The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) wants the Food and Drug Administration to make significant changes to its proposed rule for sanitary food transportation under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). In addition, the association is asking that FDA reissue language for parts of the rule like it plans to do with the produce safety, preventive controls for human food, preventive controls for animal food, and Foreign Supplier Verification Program rules. “Given the very significant nature of these regulations, we believe that a second opportunity for stakeholder comment is essential to ensure that the requirements in the final rule are practical, achievable and foster the safe transport and distribution of human and animal food,” read the NGFA comments submitted to FDA on July 30. “Further, we believe FDA has the ability and authority to re-propose the regulations and still comply with the court-ordered deadline to publish a final rule by March 31, 2016.” FDA has informed Food Safety News that it does not currently have plans to re-release parts of the rule. NGFA believes in the responsibility of rail carriers and truck transporters to provide clean conveyances and transportation equipment suitable for the type of human and animal food shipped, but it considers some of the proposed FSMA requirements to be excessive and could add unnecessary burdens and costs “without a commensurate improvement in product safety.” Some of the changes the association requests include:
- Identifying only the immediate previous haul in bulk trucks or rail cars, rather than the three previous ones.
- Eliminating the requirement that electronic records be kept in order to comply with rules that “stipulate extensive computer validation.”
- Doing away with the proposal to exempt shippers, carriers and receivers that have less than $500,000 in total annual sales.
- Deleting the requirement for hand-washing facilities unless human contact with the food could cause it to become adulterated or unfit for human or animal consumption.
- Clearer definitions for several terms. For example, they say “shipper” should only apply to the party that loads a shipment instead of brokers or third-party logistics operators.
NGFA also recommends that FDA develop guidance on good transportation practices, as well as user-friendly educational materials, pertaining to the safe transport of such products by farms. In addition, the association wants additional exemptions to be provided for transfers of food between facilities owned by the same parent or corporate entity and for trucks and rail lines that transport the same type of food continually, such as shuttle trains and privately owned railcars that haul grains and oilseeds on a dedicated circuitous route. The comments express support for various aspects of the proposed rule, including FDA’s tentative conclusion to exempt the transport of live food-producing animals from the regulation and the agency’s intent to provide flexibility to shippers, carriers and receivers concerning appropriate sanitary transportation practices (including not prescribing specific sanitation practices). NGFA also supports the decision, given constrained U.S. transportation capacity and severe rail service disruptions, not to restrict access for human and animal food to certain classes or types of rail or truck conveyances or transportation equipment.