The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided clarification to rules regarding hygiene during the transport of food and agricultural products.

The FDA confirmed that carriers transporting either agri or food products had to provide suitable and hygienic transportation whether or not a written agreement with a shipping partner indicated so, World Grains reported on 17 November.

The explanation of the Sanitary Transportation of Human & Animal Food rules – finalised in April – came four months after some groups in the food industry, including the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA), asked the FDA to clarify its position.

The transport rules – a key part of the Food Modernization and Safety Act 2010 – recommended defining responsibilities between shippers and carriers in written agreements.

Prior to this, shippers and carriers typically only shared information regarding refrigeration, vehicles cleanouts and sanitary protection steps, on a voluntary basis.

However, National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) senior vice president of feed services David Fairfield said that the new rules, without the clarification, had been a disincentive to carriers to share information due to additional regulations.

“Looking back, it may have been an oversight in terms of writing the rule and its intent,” Fairfield said.

The sanitary transportation legislation provided requirements for equipment, operations, training, documentation of personnel and recordkeeping, but it did not provide adequate guidance for carriers to ensure they shared in the effort to provide safe transportation.

“Our main concern is that we felt the rule in some respects inhibited the exchange of information,” Fairfield summarised.

NOPA, NGFA and other food producer groups, such as the North American Miller’s Association, were now looking to develop a list of best practices for sanitary rail and truck cleaning operations and other requirements, according to World Grains.

They also hoped to enlist the help of their carrier partners, such as the American Trucking Association and the Association of American Railroads.