Aug 1, 2008 12:00 PM
Food safety is a pressing issue due to increasing concerns for threats to our country's food supply, ranging from e-coli contamination to domestic terrorism. Protecting the nation's food distribution network is essential to homeland security.
To be sure, there will be a continuation of ideas, regulations, and monitoring to insure the integrity of our food in the US and abroad.
For the transportation industry, food safety is paramount, because truckers and shippers carry the responsibility of transporting and delivering much of the food from the field, across the nation, and to local grocers and other retailers.
To get a feel for what the trucking industry is doing to help safeguard food products before they reach the supermarket, Refrigerated Transporter's editor-in-chief David A Kolman spoke with Doug Clark, president of Greatwide Freight Brokerage, a full-service freight brokerage operation with 18 offices throughout the US. It is a division of Dallas, Texas-based Greatwide Logistics Services, one of the nation's leading non-asset-based third-party logistics services company.
Clark currently serves as chairman of the Transportation Intermediaries Association, an organization that represents transportation intermediaries of all disciplines doing business in domestic and international commerce.
Question: Several years ago, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), through its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), issued Security Guidelines for Food Processors. These were intended to assist businesses engaged in the production and distribution of USDA-regulated foods in identifying ways to strengthen their food security protection.
The FSIS also issued Food Safety and Security Guidelines for the Transportation and Distribution of Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products, designed to assist small facilities and shippers handling these products. These guidelines provide a list of safety and security measures that may be taken to prevent contamination of meat, poultry, and egg products during loading and unloading, transportation, and in-transit storage.
Both of these guidelines are voluntary. Do you have a feel for acceptance by the trucking industry?
Answer: While the guidelines are voluntary, most shippers are acutely aware of maintaining food safety. With the recalls and loss of sales that come with any suggestion of compromise on the shipping end, shippers want to make certain their product is arriving at its destination in the same condition in which it was received by the carrier.
In most every manufacturing location, before any product loading, there is the requirement to “wash out” the trailer, plus checks of the cleanliness of trailers are being conducted.
Seals must remain intact, and it is common for a load to be rejected if the seals are broken. We have seen canned soda, still shrink wrapped, that had to be destroyed - at the carrier's expense - for a broken seal.
With the recent e-coli outbreak in California, food safety has become even more strenuous and a top priority.
Dole was affected last year when it was determined its spinach in its mixed salads was responsible for a few deaths and hundreds of illnesses. The cause was traced back to some runoff from some nearby dairy fields.
Since then, Dole now voluntarily barcodes all of its product from the shipping point. This allows the company to trace bad product immediately and pull it from the shelves.
The Grocery Manufacturing Association, the industry's largest trade group, has asked for more federal oversight of imported food and ingredients. It is lobbying Congress to provide more funds for the FDA toward a model regulation for farms and packing houses around the country.
As more buyers of ingredients, such as Coke and Kraft, begin to instill food safety requirements, growers, shippers, and manufacturers are looking to the US FDA to establish some model regulations so they don't have to comply with individual buyers requirements. They don't want to adhere to 50 standards, but that is what is happening.
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