Canadian shippers and carriers exporting food to the United States face a lot of changes in order to become compliant with the Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA), published last September. It includes the Final Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food, published this April by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Some portions of this Final Rule, which is subsumed under the FSMA, are still in the comment phase, but the compliance dates, which depend on the size of the company, begin this September.
Regardless of their current practices, shippers and carriers will have to up their game in several areas, including changes to trailer inspections, cleaning and construction, tarps, hazard analyses and record keeping.
The changes to the FSMA are wide-ranging, and there are rules within the Rule. For example, there is the rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food, which, according to the FDA, “… applies to shippers, receivers, loaders and carriers who transport food in the United States …” For Mexican and Canadian exporters to the U.S. it applies to truck and train transport. For other countries, it includes ship and air transport.
Another small-r rule is the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals. On this, the FDA writes, “It is a program that importers covered by the rule must have in place to verify that their foreign suppliers are producing food in a manner that provides the same level of public health protection as the preventive controls or produce safety regulations, …”
These changes have the common goal of keeping food safe. For example, vehicles and transportation must be designed and maintained to ensure food remains safe. The Rule covers transportation operations, such as temperature controls. It speaks to the protection of food from contamination, whether from other food or non-food items such as glass or wood splinters. Training, documentation and corrective actions are also specified.
One news item on the Final Rule has stated that the new regulations do not impact trucking directly, but this is incorrect. Yes, shippers are ultimately responsible for ensuring conformity to the new regulations, but their carriers will have to perform many specific chores if they want to keep working for any shipper subject to the Final Rule.
“… under the new rule, shippers will be responsible [for ensuring] that the shipment is OK. I will have to pass all of that on to my carriers: processes and procedures they will have to follow. Shippers will become a lot more thorough in making sure carriers meet the requirements,” says Todd Strickler, Manager, Logistics, North America, for Sanimax. “The FSMA has an entire section on the safe transport of food and feed.”
Sanimax is an international environmental solution provider for the agri-food industry, based in Montreal. It has 16 locations, including processing plants in Montreal, Hamilton and the U.S. It processes animal byproducts, such as carcasses, fat, bones, scrap meat, and used cooking oil. It produces powdered protein, used, for example, in pet food, and yellow grease, used in products such as soaps, cosmetics and lubricants.
Sanimax operates a 240-unit private fleet made up of a variety of vehicles, including vacuum trucks, straight trucks and tankers. Most upstream pick-up and delivery work is done by this private fleet, although a half-dozen for-hire carriers are involved. Downstream of their processing plants, the private fleet/for-hire percentage mix is about 20/80. Sanimax is orchestrating the changes in both its own fleet and the for-hire carriers it uses.
The changes that Sanimax is implementing are illustrative of what Canada’s food processing and transportation industries face.
(As a side note, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency- CFIA – reports that no new Canadian regulations have come into force yet this year related to processing, storing, shipping, or transporting food products within North America. “We expect that the proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part I in 2016, for formal consultations,” wrote CFIA to Canadian Shipper.)
That said, Strickler notes, “CFIA generally adopts the FDA rules. Our plan is to adapt to the FSMA rule, which will make us well prepared to be compliant on the Canadian side. Anything different about the Canadian ones shall be easy to adopt.”
Sanimax, because of its size, must be compliant by this September. But since it is responsible for the carriers it uses, even the smallest for-hire carrier, like farmers running loads for the company in their off season, must become compliant in lockstep.
Take, for example, the hazard analyses and food safety plans to mitigate risks that carriers must have in place. “What a carrier will need to do is provide us with a hazard analysis. Based on his operation, what are his potential risks? And [provide us with a] food safety plan to mitigate these risks,” Strickler says.
Sanimax is already improving documentation and following new timelines for retaining documents for activities in its plants, its private fleet and its for-hire carriers. For instance, Strickler has written a new affidavit for carriers to sign, showing that they understand the washing regulations.
“We are currently in the process of adding documents; for example, that wash procedure affidavit, any type of quality programs to make [sure] carriers are aware of the new rule. As we evolve into this new program there will be depth in quality and security as well,” Strickler says.
Industry-specific, at-risk carriers will have to start washing the outside of their trucks, as well as inside. Which carriers will be affected? “Pretty much any type of truck that has been to a slaughter facility or a farm … or a truck that will go to a feed mill or farm. [They] are the big ones,” Strickler says.
Shippers may decide that in order to be compliant to the Rule, they will require carriers to use food-grade trucks instead of chemical-grade trucks. “The comments and the draft of the rule show that the shipper decides what the risk is and how to mitigate it. It will always be up to the shipper and receiver to determine the hazard,” Strickler says.
In the case of Sanimax, one hazard it has identified and banned is wooden truck floors. Another is plastic liners, which it has eliminated because of the risk of material getting under them and potentially causing cross-contamination.
Carriers will have to revisit their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs. While the FDA is not permitted to quote HACCP, which is a voluntary and non-government accreditation program, the Rule, in effect, trumps HACCP. “The FDA requirement is to require every single hazard from every single point in the process be identified. Anyone who is following HACCP requirements has a good start, but they still have work to do,” Strickler explains.
There will be changes to how long documents will have to be retained, and even to who can work with them. “Under the new rule, documentation will apply to all food products, as opposed to just a few products today. Even Sanimax may have to outsource the documentation or hire someone to do it. The regulations specify that the documents have to be handled by a qualified person,” Strickler says.
The Rule will affect driver hiring and screening processes, with more background criminal record checks and stricter security.
Sanimax, because of its prior work, feels that it is already well along the road to meeting the new requirements. But for smaller carriers without control processes in place already, they face, as what Strickler termed it for one carrier, a “painful awareness.”
All this comes at a cost: between US$113 and $117 million a year, according to the FDA. As for the 10:1 rule of thumb for resizing anything that goes on in the US into Canadian terms, Strickler suggests, “In Canada I think it will be higher than $11 million.”