Microorganisms of Concern During Transport and Their Potential Sources

It is well accepted that it is the food industry’s responsibility to transport foods in a manner that presents a minimum level of risk to consumers from foodborne hazards. Therefore, the industry must identify and control potential risks from various sources, including pathogenic microorganisms. Cross-contamination (transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods when improperly handled) between products during shipment and from transport vehicles from prior shipments remains a significant issue.

In a 2009 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report, the main factors that increase the likelihood of food contamination were identified: improper refrigeration, transport of raw meat and poultry in a manner that could result in cross-contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables transported in the same vehicle, improper packing, infestation with insects, insanitary storage (e.g. roof leaks and moldy walls, animal blood and food on bed floors), low driver awareness of safe food temperatures, and inadequate training (1). Some microorganisms are of greater concern during food transport because they are part of the natural gut microflora of most food producing animals, widely found in the environment, frequently found on food con-tact surfaces, are potential sources for most foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States (2). Table 1 lists the microorganisms of greatest concern during food transportation.

Table 1. Microorganisms of concern during transport of foods

Table 2. Outbreaks associated with food contamination during transportation

Based on data, regulations have been implemented to prevent food contamination from nonfood sources and prescribe sanitary transportation practices to be followed by shippers, carriers by motor vehicle or rail vehicle, receivers, and other persons engaged in transportation of food (3).



1. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-02-05/pdf/2014-02188.pdf

2. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/UCM297627.pdf

3. Hennessy T.W., Hedberg, C.W., Slutsker, L. et al., 1996, ‘‘A National Outbreak of Salmonella Enteriditis Infections From Ice Cream,’’ New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 334, No. 20, pp. 1281–1286. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199605163342001

4. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2010/04/30/2010-10078/implementation-of-sanitary-food-transportation-act-of-2005

5. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/food/guidanceregulation/fsma/ucm494118.pdf