In July 2017 we wrote an article titled: “Transportation: Rejection Due to Food Safety Concerns”.
That article focused on one specific example; a strange odor was noticed when the truck’s doors were opened to unload the product. Our suggestion was to call for a government inspection as soon as the foul odor is noticed when opening the doors and proceed to close the doors. Depending on the results of the inspection, a receiver may be able to reject the load due to Food Safety concerns. Heavy emphasis on “may be able!”
In the past years, and particularly during the COVID-19 Pandemic era, we have encountered other situations where Food Safety was a concern after the carrier had an accident or had a mechanical issue. In these cases, the transportation company properly informed the receivers of the situation. Except for some shifted pallets that were restacked or having moved the product to a new trailer, the loads appeared to be in good condition upon arrival. However, aside from the delivery delay, the receivers expressed Food Safety concerns immediately after they were informed of the situation. They were worried about who handled these loads and if Food Safety protocols were followed.
DRC staff were able to informally mediate these cases and help the parties reach an amicable settlement. Given the current emphasis on Food Safety and the Pandemic, it is not difficult to understand that no one wants to be responsible for breaking Food Safety protocols. This could end up hurting the final consumer and possible liability for any legal ramifications.
You may have heard DRC staff say that all claims must be proven and documented. So, what does that mean in cases where food safety protocols have been broken, but there is no actual proof of a risk to consumers?
A claim of this nature is much different than whether or not the product meets good arrival, or if two parties agreed to change a contract. We believe public health is of paramount importance and that food safety protocols protecting consumers will take precedent. At minimum, acts which break the chain of custody and make traceability impossible could be treated as material breaches of contract justifying a rejection. We are monitoring to see if this view in fact materializes.
In the meantime, follow protocols and keep your trading partner advised of difficulties. Do not change an instruction given by the owner of the product without their express permission, preferably in writing, otherwise you could assume liability.