Canadian food haulers are seeing an increased need to become HACCP compliant, in a climate of more acute awareness of security and health concerns.
HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, a program endorsed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the US National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Food (NACMCF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), among others.
Peter Alexander, director of communications for the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, said HACCP for the warehouse setting was developed in cooperation with members to analyze what could go wrong in the chain.
Carriers’ compliance has become increasingly important in this scenario.
“The system should work throughout the whole chain if there’s a possibility of a recall,” he said.
For carriers, the certification process is the result of a food safety program developed by the Canadian Trucking Alliance, with funding from the federal government and in cooperation with trucking companies and Kasar Canada Ltd., a company that specializes in developing food safety programs.
To achieve HACCP certification, a carrier must conduct a detailed analysis of its operations, put in place the necessary controls and monitoring procedures, and undergo an annual audit by Kasar Canada Ltd.. It means the carrier knows, and keeps a written account of, when, how, by whom and with what the trailer carrying the product was washed and what temperature it was kept at for every minute of the haul.
According to Rob Roy, CEO of Kasar Canada Ltd., at press time only a small number of carriers had achieved HACCP certification in Canada and some 25-30 were in various stages of the process.
“Interest has been slowly gaining and we are starting to see more shippers (food processors and retailers) making HACCP a requirement of doing business with them,” said Roy.
He said for the time being, this certification process will probably remain market-driven as a best business practice versus being mandated by regulation.
Food hauler McConnell Transport, in Woodstock, NB, was the first Canadian carrier to become compliant.
According to Larry McConnell, who heads the company, he approached HACCP from both a business and a personal perspective.
“I like to know that my food is being handled in a safe environment, and is not on a trailer that has hazardous material, or placarded goods on it the load before, or worse still, on the same load. That’s one of the things that you start looking at, and we wanted to make sure that we had all the steps and failsafes in place,” he said.
The company got HACCP approval in June 2005 following a process that started some 10-12 months prior.
Record keeping, documentation, sanitary procedures, and recall procedures are all part of the process.
“We haul a lot of fresh and frozen foods and we have the failsafes in place to show that our food was handled at the correct temperature. We had the technology in place and we actually had to wait for HACCP and accreditation to add to technology that we already had. As far as tracking goes, we use different tracking systems for trailers and reefers and power units. The technology in our refrigerated equipment is state of the art and we’ve made sure our purchases had all the latest technology available – refrigeration units on our trailers store four years of information that we can download, as well as outdoor and indoor temperatures, and anything that functioned properly or improperly. From the consumer point of view, when you pick your food up you have that little extra bit of confidence, knowing that your meat hasn’t been thawed and frozen, or that it hasn’t had a hazardous material on that equipment prior to or at the time of the food load,” said McConnell.
McConnell Transport does nearly 100% long haul inbound to a distribution centre. Typically it does not do store deliveries.
“What you will find is that a huge number of distribution centres are HACCP-approved or compliant, so that tells you that as carriers, we were kind of the weak link. We had no accredited program up until the HACCP program put together through the Canadian Trucking Alliance,” McConnell explains.
In the event of a recall, said McConnell, a very regimented and factual series of procedures would fall into place.
“For instance, if we have a recalled product that comes back from store shelves, there’s a strict protocol for this procedure – a push-button from McConnell Transport, here’s the security on that load, here’s the decontaminants that you use after you handle that load. It would be a darn shame if you had a recalled product with deadly bacteria and someone stole the load and it went into the food chain, because the company just took it as a load of freight. Some of the big holes in the transportation system that we see are food hauling trailers going with placards on the side of them. How can you haul hazardous materials on a trailer with a reefer on the front – it gives you a good indication it’s probably going to haul food,” he said.
Paul Dean, vice president and general manager, Kriska Holdings, Ltd., said he is surprised HACCP hasn’t already become more prominent.
“The reality is that today the technology is there – it’s a question of who’s going to pay for it, and will it be mandated. It’s no different than we’re hearing a lot right now about speed control on trucks and black boxes, used in other countries. The carriers, I believe, are working on very slim margins and there has to be value added to us to make it work,” said Dean.
He noted that domestically there’s a more conscious awareness of HACCP with customers looking for a better monitoring of temperature.
“I think we’re all concerned about possible food contamination issues. Certainly in our case we’re equipped with two-way communication. We offer the consumer the opportunity to go through our Web site to track their own loads, which happens in many cases. We have customers that will actually go in and divert loads while they are in transit because of a change in demand. A lot of our business goes from a manufacturing facility to a distribution centre, from a DC to the customer. But where there’s opportunity to move it direct then that can happen. We rely on our drivers at regular intervals to check the unit, and as governments tighten up on requirements we’ll probably have to add new technology so we can more effectively manage the units at all times internally,” he said.
Effective May 1, 2006 Kriska separated its temperature control division from its general freight division, offering full load service between its Mississauga, Ont. terminal and 48 US States, for shippers of frozen foods, bakery goods, meats or any temperature sensitive freight.
Dean said that in terms of pressures on food carriers, there is also the consolidation of the food industry itself.
“There’s been a lot of that over the recent past with the industry becoming more concentrated and large distributors becoming more consolidated – there’s probably less opportunity to compete. I would think there is a greater concentration so carriers, especially larger carriers with the right equipment, probably have a better opportunity than new entrants, because requirements are huge on equipment, i.e. scheduling loads, and it’s certainly moved to more just-in-time type inventory, so there’s more demands on our industry to move the product. If there’s a flyer going out on Friday that starts Sunday the product has to be in the stores, and the distributors don’t want to hold product in their warehouses. There is more demand on our industry to tighten the timelines between when the shipment is loaded on the equipment and when it has to be at the distributor to go on a private fleet to the consumer,” said Dean.
“We move a lot of pasta, and some goes through a warehouse location, and some goes through a plant. Literally our customer is looking at our Web site every day and has visibility all the time – as production sh
ifts they can redirect several times a day, making their operation more efficient, eliminating congestion at the plant and giving us better asset communication,” he said.
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