The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on establishing guidance intended to reduce the risk of food contamination during transportation.
The agency has asked the food industry to comment on rule proposals to govern the transportation of foods in the United States, as well as calling for comments from the transportation sector and consumer interest organizations.
Previous food contamination incidents in the US include a multi-state salmonella outbreak in 1994 due to ice-cream mix being hauled in a tanker that had been used to transport raw liquid eggs. And the FDA also said that there had been potential for cross-contamination during transportation in the 2009 salmonella outbreak linked to peanut products, as salmonella was found in products distributed in 1,700-pound tanker containers.
FDA's associate commissioner for food protection, Jeff Farrar said: “Our aim is to look at every component of the system to assess hazards, and to take science-based action where appropriate to maximize the safety of our food from farms all the way to consumers' tables. Although contamination of food product during commercial transport is relatively infrequent, the potential harm can be widespread and serious."
The FDA has said it will work with the US Departments of Agriculture and Transportation in developing regulation proposals.
The newly published ANPRM calls for more information from industry about current practices for safe transportation of food intended for human consumption, including whether and how information is shared among those involved, whether trucks used for transporting food are also used for other goods, and what reasonable grounds there might be for exemptions to any foreseeable rules intended to prevent contamination.
The notice refers to the implementation of the Sanitary Food Transportation Act (SFTA) of 2005, which requires the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to establish safety guidelines for all those involved in food transportation, and is also part of “a larger agency effort to focus on prevention of food safety problems throughout the food chain”.
“We are seeking data and information to enable us to estimate the benefits and costs of regulations implementing the 2005 SFTA and to estimate of the effects of regulatory options on small entities,” the FDA said.
The advance notice of proposed rulemaking – and instructions on how to comment – is available online here . The comment period is due to close on August 30, 2010.