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New food safety rules can extend to carriers

Posted: July 20, 2018 by Jaclyne Reive

Canada’s Safe Food for Canadians Act and its regulations will officially become law on Jan. 15, 2019. And while it won’t apply outright to most carriers who transport food, some operations might still face new requirements.

Essentially, the act is meant to streamline existing food safety regimes, regulate previously unregulated food products, and bring the regime more in line with other countries. It takes a preventative approach to ensure that food is not contaminated during preparation, and during the other steps that food goes through before making its way to our tables.

Once in force, it will all apply to food that is imported, exported and moved between provinces and territories, and to organizations that are involved in preparing, importing, exporting, labeling, packaging, grading, warehousing and storing food. The obligations associated with transportation will apply to organizations that transport food and are involved in one or more of the other activities.

While the act might not otherwise apply to a company that focuses on trucking alone, the risk associated with compliance can be shifted through contracts including verbal or formal agreements. Carriers, for example, may be asked by customers to comply with all laws that generally deal with the safe transportation of food, or specifically to comply with the act itself.

Carriers are already required by law to deliver such cargo in good order and good condition. This means ensuring that food is not contaminated or adulterated during transportation. In future, a court might be willing to extend some aspects of the act to carriers, given that trucking companies usually have  the most control over the related equipment.

It all means that carriers should carefully review existing contracts, clients’ standard terms and conditions, and all future contracts to see if the act is being applied to their operations.

Those who hand the food over to carriers are responsible for ensuring that equipment meets the act’s requirements. However, since carriers tend to be the ones who control the equipment, shippers are using contracts to transfer the related responsibilities.

The act includes detailed requirements about equipment design, cleanliness and maintenance that will prevent contamination. Carriers will need to consider the risks associated with the specific commodity being transported and make sure they meet the detailed statutory requirements if they have assumed such risks under a contract or are involved in activities beyond transportation alone.

Preventative plans

Most of those who prepare and import food — and in some cases those involved in packaging, labelling, exporting and storage – have to establish preventative control plans (PCP). These are usually specific to different foods and activities, and involve identifying inherent and environmental risks that would affect the food, and determine how best to control and prevent those risks. The plans consider every process the food goes through, from the moment it’s prepared to labeling, transportation and everything in between.

A customer might even ask a carrier to prepare and implement its own PCP to deal with transportation-related aspects of the commodity’s journey, or require the carrier to comply with the customer’s existing PCP. In other words, carriers will need to review their operations and determine what changes, if any, need to be made to ensure compliance.

Carriers should keep copies of all records relating to food shipments — including those that involve sanitation, equipment cleanliness and temperatures — for at least two years after a delivery date. Written policies should also be established to cover the standard methods for maintaining equipment and keeping food from spoiling.

  • Jaclyne Reive of Fernandes Hearn LLP can be reached at 416-203-9819, and followed on Twitter through @jaclyne_reive, or her blog at https://jaclynereive.wordpress.com. This column is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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