[Federal Register: August 4, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 149)]
[Notices]               
[Page 45789-45790]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr04au03-16]                         

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Notices
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules 
or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings 
and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings, 
delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency 
statements of organization and functions are examples of documents 
appearing in this section.

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[[Page 45789]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

[Docket No. 03-015N]

 
FSIS Safety and Security Guidelines for the Transportation and 
Distribution of Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products; Notice of Availability

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of Availability; Request for public comments and 
information.

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SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service is announcing the 
availability of the Agency's current safety and security guidelines for 
the transportation and distribution of meat, poultry, and egg products. 
These guidelines were developed to assist facilities and shippers of 
all sizes to improve food safety and security in the handling of FSIS-
regulated products. These guidelines include measures to improve food 
security during the loading, transport, in-transit storage, and 
unloading of meat, poultry, and egg products. In these guidelines, FSIS 
strongly recommends that shippers and receivers, as well as 
transporters, of these products develop controls for ensuring the 
security of products through all phases of distribution. Such controls 
are necessary to protect the products from intentional, as well as 
unintentional, contamination.
    The Agency has decided to collect and analyze data on these 
transportation guidelines, which include both food safety and food 
security components, and determine whether there is a need to adopt any 
of these guidelines as regulations. Consequently, in this notice, FSIS 
is asking a series of questions about the transportation guidelines to 
solicit information from interested parties.

DATES: Submit written comments on the transportation guidelines and 
answers to the questions to the FSIS Docket Room no later than October 
3, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Submit one original and two copies of all written comments 
on the proposed transportation guidelines and responses to questions 
to: FSIS Docket Room, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and 
Inspection Service, Room 102, Cotton Annex, Washington, DC 20250-3700. 
All comments and responses received will be considered part of the 
public record and will be available for viewing in the Docket Room 
between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal 
holidays. Copies of the FSIS Safety and Security Guidelines for the 
Transportation and Distribution of Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products will 
also be available in the FSIS Docket Room between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 
p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays and on the 
Internet at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/topics/transportguide.htm. 
Printed copies of the Guidelines may be requested from the USDA FSIS 
Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, 1400 Independence Avenue 
SW., Room 175, Washington, DC 20250-3700; telephone (202) 720-9113. 
These guidelines are available in both English and Spanish.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Perfecto Santiago, Assistant 
Deputy Administrator, Program Development Staff, Office of Policy and 
Program Development, Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250-3700; telephone (202) 
205-0699 or fax (202) 401-1760.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    In May 2002, FSIS issued the FSIS Security Guidelines for Food 
Processors to assist Federal- and State-inspected meat, poultry, and 
egg product establishments in identifying ways to strengthen their food 
security protection. At that time, the Agency noted that it would 
continue to provide guidance to businesses engaged in the production 
and distribution of FSIS-regulated foods, and work with the Food and 
Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies to provide guidance for 
the handling of meat, poultry and egg products during transportation, 
distribution, and storage.
    FSIS recognizes that food producers, transporters, and distributors 
have a vested interest in making food security, as well as food safety, 
a top priority. FSIS will continue to seek input from stakeholders in 
developing guidance on food security and food safety matters. To ensure 
that the transporters and distributors of meat, poultry, and egg 
products have access to information to help them protect the food that 
they handle from threats, FSIS has developed the FSIS Safety and 
Security Guidelines for the Transportation and Distribution of Meat, 
Poultry, and Egg Products. These guidelines provide safety measures to 
prevent physical, chemical, or microbiological contamination of food 
products during transportation and storage, including measures that 
deal specifically with the prevention of intentional contamination due 
to criminal or terrorist acts.
    Meat, poultry, and egg products are transported by air, sea, and 
land. Hazards may be present, or intentionally introduced, at any point 
during transportation and distribution, but are most likely to occur at 
changes between transportation modes and during loading and unloading. 
Meat, poultry, and egg products frequently are transported multiple 
times and often stored and further processed on their way to the 
consumer. These products could be exposed to hazards at each step in 
that process. For example, a product might be transported from a 
slaughter establishment to a raw-product processing establishment, next 
to a further processing plant, then to a distribution center, and 
finally to a retail market for purchase by the consumer.
    The guidelines were developed to assist facilities and shippers of 
all sizes, as well as Federal, State, and local authorities, to improve 
food safety and security in the handling of FSIS-regulated products at 
every step in the transportation and distribution process.
    While these guidelines are voluntary, and parties may choose to 
adopt measures suggested by many different sources, it is vital that 
all parties in the transportation and distribution process for meat, 
poultry, and egg products take steps to ensure the security of their 
operations, the integrity of their processes and products, and the 
continued safety of the products that they handle.
    The first section of these guidelines provides food safety measures 
that are

