Shipping, Receiving, Handling and Storage

In the food industry, incoming and outgoing materials need to be properly received, stored, handled and shipped to avoid the risk of biological, chemical or physical hazards in food. To prevent these types of hazards and ensure food safety in distributing final food products to consumers, food processors should consider the following food safety elements: 


Conveyance Vehicles

Vehicles and containers that transport food products, ingredients or packaging materials should be used only for the intended purpose and should have both sanitary design and pest control procedures in place. 

Inspect incoming materials as soon as they are received to ensure that established specifications (ex: temperature and packaging conditions) are met. Evaluate the transport conditions. A designated employee should verify and document the following: 

  • Vehicles and containers should be made of materials that are sanitary and easy to clean (ex: non-absorbent, non-toxic, smooth surfaces and corrosion-resistant materials).  Avoid wood as a surface material because it cracks easily and absorbs moisture and micro-organisms.
  • Refrigeration equipment should be in good working order and calibrated. Mechanical refrigeration should be provided for hazardous food such as meat, fish, poultry, milk and eggs if they are held for four hours or longer. Dry ice and cold packs may be substituted for mechanical refrigeration if the required temperatures for the food is maintained for less than four hours. 
  • Vehicles should be inspected for cleanliness, odours and obvious dirt or debris before loading.
  • Vehicles should be inspected for evidence of chemical contamination. Look for oily fluids, white powders, bad odors and other chemical residues.
  • Vehicles should be swept and cleaned with hot water. Floors and walls should be sanitized and air dried completely.
  • Cross contamination should be avoided in transport vehicles. Do not use the same vehicle to move raw materials, finished products and chemicals that are absolutely incompatible with each other in terms of food safety. 
  • Avoid contamination risk associated with vehicles with less than full loads (LTL). Drivers and other staff must be trained in the risks involved in combining food products. Avoid using LTL to move products that could result in cross contamination.  
  • Maintain a log to verify inspection and cleaning tasks (ex: indicate type of loads, cleaning and sanitation procedures and inspections).


Loading and Unloading Food Products

There is a food safety risk when loading and unloading food products if proper procedures are not followed. Some important considerations for loading and unloading include:

  • Employees who load and unload food materials should follow good hygiene and sanitation practices.
  • Food products should be packaged in suitable containers to prevent product damage.
  • Proper temperature for the product must be maintained during transport, loading and unloading. Movers should be aware of the product temperature requirementsDelivery of mixed loads with incompatible refrigeration requirements should be avoided.
  • Food should be loaded to allow proper refrigerated air circulation. For example, failure to properly load pallets may result in certain sections of the load being at much higher temperatures than the air supplied.


Received Products

Inspect incoming materials as soon as they are received to ensure that established specifications (ex: temperature and packaging conditions) are met. Evaluate the transport conditions. A designated employee should verify and document the following:

  • incoming raw materials are from an approved supplier
  • cleanliness of the truck: no foreign materials, dirt, odors, rodents, insects or other pests
  • temperature of the truck: proper level to maintain product temperature, according to specifications
  • condition of door seals: close-fitting doors with no spaces at sides or bottom
  • general truck conditions: lack of cracks, insulation in good condition

Delivery areas should be suitable for the type of vehicle arriving at the facility. If a vehicle moves refrigerated foods, a receiving area with a refrigeration system is required. Delivery areas should be operated to minimize cross contamination and allow unloading with a minimum temperature change and minimum damage to packaging materials. These areas must be designed for effective cleaning and should be separated from processing areas.  


Processors should document specific information when they receive an ingredient. This is important for tracing shipments in case of a recall, and should include:

  • time of receipt
  • type of product
  • ingredient and product packaging
  • labeling
  • lot number
  • pallet tag, quantity, size and weight



Designated employees should evaluate and document the condition of trucks, containers and carriers of finished products before loading. The following should be verified before loading:

  • overall carrier/transporter vehicle conditions
  • cleanliness of the truck
  • temperature of the truck
  • if a truck contains temperature measuring and recording devices, verify the devices will work properly during transportation 

Check applicable regulations to determine the required temperatures throughout/during food transportation.


