New Food Safety Law May Affect Trucking

A new law, known as the Food Safety Modernization Act, may have far-reaching ramifications for the trucking industry. Also known as Public Law 111-353, it was passed by the U.S. legislature in 2011 and seeks to strengthen federal control over how food is handled during transportation. The new law addresses every aspect of the food transportation industry, from the equipment and procedures used to record keeping.

There are several sections of the new law that will be of special interest for people working truck driving jobs. Section 111, for instance, gives broad powers to the secretary of Health and Human Services to create laws regarding sanitary techniques used while transporting food. The same section directs the Food and Drug Administration to conduct studies on how food is transported, specifically in frontier or rural areas of the country. Section 204 directs the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to establish a plan for tracking raw fruits and vegetables - as well as processed food products - that are sold to the public. The hope is to expedite identification of a source in the event that contaminated produce contributes to an outbreak of food-borne illness. The DHHS must, under this new law, also create standardized procedures for record keeping and the sharing of information for the explicit purpose of tracking food from the farm to the grocery shelf.

It is important to keep in mind that when the federal government passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, it was not the first time that food safety in the shipping industry had been addressed. Shippers of pharmaceuticals and highly perishable foods have long recognized the need for additional measures to safeguard public health. They have pushed, for instance, for the use of technologies to ensure safe storage temperatures for food during transportation. This not only safeguards public health, it also cuts losses caused by spoilage.

Trucking companies aren't alone in their concern for their product; customers are demanding accountability as well. The people who pay for the produce want to know where it came from and that it has been handled properly. Dr. John Ryan of Ryan Systems has spent 25 years trying to meet that demand. His company has developed state-of-the-art Internet-based software that tracks food – and the quality-control measured used to safely handle it – on every step of its journey from the initial producer to the end consumer. The software can not only track a food's source, it can also give real-time reports about the product's humidity level, temperatures during transit, physical location and whether or not there have been any signs of tampering or contamination.

While some of the concerns outlined in this new food safety act have already been addressed by proactive trucking companies, the long-term impact of the law on the trucking industry has yet to be seen. Changes to the law are still possible, as is its funding. Because the law shifts the burden of compliance to individual businesses, therefore increasing their overhead, it is sure to affect the availability of truck driving jobs.