Almost six months have passed since the final Sanitary Food Transportation of Human and Animal Food rule was published. Six months of buzzwords floating around the industry, six months of learning how the FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) regulations will affect your business, and six months of letting the thought sink in on how these new regulations will affect your daily operations.

With that being said, there are only six short months left until your business may need to be in compliance, according to Lindsay Glass, training manager with Iron Apple International, a food safety solution company. If your shipper hasn’t already asked that a food safety program be put into place, the Food and Drug Administration will come knocking shortly after the April 6, 2017 deadline. Similar to processing facilities, the FDA will schedule inspections at transportation facilities to review records and procedures and to verify compliance that includes training and sanitation.

In the past, there have been various degrees of regulations pushed on the transportation industry, some of which have never been enforced. Some of you may be thinking the new STF rule is no different. However, don’t let your skepticism blindside you! When it comes to food safety and the FDA, the stakes are high, says Glass, who spent most of her career as an inspection specialist at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in Canada. Is your business ready for April 2017? Will your drivers be prepared when the USDA pulls them over and wants to perform an inspection and record review? If not, you may be putting your business at risk.

Glass’s experience over the past six months developing web-based training programs with shippers and carriers, is that they are finding the new STF rule is overwhelming. They’re not sure where to start. Do they let the shippers dictate how their operations will work, or do they become proactive by implementing their own food safety program that the shippers feel confident in adopting? Do they streamline what they already have in place, or do they implement brand new processes? Either way you look at it, the new STF rule is a game changer in the transportation world. However, once everything is implemented, the end result will be a modern system in place where we’ll be able to achieve the food safety goals that we all share—fewer illnesses, stronger consumer confidence, and a level playing field for all of those involved in the “food chain.”

There are companies out there willing to ease the FSMA growing pains and in fact will offer you a complete one-stop solution. Carriers are jumping on board with companies that can offer a turnkey solution to the new STF rule, and thus giving companies complete compliance in terms of transportation operations, temperature control, and sanitary requirements. The turnkey solution from Iron Apple includes all the required documents, forms, and recordkeeping procedures to meet new FSMA transport regulations. Some transportation companies are looking for a complete HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) food safety program that comes with all of the road maps and documents required for their business to be compliant by April 2017. By having a HACCP-approved program, the program will also meet all of the shipper’s requirements and is adequate for shippers to adopt for their daily operations.

However, the one thing all carriers are looking for is training. The new STF rule is requesting that all personnel be trained in sanitary transportation practices, and that it is documented. There have been some misconceptions that the training will be provided by the FDA, but this is not the case. The carrier will need to provide their drivers, dispatch, loaders—and any employee associated with moving food—training on specific sanitary transportation practices. There are various food safety training programs out there, but carriers will need to make sure they implement training that is specific to their industry.

As the world moves into a paperless arena, so should your business. Maintenance of records and procedures is necessary up to 12 months of the last date of activity, and if requested for regulatory inspection, the carrier will have 24 hours to produce. Best practice will be electronic records. Having online forms, documents, and training will allow your business and employees to be compliant on the move. Carriers are preferring companies that have access to records that are easily accessible, filled out, examined immediately, and have cloud-based storage.

There are support solutions out there for carriers and shippers that don’t know where to start with FSMA or want to be ahead of the curve. April 2017 is fast approaching. As the saying goes, even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there. Don’t get left behind!

Lindsay Glass, a former CFIA food processing inspector and Listeria specialist, holds a BSc in Applied Nutrition, with a concentration in Food Science, along with more than six years’ experience as a food processing inspector for the CFIA. She has a strong knowledge of inspection acts and regulations, the FSEP (Food Safety Enhancement Program), and the HACCP system. Through her experience, Glass has successfully educated and provided industry and other government departments’ guidance and explanation of legislation, standards, procedures, and policy requirements regarding food safety. She can be contacted at 1-844-485-3330 or by email at LGlass@ironapple.net.