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.