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The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is transforming the nation’s food safety system by implementing best practices and requirements designed to prevent foodborne illnesses in consumers. Many of the FSMA provisions relate directly to the supply chain and keeping food and beverage products safe, fresh and enjoyable.

Here are eight things those within the supply chain need to know about FSMA:

Best Practices Apply

Under the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule within FSMA, shippers and carriers involved in transporting human and animal food must follow recognized best practices, such as protecting food during transportation, properly refrigerating it and cleaning vehicles between loads. The rule applies to foods transported in bulk (such as milk), packaged foods not fully enclosed in a container (such as fresh produce), and foods that require temperature controls for safety.

Shippers Hold the Most Responsibility

The primary responsibility for determining appropriate transportation operations rests with shippers, but they may rely on contractual agreements to assign some of these responsibilities to other parties. Specifically:

  • Shippers must develop and implement written procedures to ensure that equipment and vehicles are in appropriate hygienic condition.
  • Shippers of food transported in bulk must develop and implement written procedures to ensure that previous cargo does not make food unsafe.
  • Shippers of foods that require temperature control for safety must develop and implement written procedures to ensure that food is transported under adequate temperature control.

Requires Strict Procedures and Record-Keeping

As part of FSMA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires carriers to develop and implement written procedures subject to record-keeping that outline practices for cleaning, sanitizing and inspecting vehicles and transportation equipment used to transport food. Carriers must keep records of their processes that prevent contamination and ensure all training requirements are met. They must also maintain written procedures and records related to equipment cleaning, prior cargoes and temperature control for up to 12 months.

The Ability to Track-and-Trace Is Essential

Under FSMA, those within the supply chain must be able to track and trace products in the event of a recall. Utilizing warehouse management systems, transportation management systems and GPS monitoring can help pinpoint the exact location of food products quickly.

Temperatures Are Critical

When food requires specific temperature parameters, vehicles and transportation equipment must be able to provide adequate temperature control. The shipper and carrier can agree to a temperature-monitoring mechanism for foods within the trailer or truck body, and carriers must provide temperature-related documentation. If a covered person or company at any point in the supply chain becomes aware of a possible temperature failure or condition that could make food unsafe, the food cannot be sold or distributed until it is determined to be safe.

Supply Chain Partners Must Share Information

FSMA establishes procedures for exchanging information about prior cargoes, cleaning of transportation equipment and temperature control between the shipper, carrier and receiver.

Training Is Required

Training of carrier personnel, even temporary employees, in healthy transportation practices is required as part of FSMA when the carrier and shipper agree that the carrier is responsible for clean conditions during transport. What’s more, training must be documented and available for inspection.

There Are New Requirements on the Horizon

While FSMA has been around for years, the FDA continues to roll out new requirements. One of the latest, the Food Traceability Rule, mandates additional traceability record-keeping requirements for certain foods and takes effect on Jan. 20, 2026. Also, in January 2023, the FDA released new guidance on the requirements for a foreign supplier verification to ensure food imported into the United States meets applicable requirements, is not adulterated and does not have misbranded allergen labeling.

It's essential for those working with food to be current on the latest requirements and best practices. Penske Logistics has earned Cold Carrier Certification, adding to its strategic approach to safety. The certification, which is the first of its kind, recognizes cold trucking carrier companies that comply with the Refrigerated Transportation Best Practices Guide from the Global Cold Chain Alliance, a trade association representing all major industries engaged in temperature-controlled logistics. Additionally, Penske associates undergo regular training to ensure food safety.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued new requirements for additional traceability records for certain foods, ranging from nut butters to cut veggies to shrimp, under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The requirements, which take effect on Jan. 20, 2026, create new traceability record keeping requirements beyond those in existing regulations for certain foods. All entities in the supply chain will be subject to the Food Traceability Rule.

The FDA said the changes, which require entities to share information with others in the supply chain, will allow for faster identification and rapid removal of potentially contaminated food from the market, resulting in fewer foodborne illnesses and/or deaths.

The list of foods includes some cheeses, eggs, certain vegetables, including cucumbers and leafy greens, some fruits, including melons and tropical tree fruits, fresh-cut fruit and veggies, some fish, nut butters, and ready-to-eat deli salads, such as egg salad, potato salad, pasta salad and seafood salads.