Allergen Control

Food allergens have become a serious food issue during the past few years. Scientists estimate that 2% of adults and 5% of children have food allergies (US National Library of Medicine). 

Food allergies are an immune system response to a food that the body believes is harmful, usually it is a protein. Once the immune system decides that a food is harmful, it creates specific antibodies to it. The next time the individual eats that food, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals, like histamine, to protect the body. These chemicals trigger allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system (wheezing or breathing problems), gastrointestinal tract (stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea), skin (hives, rashes or eczema), among other symptoms.  The most severe reaction can cause death within 10 to 15 minutes.  

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have identified a group of foods (or food ingredients) that are responsible for 90% of the food allergic reactions including:

  • milk and milk products
  • peanuts
  • soy
  • eggs
  • wheat and triticale
  • tree nuts (ex: almond, cashew and pecans)
  • fish
  • crustaceans (ex: crab, lobster, shrimp, etc)
  • molluscs (ex: clams, mussels, oysters and scallops)
  • sesame seeds
  • sulphites
  • mustard

The biggest challenge for people with food allergies is to know whether an allergen is contained in a particular food. Food processors need to recognize and develop food safety plans to control unidentified allergens. Understanding the potential consequences to consumers with food allergies reinforces the importance of following proper control procedures during shipping, receiving, handling and storage of food products.


Allergen Control: Precautions to Take with Raw Materials/Purchasing, Transportation and Storage

  • Ensure suppliers have a documented and implemented allergen control plan.
  • Check labels on incoming ingredients -- supplier may have sent the wrong product, a substitute product or used the wrong label.
  • Do not purchase reconditioned ingredients. They may be contaminated with an allergen.
  • Ensure vehicles and shipping containers are sanitized before and after shipping.
  • Handle raw materials in specified areas to minimize cross contamination between allergenic and non-allergenic ingredients.
  • Clearly label raw materials to indicate they contain food allergens (ex: color-coded containers, tags).
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize equipment between processing allergen containing products and non allergen containing products.



Food products should be handled according to good manufacturing practices (GMPs). Procedures (ex: controlling temperature, humidity and personal hygiene) should be in place to protect food and food ingredients from contamination by pests or microbiological, physical or chemical hazards and to prevent deterioration or spoilage.


Storage Practices

Food or food ingredients should be used within the manufacturer’s specified time period to maintain shelf life requirements. Follow specific documented guidelines. Appropriate rotation of food and packing materials, first in, first out (FIFO) helps minimize food product contamination, damage and spoilage.   

Each food establishment must have specific guidelines for storing and using finished products. Store products adequately to maintain package/pallet integrity, allow maximum air circulation and stock rotation. Storage areas must be assigned for different products (ex: ingredients, raw materials, finished products) to avoid cross contamination. 

Storage areas should be easily cleanable -- using either wet or dry methods, as required.


Chemical Storage

Toxic cleaning compounds, sanitizing agents, pesticides, paints, solvents, lubricants or other chemicals that may lead to contamination of food, food contact surfaces or food packaging materials must be stored securely. Chemical storage areas should be clean, dry and adequately ventilated with proper temperature and humidity levels.

Chemicals should be stored in appropriate containers, tightly closed and correctly labelled, including a Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS) label.  


Waste Management

Waste should be handled, stored and removed in a way that adequately protects the safety of food and food packaging materials. Solid waste, such as garbage, is a potential source of pest attraction. It can develop odours that can contaminate food and food ingredients.  

Solid waste inside food facilities should be stored in clearly identified leak proof containers. Interior containers should be emptied daily into exterior covered containers that are in an appropriate location of the building. Containers need to be of an appropriate size to keep waste from overflowing and attracting pests.

Liquid waste, including sewage and wastewater should be handled by disposal systems that prevent contamination of food and food ingredients.


For more information, email the Food Safety and Inspection Branch or call 204-795-8418 in Winnipeg.