should be cleaned.
Many carriers that are hauling dry freight in a refrigerated trailer get a washout
only if they are contractually required to do so. Drivers and dispatchers tend to
focus only on the type of prior cargo, which disregards other problems such as potential contamination from forklift wheels or loaders/lumpers who are moving in
and out of a trailer without considering the cleanliness or sanitary condition of their
This “dirty” discussion will be broadened in the next section, but for now, it is
important to use the “clean” equipment example as an area where best practices may
fall short of what the STR seeks to accomplish.
Misunderstanding #3: Focus on the Wrong Question
As mentioned above, the issue of “clean and sanitary” may need some clarification. But this area is indicative of a larger potential point of contention that is frequently raised during a discussion with both food and transportation industry members. A common objection from both sides is that there is not a published instance
of a foodborne illness related to a food transportation incident.
The STR is designed to prevent practices that create food safety risks during transportation. The rule generally refers to types of risks, mostly in three areas, which are
cleanliness of equipment, cross-contamination, and temperature abuse in foods that
require temperature control to keep them safe.
But outside the obvious risks such as visibly dirty trailers, extreme transit temperatures, or dangerous exposure of unprotected food to various sources, there is a
very limited factual basis from which more substantive and thorough transportation
practices can be defined and incorporated into food safety transportation rules.
Therefore, the question should be, “If there is a possibility of bacteria, an al-
lergen, or even insects in a trailer due to prior cargo, an inadequate trailer washout,
or because the doors of the trailer were left open for a time, what will we require to
ensure that this trailer is actually clean and sanitary?”
The above question is specific to Section 1.906 in the STR, but the analysis and
careful consideration of a company’s protocols and procedures are the same for each
section of the rule. A true best practice would be to encourage a company to ask the
correct questions that apply to each section so that in the end, a company develops
a reasonable and effective plan.
Misunderstanding #4: Risky Assumptions
Amelia Bedelia seemed completely unaware of the potential consequences of her
actions, almost as though she was so certain that her choices were spot-on that she
would ultimately be immune to unfortunate outcomes. Getting fired didn’t cross
her mind, and some of her stunts were downright dangerous!
It is interesting to talk to different company representatives from both the food
and transportation industries about the likelihood of strict enforcement and its subsequent consequences. In certain industries such as fresh produce, people are very
much aware of the seriousness of complying with the STR. In the transportation
sector, as mentioned previously, there are some companies that are investing time,
money, and whatever else is necessary to make sure that all aspects of food safety are
covered in their organizations.
While published instances of STR enforcement are scant, similar to documented
cases of transportation causing foodborne illness outbreaks, this should not be the
basis for ignoring FDA’s express intent to ensure compliance. In Response 19 in the
text of the STR, FDA details its obligation and possible means of enforcement.
The Department of Justice has also made public its intent to use criminal pros-
ecutions in some instances to enforce regulations such as the STR to protect the
public from wrongdoing. It is common knowledge now that several large legal cases
have been heard and decided that individuals holding executive positions could be
held liable for actions of their employ-
The question then becomes one of
opportunity. What are some of the ways
that FDA might investigate questionable transportation practices?
Coming from the produce transportation industry, two common situations, if improperly managed, could
lead to unwanted scrutiny.
The first instance could happen with
a questionable delivery. This very topic
could be lengthy and involved, so for
purposes of this article, it is probably
sufficient to say that it is a very short
period before red flags start waving
when a load arrives hot, cold, late, damaged, and/or missing product.
A second instance involves a DOT
inspection. Carriers know that a small
infraction can quickly roll into a serious problem. Something simple such
as a malfunctioning light can attract
the wrong kind of attention. In the rule
itself, FDA states (Response 19) that it
intends to follow up on DOT issues
that suggest unsafe food transportation
Sustainability and the Steps
toward Compliance with STR
Driving along the foothills in the
Salinas Valley, one sees signs posted at
the edges of the vineyards that say “SIP
[Sustainability in Practice] Certified.”
By being SIP certified, the growers and
winemakers in this region have commit-
ted to a high level of business practices
that ensure the best outcomes for their
people, their profits, and the land they
depend on to produce quality wines.
Wine consumers traveling these
country roads see these signs and know
that SIP certified means that the wines
they drink from that vineyard have
been produced by people who believe
in the value of meaningful best practices.
The STR produces mixed reactions
among its stakeholders, but more often
than not, people who are now required
to comply consider it a necessary evil
rather than an opportunity to increase
food safety and sustainability.
But what would happen if compa-