In preparation for the new requirements, which are less than three years away, it’s essential to start evaluating current warehouse management system (WMS) capabilities now to be best prepared for the near future. Since traceability in our food supply chain is essential to providing better service to our customers and end consumers, and a detailed record-keeping system is important for all the foods we handle in our food chain, making updates now will lead to a seamless transition when the new requirements become mandatory.

Key Data Elements and Critical Tracking Events

As part of the rule, those who manufacture, process, pack or hold foods on the Food Traceability List (FTL), must maintain and provide to their supply chain partners specific information — called Key Data Elements (KDEs) — for certain Critical Tracking Events (CTEs), in the food’s supply chain.

For example, if a distribution center (DC) receives the repacked fresh cucumbers from a produce processor, it must keep records on the receiving KDEs of the fresh cucumbers. Since the DC will be shipping the cucumbers to a retail store, it must maintain KDEs related to the shipping of the cucumbers to the next point in the supply chain, the retailer. The DC must also send the KDEs to the retailer.

Records must be kept regarding where the shipping event began and where it ended, meaning where the food was received. Still, the FDA said it is unnecessary to have records of the food's route, including any instances where it may have been moved from one carrier to another. Also, for cross-docking situations where food is arranged for transport from point A to point B but is briefly placed on a loading dock at point X at the DC to be transferred from one truck to another, records don’t need to be kept for point X.

Key Data Elements for those receiving food include:

  • Traceability lot code for the food
  • Quantity and unit of measure of the food
  • Product description for the food
  • Location description for the immediate previous source (other than a transporter) for the food
  • Location description for where the food was received
  • Date the food was received
  • Location description for the traceability lot code source or the traceability lot code source reference
  • Reference document type and reference document number

Key Data Elements (to maintain and provide) for those shipping food include:
  • Traceability lot code for the food
  • Quantity and unit of measure of the food
  • Product description for the food
  • Location description for the immediate subsequent recipient (other than a transporter) for the food
  • Location description for the location from which the food was shipped
  • Date the food was shipped
  • Location description for the traceability lot code source or the traceability lot code source reference
  • Reference document type and reference document number (maintain only)

Traceability Plan

All parties covered by the rule must create a traceability plan, and several are specific to those holding the food, such as a DC. The plan must include a description of the procedures used to maintain the required records, including the format and location of the records. It also needs to have a description of the procedures used to identify foods on the FTL and a statement identifying a point of contact for questions regarding the traceability plan and records. Traceability plans must be updated as needed to ensure the information reflects current practices and previous traceability plans must be maintained for two years after an update.

The Importance of Equipment, Technology and Training

There are several layers to the FSMA, which was signed into law in early 2011, and several requirements apply to the transportation and storing of food. All parties in the supply chain need to ensure they’re complying with current requirements and prepared to meet upcoming compliance dates.

FSMA includes requirements surrounding vehicles and transportation equipment, which must be “adequately cleanable” to allow the sanitary transport of food and “must be stored in a manner that prevents harborage of pests or becoming contaminated in any other manner that could result in food becoming adulterated.”

The ability to track and trace products is at the heart of several requirements, making the right WMS a vital resource. Tier 1 systems provide information on where products are stored and have embedded algorithms that can find ways to maximize productivity and the movement of product in and out of the warehouse.

It is also important for those transporting and storing food to be current on the latest requirements and best practices. Penske Logistics has earned Cold Carrier Certification, adding to its strategic approach to safety. The certification, which is the first of its kind, recognizes cold trucking carrier companies that comply with the Refrigerated Transportation Best Practices Guide from the Global Cold Chain Alliance, a trade association representing all major industries engaged in temperature-controlled logistics. Additionally, Penske associates undergo regular training to ensure food safety.

Foods on the Traceability List

Foods that will be subject to greater requirements in 2026 include:

  • Cheeses, other than hard cheeses
  • Shell eggs
  • Nut butters
  • Cucumbers
  • Herbs (fresh)
  • Leafy greens (fresh and fresh cut)
  • Melons
  • Peppers
  • Sprouts
  • Tomatoes
  • Tropical tree fruits
  • Fruits (fresh cut)
  • Vegetables (fresh cut)
  • Finfish
  • Smoked finfish
  • Crustaceans
  • Molluscan shellfish, bivalves
  • Ready-to-eat salads

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“As the relevance of the end-to-end supply concept continues to advance, it has become clear that the quality of relationships between 3PLs and shippers is a valuable component of overall supply chain success,” according to the report, which was sponsored by Penske Logistics.

