In 2011, President Barak Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act, making it one of the most significant food safety laws in over seven decades. The law shifted the focus from responding to food contamination incidents to proactively preventing them. Food safety is a vital consideration during harvesting, manufacturing, and packaging processes. An element of equal importance is the quality of storage conditions in regard to transportation. With so many modes of transportation carrying foods with different refrigeration requirements, temporary climate control is essential to preventing dangerous contamination.
Food Transportation Safety Requirements
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires shippers, receivers, loaders, and carriers that transport food into the United States on boats, trains, aircraft, and vehicles to follow the requirements outlined in the FSMA. The requirements include:
- Training workers on safe food transportation practices
- Using transportation equipment and vehicles that are designed to be safe for food, easily maintained, and capable of maintaining safe temperatures for the food it carries
- Taking steps to ensure food safety, such as not allowing ready-to-eat goods to touch raw meat, and monitoring temperature controls
- Keeping records of employee training, written procedures, and agreements regarding temperature monitoring
- Shippers are responsible for ensuring proper temperature controls and sanitation for food transported in railcars
- Loaders must maintain appropriate sanitation and temperature controls for food products stored on-site
Exceptions to the FDA’s FSMA transportation regulations include:
- Transportation activities by farms
- Receivers, shippers, and carriers that earn less than $500,000 in average annual revenue
- Human food byproducts transported for use as animal food
- Foods that don’t require temperature controls if transported in completely enclosed containers
While some entities are exempt from the FDA’s regulations, farms and operations that don’t meet revenue thresholds should still take precautions to ensure proper sanitation and appropriate storage temperatures, as outlined by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, to prevent contamination.
The Need for Temporary Climate Control in Food Transportation
In 2003, conservative estimates showed that transportation-related food safety failures in the U.S. cost $2 billion per year, not including societal or public health impacts. Poor regulation of temperatures during transportation poses the most significant threat to food safety.
When refrigerated at temperatures of 40°F or below, perishable foods are more microbiologically stable. Refrigeration temperature is a balancing act that affects food quality. While cooler temperatures make food more microbiologically stable, it could lead to accidental freezing or chilling injuries. Higher temperatures may increase water losses in some foods, thus decreasing their quality. In produce, for example, higher temperatures increase respiration rates, which deplete stored carbohydrates and hasten rot. In addition to considering the temperatures of transportation containers, loaders must determine if food pre-cooling is necessary before refrigerated transportation, particularly for perishable items, such as freshly harvested produce.
Humidity control is also important during transportation because arid conditions could cause water losses, making food vulnerable to mold and decay. When a container does not have temporary climate control systems that regulate relative humidity levels, a producer may need to use special packaging materials to maintain the food’s integrity. In marine vessels, humidity controls are essential to promoting adequate ventilation and preventing the buildup of CO2 levels as food respires in enclosed containers.
Many food safety issues often stem from climate control problems during the transportation process. When a container or storage area lacks adequate mechanical refrigeration, the temporary climate control systems that Polygon custom designs make it simple and convenient to adjust temperatures, humidity levels, and ventilation based on the types of goods stored. The systems proactively maximize the shelf life of consumables while reducing financial losses and ensuring consumer safety. Talk to a specialist at Polygon today to learn more about how temporary climate control can enhance your facility’s compliance with FSMA regulations and improve the quality of its transportation services.