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Shipping frozen products to customers who do not have adaquate trucks

frozen shipping release haccp

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#1 TonyM


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Posted 06 July 2018 - 08:27 PM

My company ships frozen soups to several local customers, all of which are will-calls, so they are sending in their own trucks. As part of our procedures, we are supposed to monitor the transport vehicle temp before shipping but some of these trucks are picking up mixed loads, so they arent setting their trucks to frozen temps. I feel that since we arent contracting the shipment or delivering ourselves, the customer is ultimately responsible for the shipment as soon as it leaves our facility. I'm thinking that I need to create a document for the drivers to sign, recording actual product and transport vehicle temps. That way we can prove the product shipped within specs, so anything that happens after that is the responsibility of the customer. Has anyone else had to do anything like this, if so would you mind sharing what that document should say?

#2 SQFconsultant



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Posted 07 July 2018 - 02:11 PM

So you are knowingly going to give a form to the driver and have him sign it - knowing that your product is traveling at a temperature that is not acceptable.


We saw the aftermath of something like this at a company that knew their product was required to be kept frozen and it was all bad - you don't want to do this.


Don't load trucks that are not at the temperature that your product requires.

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#3 QM-OS


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Posted 09 July 2018 - 06:50 AM

We have similar problem, frozen goods that are going straight to production of juice/purees etc are not transported in freeze trucks.

Risk and responsibility of the goods are passed over to the customer as soon as they are on the truck, according to the delivery terms of the contracts.

Customer know the proper storage instructions. It's not ideal situation but we can't force them to load and transport in freeze truck.

As long as the driver sign CMR our audtiors see no reason why we can't continue like this.

#4 Gerard H.

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Posted 09 July 2018 - 08:17 AM

Hi Tony,


I agree with Glenn.


The scope of your system and the hand-over of responsibilities need to be well defined and communicated among the different parties. That's valid for every situation.


However, you can't load your products in a non-conforming vehicle.


Kind regards,


Gerard Heerkens

#5 KTD


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Posted 09 July 2018 - 03:14 PM

Dear TonyM -


If any of the involved soups are amenable to USDA FSIS inspection, I'm not sure you can just hand off responsibility. FSIS requires that that you consider finished product transportation/distribution in your HACCP plan. I assume that FDA's FSMA regs incorporate something along the same lines.

Even with a driver sign-off, I think you would still be on the legal liability hook, should someone get sick. You knowingly allowed your product to be transported in an unacceptable manner.



#6 pHruit


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Posted 11 July 2018 - 12:58 PM

Hi Tony,

We’ve also had this problem occasionally – shipping low-risk products (potential for spoilage but not pathogen growth) with customers collecting on their own ambient vehicle, ostensibly to start the thawing process in transit but in a far from controlled manner, and also possibly motivated by the fact that frozen transport is generally more costly than ambient…

I can't comment on the specific regulatory requirements in the US, but some things I've found useful are:

Have a look at Incoterms and use these to your advantage in defining your contracts of sale – these are an internationally recognised system that can be used to define exactly who is the responsible party at the various points in the sale/shipping/delivery process, and can be very useful even though they’re primarily designed for use in international transport. In your case it sounds like you very much want to be using the EXW Incoterm, as formal responsibility changes hands *before* loading onto the vehicle, whereas FCA could also potentially be used where the customer provides/arranges transport, but responsibility doesn’t pass to them until you’ve loaded the product onto the vehicle, and thus after your business has transferred product into an inappropriate temperature regime.

This just provides a clear unequivocal definition of responsibility, to help protect you in the event that anything does go wrong.


The other thing I’d question is whether the drivers are authorised and suitably knowledgeable to be able to sign a document that forms a concession that could have at best food quality and at worst significant food safety implications? To make sure this is properly understood I’d be inclined to arrange an overarching concession (perhaps on an annual basis) with the customer themselves, rather than on a case-by-case basis with the driver.

You could do this direct with the most senior person with safety/QA/technical responsibility at each customer, as they may not actually be aware of what’s happening (yep, voice of experience!) and if nothing else it provides very clear demonstration for your records as to exactly what has been agreed. Take the opportunity to spell out the potential risks (don't skimp on detail), and if they still want to sign it then you can at least show you’ve done everything you possibly can.


If there is potential for this to cause significant food safety issues then I'd be erring on the side of not doing it at all though - perhaps one to take up with e.g. sales director or similar to have a more formal discussion with the affected customers?

#7 RoundEggs


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Posted 12 July 2018 - 02:55 PM

I would agree that once the customer picks up the product and has it in their possession that it is then their responsibility to handle the product properly. 


However it is your responsibility to follow your own procedures.You must do what you say you are doing and prove that you are doing what you say - therefore loading your product onto a truck that is at an improper storage temperature is going against your own programs and if an auditor saw that come up on your records or a government inspector it would be considered a deviation or non-compliance. 

#8 Fishlady


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Posted 13 July 2018 - 07:36 PM

Underr the FSMA Sanitary Transportation rule the person who arranges for the shipment to be made (the shipper) is responsible for providing instructions to the carrier regarding cleanliness and temperature control of the vehicle.  Where the length of the trip is less than 4 hours, FDA allows for shipment without temperature control.  However, iif you as the loader are subject to a third-party audit scheme, then you do have other considerations- and in any case it could reflect badlly on your company if someone gets sick as a result of temperature abuse in transit.  I would suggest having a conversation with the customers to educate them on the risks.

#9 Parkz58


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Posted 16 July 2018 - 04:24 PM

I see a lot of responses talking about shifting responsibility to someone else, even when you know there's a problem.


Is that really the way you want the food industry to operate?  The whole, "It's not my problem" mentality, where it's somehow OK to just turn your head and pretend like it's not a true food safety risk, just because it's off your hands?


I don't know about you, but I couldn't live with myself if I did that.  Especially if someone got sick or, even worse, died.


Besides that - remember that, while you may be able to shift responsibility, you can't shift the public's opinion of who to blame quite so easily.


What's legal isn't always right...and what's wrong isn't always illegal - good rule of thumb to remember!

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