Legal Lane: Food Safety Modernization Act
June 1, 2012
Another new law that will increase regulation of trucking is now in effect. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has been sent to the Department of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) so they may write new regulations to increase the tracking and regulation of all food shipments.
This new law is a reaction to the problems the country has had with outbreaks of ecoli bacterial infections in our food. Remember the problems we had back in 2011 with the contaminated hamburger meat, turkey, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, peanuts and who can forget the eggs; well you get the picture. Many people got sick and had to be hospitalized and some even died from eating contaminated food. Some of this food was imported but mostly the problem food was from within our own country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) one in six people in the United States suffer from food-borne illness each year. Of course that number includes the family that lets the mayonnaise set in the sun at the family picnic as well as food contaminated in the field, during transportation and in food preparation. One is six is 16% of the population. Considering our population was 312,983,000 in 2011 that would tell us that 5,007,728 people were made sick by the food they ate. That’s a lot of people and it could be me or you, but those are just the one they could verify. Estimates of up to 48,000,000 illnesses per year may be connected to food contamination also known as food poisoning. Government identifies a problem and makes a new law with regulations to help stop that problem.
The FSMA concept is better handle producing, processing, transporting and preparing food to reduce the contamination and reduce from the 5,000,000 people who got sick last year. The new FMSA law is designed to be proactive rather than reactive as we have been in the past. The following is some of the more important provisions:
- Food facilities must have a written preventive controls plan that spells out the possible problems that could affect the safety of their products. This plan would outline steps that a food facility would take to prevent or significantly minimize the likelihood of those problems occurring.
- FDA must establish science-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables. These standards must consider not only man-made risks to fresh produce safety, but also naturally-occurring hazards—such as those posed by the soil, animals, and water in the growing area.
- FDA is directed to increase the frequency of inspections. High-risk domestic facilities must receive an initial inspection within the next five years and no less than every three years after that. During the next year, FDA must inspect at least 600 foreign food facilities and double the number of those inspections every year for the next five years. With the availability of resources, FDA will build the inspection capacity to meet these important goals.
- FDA is authorized to mandate a recall of unsafe food if the food company fails to do it voluntarily. The law also provides a more flexible standard for administrative detention (the procedure FDA uses to keep suspect food from being moved); allows FDA to suspend the registration of a food facility associated with unsafe food, thereby preventing it from distributing food; and directs the agency to improve its ability to track both domestic and imported foods.
All of this sounds good for me and you at mealtime, but how will this affect those of you who haul food in your trucks? The new law has a few requirements for FDA and HHS who will be writing regulations for transportation of food. I would imagine the DOT will also get their hand into the regulation writing. Here are a couple of directions for the new FSMA regulations:
- Section 111 requires the Health and Human Services secretary to “promulgate regulations on sanitary transportation practices for the transportation of food,” and also requires the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) “to conduct a study on the transportation of food, including the unique needs of rural and frontier areas.”
- Section 204 requires the Health and Human Services secretary to “improve tracking and tracing of processed foods and fruits and vegetables that are raw agricultural commodities in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak; and establish standards for the type of information, format, and time frame for persons to submit records to aid the secretary in such tracking and tracing.”
Looks like you food haulers will have more paperwork and greater inspections waiting for you. The new regulations for you are not written, YET. It makes me wonder if food loads will become like a hazmat loads. Will you need a placard that will be designated for FOOD, will you be required to remain with your vehicle like a load of explosives, how will your bill of lading change to assist in tracking the food and of course will your responsibility increase as well as your punishment if you “endanger” a load of food? I don/t know, but I do know I do not want to get food poisoning so make sure you follow the new regulations and protect our food.
Jim C. Klepper is President of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation’s commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the forty-eight (48) states on both moving and non-moving violations. Jim is also president of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at greatly discounted rates. Jim, a former prosecutor, is also a registered pharmacist, with considerable experience in alcohol and drug related cases. He is a lawyer that has focused on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking and life over-the-road and has his Commercial Drivers License.
800-333-DRIVE (3748) or www.interstatetrucker.com and www.driverslegalplan.com