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A Commonsense Approach to Food Transport Hygiene

Produce is transported using many means and by many Therefore, it might appear reasonable to assume that food
routes. The means of conveyance may include RTP trays, producers, equipment providers, logistics and transport
pallets, shippers, dollies, roll cages and a wide range of companies, and particularly retailers rigorously apply and
vehicle load compartments involving dedicated, shared- monitor vehicle and equipment food hygiene and regulatory
user, sub-contract, hired, ambient, multi-temperature compliance.
and temperature controlled HGV vehicles.
It is of significant and growing concern that this is far from
Produce may travel from the field to a pack-house, on to the case.
a consolidation point or Distribution Centre and from
there to a vast and disparate collection of small, medium Recent research confirms that too many equipment, logistics
and large independent and supermarket retailers. While and transport service providers are unaware of both their
the majority of food is purchased instore by consumers regulatory obligations and basic food transport hygiene
utilising baskets or trolleys, online shoppers goods may requirements.
be collated in trays and delivered via smaller commercial
vehicles. It is entirely unacceptable that the excellent audited
standards achieved by growers and producers earlier in the
Keeping produce safe during transportation is a vital chain should be compromised by consistent failures in the
element in the food chain of custody and is often the last food transportation phase. Such failures to uphold food
step in ensuring high quality and safe is available to the safety obligations clearly puts the quality of food and the
consumer whether purchased instore or online. consumer at increased risk.

Given the many different equipment types, countless


vehicle journeys, cross docking and associated handling,
there clearly exists very real potentials for food to
become contaminated when coming in to contact with
many of the surfaces involved. These potentials may well
compromise carefully managed hygiene measures taken
earlier in the food chain and it is therefore of critical
importance that appropriate actions are taken to control
microbiological contamination during food conveyance
and transportation. As a minimum, surface sanitisation
should be readily available to ensure that foods remain
safe up to and after purchase by the consumer.

Consumers are completely reliant on the panoptic


application of food safety regulation and best practice to
maintain the quality levels of the food they buy and to Picture a grower who invests in and applies food safe
protect them against food contamination risks. standards, who provides hygienic protective wear for
employees, who is strictly audited on a regular basis and is
justly proud of the high-quality products they produce. It is
highly possible this grower could receive contaminated trays,
pallets or roll-cages in which to pack his produce. These
could well be delivered by a contaminated vehicle. When
filled the trays, pallets or roll-cages could be collected by a
different contaminated vehicle which may be part of a 3PL
fleet or a diverted sub-contract vehicle. The vehicles
previous load may have been fertilizer, raw meat or waste
packaging. No questions will have been asked. No records of
any hygienic cleaning will be available and no record of prior
loads maintained. These are regulatory requirements.
It is extraordinary that retailers internal and external The regulations are simple. If a vehicle designated to carry
audit processes do not hold equipment providers, food then carries a non-food load, this load is regarded as a
logistics and transport companies to the same food safe potential contaminant and food safety regulations require
standards they require from growers and producers. that the vehicle must be sanitised before it carries food
Retailers and enforcement authorities appear to tolerate again. This commonsense regulatory requirement is
a lower standard of hygiene or evidence of diligence from designed to ensure vehicles have not carried cargoes that
these service providers, alarmingly ignoring the clear may contaminate produce.
opportunity for food quality impairment and consumer
risk. Properly sanitised equipment and vehicle cargo areas will
not only uphold produce quality but will help prevent
There appears to be no requirement for the quality and contamination and deterioration of produce in transit,
safety of food to be upheld by adherence to regulatory increasing shelf-life.
and best practice standards in the transportation phase.
Many food conveyance and transport activities are totally There is a reasonable expectation that companies who hold
uncontrolled and operate outside food safety laws. themselves out as having expertise and specialist capabilities
in equipment management, logistics support activities and
food transportation should, as a minimum, be able to
demonstrate appropriate levels of food safe best practice
and regulatory awareness throughout their management
teams.

All food related equipment, logistics and transport service


providers should understand contamination risks and
demonstrate an awareness and capability of how they
provide protection and prevention measures.

Ideally a robust food transportation policy focused on


produce safety should be developed. Such a policy should
include requirements for all transportation vehicles in all
given situations, to include sub-contract vehicles and the
necessity to maintain records of prior loads for all vehicles.
Certain logistics driven initiatives now operate in direct The necessity to include hired and sub-contract delivery
contravention of food safety legislation and potentially vehicles further illustrates the common-sense nature of food
increase consumer risk on a daily basis. safe transportation requirements.

For well over ten years we have seen the uninhibited use The services provided by equipment, logistics and transport
of food delivery vehicles for the backloading of waste service providers may be varied in type and disparate in
from retail stores on a monumental scale. It is nature but all stakeholders within the food supply chain play
incomprehensible that the retailers or transport a vital and inescapable role in abiding by commonsense food
operators involved would not be aware that waste safety guidelines and regulations designed to optimise food
products, contaminated plastics, cardboard and out-of- quality and protect consumers.
date foodstuffs have a high propensity to contaminate
the next full load of food on that vehicle. It is a basic
regulatory requirement that where such practices exist FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT LIAM JENNINGS
vehicles must be sanitised between loads yet only one Email: liam.jennings@foodchaincompliance.com
major UK retailer is known to be compliant in this area.