While considering food safety issues, it is rarely that one considers the dangers posed while food is transported across a country or for global import-export trade. Even if the processing industry takes all the precautions to safe guard quality and ensure safety, under-prepared distribution net work and infrastructure can bring about deterioration in the food. Appearance of Datura seeds and Parthenium weed in India has been attributed to inadequate phytosanitary measures on the part of exporters of food grains to India during nineteen sixties and seventies. Pests and insects can easily gain access to bulk containers that transport food over long distances and unless sufficient care is taken in maintaining high sanitary conditions there can be problems at the retailing end. This issue has assumed importance with more and more food products traveling long distances before reaching the consumer.
"The new industry guidance covers safety measures that should be employed while the regulations are being written and finalized. They include ensuring that food in transit is maintained at appropriate temperatures; that such food is closely monitored for pests; that the vehicles used to transport foods are sanitary and in proper working condition; that pallets used are of good quality; and that sanitary measures are followed in the loading and unloading of foods".
It is time for the food safety Authorities in India to wake up to this newly emerging risks for the consumer in the form of products not being delivered in sound condition. There are international protocols for maintaining food quality during transportation and this should serve as a guideline for Indian freighters also. Reefer containers that transport frozen foods and MAS containers used for fresh produce need to be equipped with sensors for recording the temperature and humidity during transit to prevent malpractices between the loading and discharging points.Under the tropical weather conditions, especially during the Summer, food transportation can be a nightmare and sufficient flexibility should be built into the protocol without compromising on safety. A tall order indeed!