FSMA Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food (STF) Rule: What Shippers Must Know.

April 28, 2017

As of April 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be fully enforcing the latest regulations regarding the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food (STF) rule. The Act, which was passed by congress and signed by the President recently went into law.

The FSMA Act is focused on improving the safety of food and the supply chain. The sanitary transportation rule, which is part of FSMA, is more focused on transportation or the trucking aspect of the supply chain.


What does this new rule mean for shippers? How will it affect the way we ship food? 

For starters, shippers will now have much more of a legal responsibility. To ensure the food is kept safe, shippers must provide a maintenance of records to loaders and carriers. These records are written procedures, agreements and training. The retention time for these records depends upon the type of record and when the covered transaction occurred, but typically will never exceed a 12-month period.

There’s bound to be plenty of new challenges that arise because of this new rule, however, the biggest challenge might be a lack of knowledge from the shipper’s standpoint. 

Below, we’ve outlined some of the key concepts shippers should be aware of with the new FSMA sanitary transportation STF rule.


Who’s responsible?

The rule is being implemented to improve the safety of food while it’s in transportation over the road by truck or by rail. Essentially, anyone who is involved in the transportation of human and animal food can be held accountable, including:

  • Shippers
  • Loaders
  • Receivers
  • Carriers

Shippers are required to have written policies and procedures in place for their products. Likewise, carriers must have policies and procedures on how to handle instructions from the shipper.


Compliance dates.

With the STF rule in place, the FDA is better able to regulate practices that improve the transportation of food products. Refrigeration, cleaning of equipment, and the protection of food are now all liable for inspection. However, some businesses, particularly small businesses, may need additional time to fully comply with the new standards.

The rule starts April 2017 with large shippers and carriers, followed by mid-size shippers and carriers in April 2018, while small carriers and small businesses being exempt from the rule. 

However, most shippers are expecting compliance by April 2017. The rule is believed to be a reflection of best practices in the industry so companies aren’t expecting a major impact.


What type of products fall under this rule?

The FSMA STF rule directly applies to all human and animal food commodities that is considered open to air or open to the environment. Lots of produce and items such as apples and potatoes fall under this rule.

It’s important to note that the rule does differentiate temperature-controlled items depending on their need for quality versus safety. Products like chocolate and canned drinks that are temperature controlled for quality (instead of safety) would not be subject to this rule as long as they remain in closed containers.


Know your equipment.

Now more than ever, it’s vital for shippers to stay up to date and educated on the type of transportation equipment they’re using. It will now become the shipper’s responsibility to ensure the materials are kept in sanitary condition and are easy to clean when need be. Some equipment may require specific procedures when cleaning so as not to contaminate the food.

Carriers under the rule will really be required for first and foremost having written policies and procedures around how they’re going to handle the instructions given to them by their shippers. Additionally, carriers are going to need to train their employees on general sanitary practices and of course, the processes and procedures they’ve created and developed.


New training procedures.

In accordance with the new rule, carriers must train personnel on the latest food safety regulations. Drivers, in particular, must learn the correct way to safely handle food shipments. Make sure your team is up to date on the latest training.


Will there be changes to the industry?

Even though the STF rule has been put in place, don’t expect the requirements to be any significant change in the industry. The FDA and the roll out of the rule made a very clear point that they do not see a lot of material change that needs to happen relative to safety of food in transit in the United States. The FDA is looking at this as a restatement of best practices in the industry.


What should shippers be considering?

Shippers should really be thinking about their supply chains, the products that they’re shipping, the products they’re offering to their motor carriers, and trying to define and understand if the rule is applicable to their product. If they haven’t yet, shippers should be communicating with their carriers what their hauling standards are for that product, making sure that they’re starting to develop them and they’re getting those procedures and those expectations in writing and defined out to their motor carriers to ensure compliance.

But again, most shippers have already been doing that with their suppliers so it’s not believed to be that impactful and most people should have already done this as current best practices.


Final thoughts.

Freightquote by C.H. Robinson customers and contract carriers should be reaching out to their individual reps to talk through the rules and expectations. Freightquote has already taken the time to get our employees up to speed with internal trainings on the rule, how we’re implementing it, what the rule means to them, and again, their customers and contract carriers.

If you’re still unsure how the FSMA STF rule will impact your business, contact an expert at Freightquote today.


Do you have a shipment to book?

Get Free Quotes

Image Credit: iStock


Get Your Shipping Quote