Transporting fresh produce from point of origin (the field) to the point of use (retail store or foodservice establishment) requires a great deal of planning. Produce is susceptible to physical or chemical damage as well as microbial contamination during transport. Procedures and controls must be in place during the transportation process in order to assure the product arrives in good condition, safe and ready for consumption.
Temperature and humidity play key roles in produce safety. The field temperature of produce is substantially higher than the desired shipping temperature. Cooling produce as soon as it is harvested and keeping it cool during storage and transport will slow pathogen growth and decrease the degradation of quality. To keep the produce in optimal condition, it is highly recommended to transfer the produce into a pre-cooling process such as forced air refrigerated area, vacuum cooling, hydro cooling, refrigerated trailer, refrigerated storage warehouse or by applying a layer of ice to the produce.
To minimize the effect of ripening and spoilage, it is important to keep the produce at the optimal storage temperature during transport. Drivers must be aware of the optimal temperatures and be diligent in maintaining the proper temperature inside the refrigerated truck. Loading patterns and loading/unloading procedures will affect the temperature, so it is critical to manage the transport temperature to avoid damage to the product.
Fresh produce has a very limited shelf life. Fresh fruits and vegetables are sometimes harvested before they are fully ripened in order to increase shelf life. However, the transportation from the field to the retailer or foodservice establishment plays a major role in the longevity of the commodity. To assure freshness and quality, it is imperative that produce deliveries be made as quickly as possible and delays are avoided.
The condition of the vehicle is critical when transporting fresh produce. The vehicles must be in good physical condition, dry and clean (washed and sanitized). They should be dedicated to carrying food products and must be pest-free. Refrigerated trucks or containers should be equipped with accurately calibrated thermometers and should be loaded to allow for proper air circulation.
Recent (and upcoming) regulatory changes regarding electronic submission of import or export manifests, container weights and drivers’ hours-of-service have been announced.
• Automated Commercial Environment (ACE)
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facilitate the electronic importing and exporting of goods. A new system, Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), has been established and will be the primary system for carriers, brokers, freight forwarders or exporters to submit their import or export manifest data to the government by the end of 2016. ACE will become the ‘single window’ or online portal that allows shippers to file all of the documents required by government agencies for importing and exporting goods. Through ACE, processes will be streamlined and more efficient and cost and time savings will be realized.
• Container Weight Mandate
Effective July 1, 2016, the International Maritime Organization under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) introduced a container weight mandate which requires all containers leaving from any port to have signed verified weight documents if they are to be loaded onto a ship. The weighing must be conducted in of two approved ways on scales calibrated and certified to the national standards of the country where the weighing is performed.
The first approved process is to weigh the loaded and sealed container on a truck as it passes over a weigh station and subtracting the weight of the truck, chassis and container to determine the weight of the load inside. The second means is to weigh each item being loaded into a container including cases, pallets, dunnage and other packing and securing material and calculate the sum of all goods loaded.
If the necessary documentation is not provided to the terminal and carrier along with the container, it will not be loaded on the ship.
• Electronic Logging Devices (ELD)
In December 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established a final rule requiring the use of electronic logging devices (ELD) to improve roadway safety by employing technology to strengthen commercial truck drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service regulations that prevent fatigue. For those carriers using an Automatic On-Board Recording Device (AOBRD), carriers must evaluate and select ELDs and ensure they are installed and drivers and administrative staff are trained to use them by December 16, 2019. For those using paper logs or logging software, the deadline is December 18, 2017.
• Sanitary Transport
The FDA issued a new rule on April 6, 2016 on the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food in support of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The purpose of the rule is to prevent practices during transportation that create food safety risks, such as failure to properly refrigerate food, inadequate cleaning of vehicles between loads and failure to properly protect food. The compliance date is April 6, 2017 with the exception of small businesses who must comply by April 6, 2018. Small businesses are those employing fewer than 500 FTE employees or have less than $27.5 million in annual receipts, except carriers by motor vehicle that are not also shippers and/or receivers.
To learn more about any of these regulatory changes, watch the webinars on Sanitary Transport Rule
and Transportation Regulatory Changes