[[Page 45790]]

designed to help prevent contamination of food products during 
transportation and storage. The second section of the guidelines deals 
specifically with food security measures that may be taken to prevent 
deliberate contamination as part of criminal or terrorist acts. Both 
sections apply to all points of shipment from the processor to final 
delivery at the retail store, restaurant, or other facility serving 
consumers, as well as at any intermediate stops (i.e., intermediate 
warehouses, transfer, and handling facilities such as airports, break-
bulk terminals, rail sidings, etc.) during shipment prior to final 
delivery. These guidelines are applicable whether the potential 
contamination occurs due to an intentional or unintentional act. 
Implementation of these guidelines will assist all participants in the 
transportation and distribution process in preventing such acts or in 
responding to them effectively should they occur.
    The food safety section of the guidelines has a long history of 
development by FSIS. In February, 1995, the Pathogen Reduction/HACCP 
proposed rule (60 FR 6774) was published and in this proposal FSIS 
stated its commitment to develop standards to help ensure the safe 
handling of meat and poultry products during transportation and 
storage. A Technical Analysis Group (TAG) was used by FSIS and the 
Department of Transportation (DOT) in April 1995, to address the safety 
of food after it left the production facility and began to move through 
commerce. The TAG identified the primary hazards associated with the 
transport of perishable foods and recommended reasonable controls that 
might be employed by industry to ensure food safety.
    Subsequent to the TAG report, FSIS and FDA issued an Advance Notice 
of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on November 22, 1996 (61 FR 59372), 
seeking information and comments on approaches the agencies might take 
to foster food safety improvements that might be needed in the 
transportation and storage of foods. Responses to the TAG Report and 
the ANPR were used in the development of the food safety 
recommendations in the FSIS Safety and Security Guidelines for the 
Transportation and Distribution of Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products now 
being made available to the public.
    The food security section of the guidelines addresses the 
possibility of deliberate attacks on the domestic food supply by 
individuals or groups and is a direct result of heightened concerns 
about homeland security that have resulted since the terrorist attacks 
on September 11, 2001.

Request for Comments and Information

    FSIS has decided to collect and analyze more data on the possible 
impacts of these guidelines before deciding whether it should proceed 
with rulemaking. The Agency invites public comment on how to strengthen 
the safety and security of meat, poultry, and egg products during the 
transportation and distribution process. The Agency is especially 
interested in informed responses regarding both food safety and food 
security to the following questions:
    [sbull] Are there problems regarding food safety and food security 
in the transportation, distribution, or storage processes that the 
guidelines fail to address; or if all issues are addressed, are there 
flaws in the approaches described in the guidelines?
    [sbull] If the guidelines can be improved, how could they be 
improved?
    [sbull] Will transporters, distributors, and storage facilities 
have difficulty complying with these guidelines? If so, what 
difficulties do the guidelines pose? Would the guidelines pose greater, 
or different, difficulties for small firms than for large firms?
    [sbull] Should the Agency initiate rulemaking to adopt the 
guidelines as regulations or will the guidelines be sufficiently 
effective if they are only voluntary?
    [sbull] Would mandatory implementation of these transportation 
guidelines have any unusual or particularly significant impacts on any 
portion of the food distribution chain? If so, who would be affected 
and how?
    [sbull] Would mandating these guidelines by regulation increase 
costs to transportation, distribution, and storage facilities? If so, 
would this result in increased costs to the consumer as the end user?
    FSIS will consider all relevant comments in deciding whether any of 
the transportation guidelines should be proposed as a regulation. 
Should the Agency decide to propose a rule, it will summarize all of 
the comments and information that it receives and include the summary 
in the proposed rule.

Additional Public Notification

    Public awareness of all segments of rulemaking and policy 
development is important. Consequently, in an effort to better ensure 
that minorities, women, and persons with disabilities are aware of this 
notice, FSIS will announce it and make copies of this Federal Register 
publication available through the FSIS Constituent Update. FSIS 
provides a weekly Constituent Update, which is communicated via 
Listserv, a free e-mail subscription service. In addition, the update 
is available online through the FSIS web page located at http://www.fsis.usda.gov.
 The update is used to provide information regarding 
FSIS policies, procedures, regulations, Federal Register notices, FSIS 
public meetings, industry recalls, and any other types of information 
that could affect or would be of interest to our constituents/
stakeholders. The constituent Listserv consists of industry, trade, and 
farm groups, consumer interest groups, allied health professionals, 
scientific professionals, and other individuals that have requested to 
be included. Through the Listserv and web page, FSIS is able to provide 
information to a much broader, more diverse audience.
    For more information contact the Congressional and Public Affairs 
Office, at (202) 720-9113. To be added to the free e-mail subscription 
service (Listserv) go to the ``Constituent Update'' page on the FSIS 
Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/update/update.htm.
    Click on the ``Subscribe to the Constituent Update Listserv'' link, 
then fill out and submit the form.

    Done in Washington, DC, on July 29, 2003.
Linda Swacina,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 03-19659 Filed 8-1-03; 8:45 am]