Checking the headlines this morning, I found some buzz about the issue of hot trucks delivering perishable food. This July coverage of the issue from WTHR in Indiana may have spurred Today show coverage.

From that report:

Health inspectors believe high gas prices are making matters worse. Refrigeration units on food trucks require lots of fuel to operate, and turning the units off during transport can result in huge savings for truck drivers – with little risk. Turning the refrigeration unit back on for just the last 40 minutes of a long haul can bring warm food items down to legally-required temperatures in time for delivery, according to Boone County environmental health specialist Dave Drinan.

A recent follow up report by WTHR 13 said things were getting worse.

Perhaps even more scary, 13 Investigates discovered most food trucks never get inspected because of a major loophole.  Health inspectors are not allowed to stop a moving food truck to inspect it. State motor carrier inspectors can pull a truck over, but if they find dangerous food inside, they have no authority to do anything about it.

State Police want the current system to change, and the fix may need to come from Washington. 

To change the nation's motor carrier regulations would require either a new law from Congress or a new rule from the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Those options will be discussed next week, when Andrews takes the issue to a national conference of motor carrier regulators and trucking industry executives.  Andrews has delivered a "request for action" to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance ahead of its upcoming national conference in Austin, TX. The group has an important voice in initiating changes to the federal motor carrier enforcement laws, and Andrews will present the hot trucks problem to one of CVSA's technical committees in the hopes of gaining support.  

 

TK: Meanwhile, the Today show coverage generated responses from the FDA, American Trucking Association, National Restaurant Association and International Food Service Distributors Association. All of them are totally predictable.

 

Here is an excerpt from  January comments by the Center for Science in the Public Interest about the implementation of the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005:


Mandatory HACCP systems will require all of the industry participants in the food transportation and storage chain to accept responsibility for food safety. Effective HACCP plans with appropriate oversight will provide the best control of the hazards inherent in the transportation and storage process. FSIS reported that food safety protection can be improved by the "control of hazards" through, among other things, 21 a HACCP system "throughout the food production and distribution chain."

While opponents of a HACCP system for transportation will argue that it is complicated, the critical control points are limited and simple, including 1) inspecting the trailer before loading; 2) ensuring that all food products are 40° F or below prior to loading; 3) properly loading the trailer; 4) ensuring that the trailer's refrigeration equipment is properly working; 5) monitoring the temperature during transit; and 6) ensuring that food products are refrigerated promptly after unloading.

Additionally, all HACCP programs must be combined with mandatory temperature parformance standards and sanitation requirements, and must be both validated and verified through use of recording thermometers. Transportation HACCP systems must be recorded and reviewable by the appropriate government agency."

 

The trucking industry is pushing back against regulation and pointing a finger at conditions on produce docks. Check out these comments from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. From the comment: "The likelihood of contaminated food is greatest at shipping and receiving facilities. Accordingly, unsanitary conditions at shipping and receiving docks should be a primary focus of FDA's efforts."

Check out this powerful comment from Progreso Produce on this issue. That comment asks; in  these days of third party audits and regulation, why is the transportation industry exempt?

"Saying that a packing shed or driver did a visual inspection and everything was in good shape just won't get it anymore."

Hot trucks and hot truckers - we haven't seen the last of them, no doubt.