Dr. John Langley, a Penn State University supply chain professor and the founder of the Third-Party Logistics Study, wrote within the report that shippers continue to leverage what logistics service providers offer, and this facilitates optimization of the supply chain, minimization of costs and creation of value. Here are three ways logistics service providers are adding value to their customers.

Logistics Service Providers Drive Efficiency

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There has been a continuation of the most frequently outsourced activities, which tend to be those that are more transactional, operational and repetitive, Langley wrote. The most prevalent activities shippers outsource is domestic transportation (69%), freight forwarding (60%), international transportation (52%) and customs brokerage (51%).

Technology Provided by a Logistics Service Provider

The 2023 Third-Party Logistics Study highlighted once again how important it is for logistics service providers to provide a range of IT-based services to help create value for their shipper customers. Shippers are increasingly aware that if they do not have the technological capabilities to accomplish their goals, they should partner with those that do.

Technology is increasing at a rapid pace and 65% of shippers stated that their expectations have been increasing, while 78% of 3PLs believe that shipper expectations have increased in regard to the technology solutions they offer.

Shippers appear to be becoming more confident in 3PLs’ technology offerings. Execution and transaction-based technologies tended to increase over the previous year, including transportation management-planning (62%), transportation management-scheduling (57%) and warehouse/distribution center management (48%), according to the study.

The majority of shippers — 94% — agree that IT capabilities are a necessary element of 3PL expertise, and 56% of shippers agree they are satisfied with logistics service providers’ IT capabilities, which the study identifies as the “IT Gap.”

Access to Analytics is Critical

As the amount of available data increases, shippers and their logistics partners will need to be able to take the available information and make it relevant. Many logistics service providers are already making significant investments in technology that allow them to analyze shippers’ operations. Nearly half of shipper respondents (48%) said advanced analytics and data mining tools are a “must have” information technology.

Various studies have documented the need for analytics to improve business planning and operations, and a number of these have focused specifically on applications and implications for supply chains and the key processes implied therein, Dr. Langley said.

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“Plants may have experience starting up after a summer or holiday shutdown, but an unexpected shutdown, such as COVID-19, creates a unique situation,” said Andy Moses, senior vice president of sales and solutions for Penske Logistics. "During the pandemic, some companies experienced a six-to-eight-week cessation of production, and their transportation providers and suppliers have also been experiencing turmoil."

Companies can embrace these five tips for restarting the supply chain after any type of shutdown.

1. Examine Your Carrier Base

When there is an extreme disruption carriers may be affected as well. The lack of cash flow some carriers are experiencing is going to affect the carrier base. Moses recommends companies examine their carrier base and, if possible, do a financial analysis. “If that isn’t in your procurement group’s sweet spot, the right 3PL can help,” he said. “Identify those companies that might be troubled and set up meetings to have frank discussions.”

By working together, shippers and their transportation partners can find ways to address cash flow issues. “In extraordinary times, extraordinary measures may be needed,” Moses said. “That could be changing the payment terms to seven days from 30 days. It is something to consider as a good partner.”

What’s more, if a carrier declares bankruptcy, a shipper may have to spot-buy a lane until it can resource it, and typically spot rates increase when capacity tightens. “It might be smarter to work with that carrier on cash flow issues rather than not,” he said.

As part of the conversation, shippers should examine the whole book of business they have with a carrier. "It could be that, of the 25 lanes they have with you, five are unprofitable, but they took them as part of the bundle. You could discuss altering those,” Moses said. “Have a collaborative attitude so you can help each other."

2. Assess Your Supply Base

The question of financial health also applies to the supply base. “During COVID-19, many companies hadn’t seen cash flow for two months,” Moses said. “If that situation happens, have open conversations with them to try to collaborate and create an environment where both companies can survive and thrive.”

Ports worldwide continue to see disruptions, and companies need to be aware of any cargo limitations. “When shipments arrive, can you process them, or is there a Plan B? Are you going to incur demurrage fees on containers if you can’t unload them? You may need to secure warehouse space short-term,” Moses said.

Prepare early by identifying the capacity, equipment or facilities that may be needed when shipments resume.

3. Review Your Assumptions

Post-COVID-19, there was a new definition of normal and everyone has learned that situations can change rapidly. "It may not be practical for you to think that everything is going to happen the way it always has,” Moses said. “You need to look at every piece of the supply chain and examine your assumptions and your realities.”

