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West Coast and California Logistics Blog

5 Key Criteria for Evaluating a Food-Grade Carrier

Thu, May 09, 2019 @ 07:00 AM / by Jerry Critchfield

If your company produces or markets food and beverage products, the safety and integrity of those products mean everything to your business.  It’s ill-advised then to entrust key components of your supply chain to just any 3PL.  With product safety and integrity in mind, we examined 5 things to look for in a food warehousing provider in our previous blog post.  In this article, we’re going to move things out of the warehouse, onto the loading dock and into the trailer as we examine 5 things you should be looking for in a food-grade carrier. 

5 things to look for in a food-grade carrier

1. Compliance. Whether it’s Food Safety Sheets, FDA or HHS regulations, or state-specific regulations (e.g., regulations related to logistics in California), any 3PL provider that handles food products has numerous standards to comply with. And, every carrier you speak with will happily tell you that they’re in full compliance with all of them.  So, how do you know the PROs from the pretenders? 

food-grade carrierStart with auditing.  In our experience, we find that AIB International is the gold standard for compliance-based auditing of food logistics providers.  3PL providers that undergo yearly AIB audits can be seen as truly walking the walk when it comes to compliance. 

But, as great as those robust external audits are, they still only occur once a year.  You need to find out what your prospective carrier is doing on the other 364 days to ensure regulatory compliance.  Ask about its internal auditing programs.  If there aren’t any, that could be a red flag. 

2. Security. As unfortunate as it is, there are people in this world who wish to harm others indiscriminately. One of the ways that such people seek to do harm is by tampering with foods and beverages.  Because of this, you need to make sure that your food-grade carrier’s security measures are vigilant in protecting your products. Relevant measures include:
  • Use of 24/7 security cameras on all loading docks
  • Background checks on all employees who will handle food-grade products
  • Inspections to ensure that products haven’t been opened and resealed

Perhaps most importantly, trailers carrying full truckloads must be locked with a bolt seal that can only be released with bolt cutters.  For LTL loads, padlocks should be used and locked after every stop. 

3. Contamination prevention. In order to prevent contamination, a good carrier will ensure that your food products are never transported in a trailer with incompatible or dangerous products. For instance, shipping boxes of onions next to boxes of ant-killer powder is obviously not a good idea. 

Contamination prevention applies to odor as well.  Let’s say a trailer contains packages of coffee beans and packages of bottled water.  You can bet that by the time the trip is through, those bottles of water will each smell like coffee beans – an unwelcome surprise for your customers. 

In addition to the unwanted mingling of products, it is vital that your carrier is vigilant in preventing use of broken pallets – one of the biggest contamination culprits.  Contamination can easily occur when wood from a broken pallet pierces a box of goods and exposes those items to air and other materials in the trailer. 

4. Robust sanitation practices. As with contamination prevention, sanitation practices are integral to ensuring the safety and integrity of your food products. Your carrier’s practices should include:
  • Cleaning out trailers after every use
  • Sanitizing trailers once a month or after any load carrying odorous or dangerous materials (e.g., chemicals or allergens such as peanuts)
  • Regularly cleaning and sanitizing loading docks

5. Temperature preservation. The safety and integrity of your products is also closely tied to their environmental conditions – namely, temperature and humidity. Your food-grade carrier will need to ensure that your products are kept at the appropriate conditions (and within legally-acceptable parameters) while on the dock and during temperature-controlled trucking.  For example, ice cream needs to be kept at -20°F and most confectionery products at 65°F. So great care needs to be taken that each product is kept in range – including during transfer between warehouse and trailer.  Once in the trailer, it is vital that your carrier has the ability to monitor temperature during transit. 

Do a site visit to see these 5 criteria in action

Now that you know what your prospective carrier should be doing to keep your goods safe, there’s nothing better than an in-person site visit to make sure it’s actually doing those things for other companies’ products.  On such a visit, you’ll want to see and evaluate the areas and equipment that your products would encounter.  Are the loading docks and trailers clean?  Are temperatures closely monitored?  Are products exposed to other products they shouldn’t be?  And so on. 

An important, though often overlooked, key for a site visit is to speak with the associates performing the work.  Ask them questions about things that are important to your products (e.g., if you’re going to be shipping confectionery products, ask them about the appropriate temperature range for the candy in their care).  While management will often have the right answers, it’s more important that the people actually doing the work understand and appreciate best practices related to your goods. 

Turn to Weber Logistics for an integrated approach to food logistics

At Weber Logistics, we combine warehousing, transportation and port services for a fully integrated approach to food logistics.  This ability – combined with our expertise and longevity in the food, beverage, and confectionery spaces – gives you the peace of mind that your products are in good hands as they travel throughout the supply chain.

In addition to our annual audits with AIB International (with whom we have a superior rating), our internal quality control team performs regular audits of all operations to examine and optimize Sanitation, Security, and Safety measures (known as our “Triple S” audit).  To learn how Weber can protect the integrity of your food products – whether in the warehouse or over the road – contact us today.

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Topics: West Coast Distribution, 3PL, Vendor Compliance, Food Supply Chain, Cold Chain Managment, Refrigerated Trucking, Food Logistics

Written by Jerry Critchfield

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