food and beverage

Penske Logistics has been honored by Food Chain Digest, the official magazine of the Food Shippers of America, as a 2023 Top Food Chain Provider. Penske is one of only 25 honorees this year.

The program highlights third-party logistics companies and other providers that excel in capabilities and service to food transportation, logistics, distribution, and supply chain management. Food Chain Digest staff sifted through more than 6,000 tallied votes to reach this list of 25 honorees.

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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.

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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

Learn more at:

Supply chain operations are always complex, and each link in the chain must operate as planned to avoid disruptions. The food and beverage supply chain brings even greater complexities that must be managed to ensure overall success.

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Penske Logistics has earned entry onto the 2022 Top Food Chain Providers listing, as announced by Food Chain Digest, the official publication of the Food Shippers of America.

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Proper handling and regulatory compliance for food and beverage is paramount throughout the cold chain, including within the warehouse. Interest in multi-client warehousing is growing as companies look to expand their footprint and move inventory closer to consumers.

Temperature compliance is paramount for both the quality of product and for food safety precautions. Penske Logistics has a team of subject matter experts leading our Food Safety Program to ensure compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act as well as meeting third-party GFSI Food Safety Audits with high marks.

"When you're talking about perishable food, getting product closer to the consumer is always beneficial," said Don Klug, vice president of distribution center management at Penske Logistics.

However, even smaller footprints within food-grade facilities require careful attention to detail. According to the Annual 2022 Third-Party Logistics Study, the cold chain requires a certain level of sophistication from both shippers and logistics providers, and several unique challenges within the cold chain require tracking and special designs.

Tracking and Tracing

Tracking is used in several areas, including the monitoring of temperatures as well as the lot control, expiration dates, etc., said Don Klug.

Penske utilizes temperature tracking in different zones throughout the warehouse. Klug said most refrigerated facilities are multi-temperature, which include refrigerated, frozen and air conditioned or ambient temperature spaces.

"Devices, which some look like small hockey pucks, track and monitor the high and low temperatures. We have systems and people monitoring it all the time and making sure we have excellent knowledge of what is going on to maintain the temperature requirements of our customers," Klug said. "We utilize the same technology in our multi-temperature reefer trailers. If there is a driver on the road and something happens to the unit’s refrigeration, we can alert them and get them to a Penske shop to get it fixed."

Temperature tracking is as essential as inventory accuracy. When it comes to food and ensuring safety requirements are met and spoilage is mitigated, the warehouse management system WMS must be able to manage both. With systemic monitoring and controls, regulatory compliance of temperature monitoring for food safety controls effectively eliminates risk of temperature abuse, or not storing foods at the proper temperature.

The WMS system tracks attributes which includes lot control, expiration dates, and other rules, such as shelf-life, FEFO (first-expired first-out) and/or FIFO (first-in first out). Klug said inventory accuracy is critical to the overall cold chain process.

"The customer provides the requirements, and we add it to the rule set within the WMS," Klug said. "We have to be cognizant of lot control and expiration dates when we’re working with food and beverage products."

Building Design

Food and beverages must be stored in a food-grade building, which has several features not found in a standard warehouse. All ceiling lights must be shatterproof or have protection to catch any glass or debris if a bulb breaks. Plus, any warehouse area with temperatures below 32 degrees requires heat within the floor or else damage will occur, Klug said.

The exclusion of pests, such as rodents and birds, is essential within the food and beverage industry. There must be 12-18 inches of gravel around the building in a food-grade warehouse to help prevent pests or rodents from entering the space. Additionally, nothing should be stored directly against the walls on the inside of the building, eliminating spaces that may be attractive to rodents.

Additionally, dock plates have brushes to minimize gaps. "The dock door will have a dock shelter mounted on the concrete," Klug said. "When a truck backs in, it seals the truck to the opening, so no light comes through, to keep birds and rodents out."

A robust Food Safety Plan also must take into consideration all working operations to always maintain sanitary conditions of the facility. This includes the layout of traffic patterns for associates, adequate handwashing and associate facilities, adequate drainage, and designated storage areas for sanitation supplies and MHE equipment.

Penske maintains several food safety audit certifications, including the BRCGS Global Food Safety Standard. "To get BRC certified, you have to follow standard operating procedures and do testing to make sure the building meets all of the requirements," Klug said.

Cold Chain Growth

The 2022 Annual Third-Party Logistics Study found that opportunities exist within the cold chain, and 91% of shippers and 100% of 3PLs said they expect demand for cold chain capacity to increase over the next three years. Both shippers (70%) and 3PLs (52%) said COVID-19 accelerated their growth plans, increasing their need for more cold chain capacity.

As a result, 70% of shippers said they expect to grow their cold chain capabilities and talent over the next three years, while 50% said they plan to outsource more of their cold chain capabilities. About 90% of 3PLs said they plan to expand their cold chain capabilities and service offerings.

Penske’s Food Safety Program is designed to maintain all regulatory requirements, a Global Food Safety Initiative food safety audit program, along with any specific quality requirements to meet the needs of our customers. Penske actively participates in certifying leaders with the FSPCA Preventive Controls for Human Food as a tool to continuously cultivate and grow our Food Safety Culture. With Penske's dedicated Food Safety Leadership, our locations are monitored through a rigid internal auditing process for food safety that strives for continuous improvements to maintain a "best in class" food safety program.

To learn more about how Penske can assist with multiclient warehousing within the cold chain and food and beverage industries, contact us today.

Maximizing space within a warehouse and positioning items to improve efficiency can add up to significant financial and time savings. The layout and design of a warehouse and a distribution network should be an ongoing process. Shippers can improve their food warehousing and distribution with these six strategies:

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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.

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