It’s prudent for shippers to have a Plan B and C. “Plan B could be as simple as having a relationship with a brokerage company so you can dial up capacity quickly,” Moses said. “You can get brokerage contracts in place now so you know who to talk to and which lanes or areas may be critical.”

Lanes may shift if freight patterns change. “Your freight might not come into the Ports of LA and Long Beach like it always has,” Moses said. “You have to check all of your assumptions. If you’re running through your checklist and say, ‘I don’t need to worry about this because it has never been a problem,’ that’s the one most likely to trip you up.”

4. Ensure Visibility

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5. Start Early

By working with providers and preparing early, shippers can help ensure a fluid network. It is essential to start soon, as people may be hard to reach during a disruption. “Give yourself enough time to get everything in place,” Moses said.

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Explore these strategies from the experts at Penske Logistics to optimize your warehosue:

​Improve Slotting Patterns

Optimal slotting patterns place high-velocity pick items as close to the door and as tightly together as possible to drive efficiency. Optimal slotting designs are based on historical sales data, including volumes and A, B, C and D movers, along with forecasted demand and seasonality. That data will provide insight into what to stock and where to position it to get the top movers out of the door faster. It isn’t hard to move slotting patterns as demands change, and adjustments should be completed at least once a year to ensure efficiency. Some industries, such as food and beverage, change slotting patterns seasonally.

​Separate Fulfillment Channels

The growth in e-commerce means more and more warehouses have three fulfillment channels: shipping to their own locations, outside retail locations and business-to-consumer. Depending on the volume or the way warehouses receive orders, there can be a pallet area, case-pick area, and an each-pick area to maximize each category’s efficiency.

​Find the Ideal Racking Solutions

The right storage solutions are often based on the cost of specific geographic locations, which varies. Space is much more expensive in California than in the Midwest, so in California warehouses, it might make sense to invest in vertical racking. Sites can utilize single-deep racking, double-deep racking, push-van racking or other types to get additional spots on the rack.

​Examine Labor Standards

Labor is central to warehouse operations and software can help manage the movement of people and track productivity. That data can be compared to warehouses’ labor management time standards and results should be evaluated every day after every shift to ensure employees are meeting their productivity standards.

​Utilize a Robust Warehouse Management System

A warehouse management system provides inventory visibility and tracking and ensures products don’t get mixed up or misplaced. Improving your warehouse management software can provide several benefits, including the traceability of products, which will become even more important for certain industries, such as food and beverage, that have increased safety standards.

​Invest in Technology

Various technologies can help improve operations within the warehouse. Some warehouses use a voice-pick system to help pick items more efficiently and employees can close out orders as they pick them, using their voice and an index finger scanner. Radio frequency scanners, including forklift mounts, handhelds and wearables, direct employees to the correct picking location. Once employees pick the products, the system automatically updates the picked items in the warehouse management system.

​Augment Labor

Drones and visual guided vehicles can help free up human talent to focus on more important tasks within an operation and improve overall safety. Drones can fly through a distribution center’s aisles and provide updates on inventory or alerts if products are not in their assigned slot. Visual guided vehicles can be used to move pallets or other inventory throughout the warehouse and are trained to run the same pattern.

​Create a Contingency Plan

Supply chain disruptions have highlighted the need for contingency planning, which can range from preplanning for a natural disaster to knowing how to ramp up operations if there is a spike in business. Thinking through and predefining potential scenarios can ensure an efficient shift when necessary.

​Utilize a Multi-Client Warehouse

Companies looking to expand their footprint and move inventory closer to end consumers are turning to multi-client warehouses, which enable them to take advantage of smaller space within a facility. Multi-client solutions make sense for customers needing 75,000 square feet of space or less.

Realize the Benefits of Warehouse Optimization

From efficiency improvements, lowered operating expenses, enhanced worker productivity and reduced turnover to greater inventory management and better customer service, the benefits of a solid warehouse optimization plan are significant. Ensuring you have the right processes and platforms in place can help your business run more efficiently than ever before.

There are many elements to choosing the right logistics partner. Penske places a premium on taking the necessary time to clearly understand how our logistics solutions may impact the entire company. Our goal is to ensure the efficiencies provided by Penske are realized at virtually every level.

For more information on what Penske Logistics can do for your organization, please contact us at 800-529-6531.

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