bodies).

However, complying with the regulatory standards mapped out in FSMA is often costly.

One possible solution to this problem is for growers to rely on third-party logistics and cold storage providers.

“Wholesalers want to recycle equity into their own products, instead of costly logistics infrastructure, but 3PLs already have this infrastructure in place,” Rosenbusch said. “Our core competency is built around proper handling of food products which require specific temperatures.

“Sanitation, temperature control — these have been in place (at 3PLs) for decades.”

For example, traceability continues to be a concern in the produce industry. Retail customers now want to know the precise origin of the produce they stock. FSMA will include a rule for foreign supplier verification and third-party accreditation, set to be finalized on Oct. 31 of next year. But many third-party logistics suppliers have already independently met these requirements.

“With the Produce Traceability Initiative, each shipment now essentially comes with a stream of data,” said John McGuire, general manager fresh produce, Lineage Logistics.

“Traceability requirements are inherent in many supply chain management systems,” said Rosenbusch. “It’s managed from producers to retailers, and it’s all becoming very sophisticated. You can tell where it’s from, what temperature it was stored at, if it changed temperature at all during shipping, for how long, etc.”

As the cost and complexity of logistics increases, many companies choose to rely on third-party logistics providers. These companies not only often already meet FSMA regulations, but also can spread transportation costs over a wider business network.

“(By using 3PLs) you’ll have a lot less headaches than doing it yourself,” Rosenbusch said.