What Determines a “Clean” Food Grade Trailer?

A Great Dane truck driver wheeling a dolly of food down a ramp from the trailer to the ground.

While riding the nation’s highways, the U.S. food supply is vulnerable to contamination. Faulty refrigeration, inadequate sanitation between loads, and insufficient food protection practices can invite harmful microbes to hitch a ride all the way to the dinner table.

FDA food-grade trailer requirements exist to protect the public. The design, maintenance, and storage of vehicles and transportation equipment must be sufficient to prevent food from becoming unsafe while en route to its final destination.

Shippers and carriers are expected to develop and implement written procedures that ensure vehicles and equipment are maintained in sanitary conditions. This assurance necessitates attention to the adequacy of cleaning and sanitization procedure to ensure clean food grade trailers.

As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, food transport needs to employ modern technology to meet or exceed FDA regulations. This is especially crucial in the era of COVID-19 when meeting federal guidelines is of increased concern.

How can it be determined if cleaning and sanitation procedures are adequate?

The Framework for Determining Sanitation of Food Grade Trailers

The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011 evaluates cleaning and sanitization efficacy by measuring the amount of contaminants after procedural cleaning and sanitization.

Contaminant recovery is determined by sampling. There are two general types of sampling that have been found acceptable: direct surface sampling and use of rinse solutions. If the validation test fails, a re-test should be performed. If the test fails a second time, an investigation of both the cleaning method and the method of testing is required.

How It’s Done: Direct Sampling and Rinse Sampling

Direct sampling employs wipe, swab, and Replicate Organism Detection and Counting (RODAC) methods to screen small, nonporous surfaces for bacteria, viruses, fungi, and biological toxins. This allows the extent of contamination and the effectiveness of decontamination to be determined.

Rinse sampling is commonly utilized in a clean-in-place (CIP) system. A fixed volume of the sampling liquid—for example, water for injection systems (WFI)—is passed at a designated temperature through the spray device to cover all internal surfaces of the equipment. That rinse solution is collected in a suitable vessel as it exits the drain valve in the manufacturing vessel.

Two advantages of using rinse samples are:

  1. A larger surface area may be sampled.
  2. Inaccessible systems or ones that cannot be routinely disassembled can be sampled and evaluated.

A disadvantage of rinse samples is that the residue or contaminant may not be soluble or may be physically occluded in the equipment. It is important to determine that a direct measurement of the residue or contaminant has been made for the rinse water when used to validate the cleaning process.

The most desirable is the direct method of sampling the surface of the equipment to ensure FDA food grade trailer requirements. It allows areas that are hardest to clean and reasonably accessible to be evaluated, leading to establishing a level of contamination or residue per given surface area. Additionally, residues that are “dried out” or are insoluble can be sampled by physical removal.

Every Measure Is Essential

Sanitization procedures are about more than meeting guidelines set by legislation. Pathogenic microorganisms pose a serious health risk, and every measure to ensure safe food transport helps protect the end-user.

Microban is an antimicrobial product protection system designed with these considerations in mind*, and its application in trailers is exclusive to Great Dane Trailers — specifically in the Everest reefers.

This proactive technology is built into the liners of Great Dane’s Everest reefer trailers during the manufacturing process, so it never wears off and helps guard reefers against product-damaging bacteria. This allows for cleaner food storage, cuts odors, and helps refrigerated trailers comply with the strict guidelines of the FSMA.

To see Microban in action, check out how G&C Foods uses Great Dane’s Everest Reefers to meet FSMA rules.

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*Microban® technology is not designed to protect users against foodborne illnesses or disease-causing microorganisms. Microban Products Company makes neither direct nor implied health claims. Normal cleaning practices should be maintained.