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Feb. 2014

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FEBRUARY 2014 COOL CARGOES 26 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE www.joc.com For most, the proposed rules already are part of standard practice, but does the agency have the resources to enforce them? By Stephanie Nall T RANSPORTATION COMPANIES SOON may have new food safety regulations to fol- low in hauling foodstuffs in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration's pro- posed regulations would require motor carriers and railroads to use what are now considered industry best practice standards. The FDA met its court-ordered deadline, producing the final set of proposed rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act on Jan. 31. At first glance, the rules provide no surprises. The FDA was first told by Congress to regulate food cargo movement in the Sanitary Transportation Act of 2005. That law was then included in the umbrella food safety act signed into law in January 2011. The proposed rules require carriers, ship- pers and receivers of food intended for animals and humans to use proper refrigeration during shipment, thoroughly clean containers, trailers or railcars between shipments, ensure that food shipments are properly segregated from non- food shipments, maintain adequate records, and provide proper training for employees. In a blog on www.fda.gov, the FDA seems to acknowledge there is no rampant problem in food transportation. "This is an important part of the food handling process, one that can introduce contamination even after proper safe- guards have been taken by the food producers and processors," Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medi- cine, wrote. "Truthfully, it's uncommon for a foodborne illness to be caused by contamina- tion during transportation. But we have received reports of unsanitary practices, and we want to minimize this potential source of illness." "Any company that is caught off-guard by the transportation regulations or any other part of the food safety act is hiding down in the weeds right now," added Mark FeDuke, director of trade compliance for VLM Foods in Quebec. "Responsible stakeholders in the industry are already doing much of what is required, if not going beyond the requirements." He said most of the industry is anxious for the regulations to take effect so that everyone is oper- ating on the same playing field, and to get unsafe and irresponsible companies out of business. Although the regulations don't appear to be controversial in the U.S., FeDuke said some trad- ing partners might challenge rules they believe impinge on their own regulations. The transportation regulations will apply to any foreign entity that ships food to the U.S. in an international freight container by ocean or air and arranges for the transfer of the intact con- tainer onto a motor or rail vehicle for the food's distribution or consumption in the U.S. The rules will not apply to: l Shippers, receivers or carriers that do less than $500,000 worth of business a year. l Transportation of fully packaged shelf-sta- ble foods, live food animals, compressed food gases or raw agricultural commodities when transported by farms. l Food transshipped through the U.S. to another country or imported for future export and is not consumed or distributed in the U.S. While the rules themselves seem noncontro- versial, a fight over implementation of the food safety law is brewing on Capitol Hill. During an oversight hearing in the House this month, Tay- lor said that while the FDA has the resources to draft, propose and finalize all of the major rules, it doesn't have the funding required to implement and enforce the food safety law. "We will continue efforts to make the best use of the resources we have, but simply put, we cannot achieve FDA's vision of a modern food safety system and a safer food supply without a significant increase in resources," Taylor said in his written statement to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The FDA isn't only seeking increased rev- enue from the general fund, but also the power to assess user fees to the industry. The Obama administration's budget request asks Congress to allow the FDA to collect reg- istration fees for domestic and foreign food facilities — revenue estimated at $59 million a year. The budget also calls for a second set of fees on imports that would bring in an estimated $166 million annually. As in past years, the request brought a prompt challenge from the industry. More than 50 indus- try groups have sent a joint letter to Congress and the FDA, calling the user fees a "food tax" that will hurt industry and consumers. CC Contact Stephanie Nall at stephnalljoc@gmail.com. FDA SETS TRANSPORT REGULATIONS

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