Getting Rid of Pests on the Road and Rails: FDA Releases Final Rule On Food Transportation

A common cause of food contamination during the transportation process is from exposure to disease-carrying pests including rodents, flies, nuisance birds and cockroaches.  As a result, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has finalized a new rule under FSMA aimed at helping to prevent food contamination during transportation.

With illness outbreaks resulting from human and animal food being contaminated during transportation, and incidents and reports of unsanitary transportation practices, including the presence of pests, there have been concerns about the need for regulations to ensure that foods are being transported in a safe manner from farm to table.

The rule establishes requirements for shippers, loaders, carriers by motor or rail vehicle, and receivers involved in transporting human and animal food to use sanitary practices to ensure the safety of that food. The requirements do not apply to transportation by ship or air because of limitations in the law.

Protecting transportation vehicles including trucks, vans, farm equipment, shipping containers, semi-trailers and railcars from unwanted pests is a specialty of Sprague. We have extensive experience working with clients to protect these important shipments from exposure to pests.

One of the most effective tools that Sprague deploys is fumigation of vehicles, railcars, shipping containers and equipment that transport unprocessed food. From semi-trailers of grain to shipping containers of apples and fruit, fumigation can safely and effectively eliminate pests.

We also can recommend protocols to prevent food from being exposed to pests and their hazardous droppings. Covering open-top semi-trailers carrying grain waiting to be unloaded to prevent bird droppings from contaminating the load and establishing better sanitation procedures in and around warehouses and loading dock areas are two ways to accomplish this.

We reviewed the rule and want to share highlights from the rule as outlined on the FDA website (

Who is Covered By The Rule?

With some exceptions, the final rule applies to shippers, receivers, loaders and carriers who transport food in the United States by motor or rail vehicle, whether or not the food is offered for or enters interstate commerce. It also applies to:

  • Shippers, in other countries who ship food to the United States directly by motor or rail vehicle (from Canada or Mexico), or by ship or air, and arrange for the transfer of the intact container onto a motor or rail vehicle for transportation within the U.S., if that food will be consumed or distributed in the United States.
  •  The rule does not apply to exporters who ship food through the United States. For example, from Canada to Mexico by motor or rail vehicle if the food does not enter U.S. distribution.
  • Companies involved in the transportation of food intended for export are covered by the rule until the shipment reaches a port or U.S. border.

Key Requirements of the Rule

  • Vehicles and transportation equipment: The design and maintenance of vehicles and transportation equipment to ensure that it does not cause the food that it transports to become unsafe. For example, they must be suitable and adequately cleanable for their intended use and capable of maintaining temperatures necessary for the safe transport of food.
  •  Transportation operations: The measures taken during transportation to ensure food safety, such as adequate temperature controls, preventing contamination of ready to eat food from touching raw food, protection of food from contamination by non-food items in the same load or previous load, and protection of food from cross-contact, i.e., the unintentional incorporation of a food allergen.
  • Training: Training of carrier personnel in sanitary transportation practices and documentation of the training. This training is required when the carrier and shipper agree that the carrier is responsible for sanitary conditions during transport.
  • Records: Maintenance of records of written procedures, agreements and training (required of carriers). The required retention time for these records depends upon the type of record and when the covered activity occurred, but does not exceed 12 months.

If you have questions on how the rule impacts your food processing or shipping operation call your account manager and we can help get you on the right track.

Agriculture, Food Processing & Manufacturing, Food Retail & Grocery, Restaurants