Food Safety

Unknowns of the FDA’s New Rule

Insurers struggle to respond to a new regulation governing sanitary food transportation.
By: | February 20, 2017 • 6 min read

Anyone involved in the transportation of food products within the U.S. now shoulders additional responsibilities for ensuring the safety and sanitation of those goods.

The final rule on the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food, issued by the FDA as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, introduced new standards for the shipping conditions of foods in open containers, the cleaning and maintenance of equipment, training and record-keeping.

In short, any food entering the U.S. distribution system — and any blemishes — will be under a magnifying glass.
If receivers notice anything about a shipment that falls short of the new standards — anything from obvious spoilage to a bit of dirt on the trailer floor — they have grounds to reject it. Every link in the food delivery supply chain — manufacturers, shippers, loaders, motor carriers, receivers and distributors — will all take on additional exposure as a result of the elevated standards.

“It’s really a two-pronged issue: liability and coverage,” said Alan Clark, senior executive general adjuster, Engle Martin & Associates. If a shipment is deemed unsuitable for consumption, who is at fault? And will standard general liability, property and motor truck cargo policies respond?

Shifting Liability

“The FDA took a position that they are not changing the law on liability, which was established by the Carmack Amendment” in 1935, said Sam Rizzitelli, transportation practice leader for the Americas, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty.

Sam Rizzatelli, transportation practice leader for the Americas, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

“The Carmack Amendment will still be the fundamental law governing liability for goods in transit, but deviating from the amendment by use of contract will increase.”

The amendment states that if the shipper wants to hold a motor carrier liable for damaged goods, it must prove that the cargo was in good condition when handed over to the motor carrier, and that it was damaged by the time it was delivered to the receiver.

The new sanitary rule, while not changing the letter of the law, shifts the onus onto the motor carrier to uphold the transport instructions set by the shipper.

“Ultimately, it is the shipper’s responsibility to lay out specific conditions for the safe transport of food, but they can legally delegate that to other parties covered by the new regulation in a contract,” Rizzitelli said. “The practical reality is that the carrier ends up as the one stuck in the middle, so they have to do more in order to facilitate harmony in the supply chain around this issue.”

Definition of Loss

With this increased liability risk, the question hovering over motor carriers is, will insurance cover it?

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Motor truck cargo and property policies typically cover direct physical loss or damage to goods, but the new rule blurs the definition of “direct loss.” A receiver may reject a shipment as adulterated if they see that the new sanitary standards were not met, but no firm criteria to determine “adulteration” of goods have been set.

“The practical reality is that the carrier ends up being the one stuck in the middle, so they have to do more in order to facilitate peace in the supply chain around this issue.” — Sam Rizzitelli, transportation practice leader for the Americas, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

Direct physical loss is usually easy to see. Adulteration or contamination is not.

“If something is stolen, burned or spoiled, that’s easy to distinguish and easy to find in your coverage,” said Steve Silverman, vice president, inland marine, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

“With this law, goods may not necessarily be damaged, but can still be rejected. The question is whether there will still be coverage under the insurance policy for that loss.”

Take, for example, a shipment of fresh apples. The shipper requires the trailer to be kept at 35 degrees F.

When the apples arrive at their destination, the receiver takes the trailer’s temperature and finds it at 38 degrees. That would be enough for the receiver to reject the apples, even if the fruit is not spoiled and perfectly fit for human consumption.

Coverage Challenges

Current cargo and property policies held by motor carriers likely would not cover the rejected shipment, and underwriters are struggling to adapt to the new risk.

“The new sanitary rule will change how underwriters approach the risk,” Clark said. “There will need to be changes in language and endorsements added to policies.”

Insurers will be challenged to write coverage for the broader exposure without pushing prices so high that insureds can’t afford it.

“We’re struggling as an industry to come up with language that reflects this exposure. It’s difficult because we want to protect insureds, but at the same time, we don’t want to make coverage so broad that we have to price for higher loss assumptions that would make coverage unaffordable,” Silverman said.

Only time and an influx of claims stemming from the new rule will tell how the industry will adapt to the new standards. In the meantime, expect a spike in litigation as motor carriers, shippers, receivers and insurers debate what constitutes a loss and which player in the supply chain dropped the ball.

“We don’t know what the full impact will be,” Clark said.

Risk Mitigation

As of now, there are several steps motor carriers can take to shield themselves from liability. The new rule calls for more comprehensive training and record-keeping, so carriers have to update their procedures to stay compliant, though it would be wise to implement these risk management practices regardless.

“Employees have to be aware of their responsibilities. They have to understand whether the trailer meets the specifications for cleanliness set by the shipper to transport food, and if the refrigeration system is working,” Silverman said.

The shipper and motor carrier also have to agree on how temperature will be monitored. The sanitary rule calls for a record of that agreement, written procedures utilized by the carrier to get the trailer in order, and documentation of training. Records must be kept for up to one year.

“Employees have to be aware of their responsibilities. They have to understand whether the trailer meets the specifications for cleanliness set by the shipper to transport food, and if the refrigeration system is working.” – Steve Silverman, vice president, inland marine, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

“Motor carriers will have to keep records of exactly how they are meeting conditions set by the shipper,” Clark said. “How often is the trailer being maintained, and who is doing that work? How is the temperature being tracked and controlled?”

Carriers should also take care not to waive certain rights through contracts with shippers, such as the right to establish protocol to determine whether a shipment should be deemed a loss.

“Some contracts may appear to be in good faith but really aren’t. They may be biased in that the shipper sets the amount of damages the motor carrier will be responsible for paying, without setting a procedure to investigate a claim of contamination,” Clark said.

Motor carriers should rely on their insurer’s claims adjusters to challenge whether goods have been adulterated. Going back to the apple shipment, for example, an adjuster could take the internal temperature of an apple to show that it was not affected by the change in temperature in the trailer.

“With this law, liability will shift contractually from shippers and loaders to the motor carriers, so it’s important to understand what you’re signing when it involves shipping,” Silverman said.

“Smaller carriers may not have the staff or resources to devote to scrutinizing contracts. They sign a document because they need the load, without understanding what they’re picking up in additional liability.”

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Clear communication with shippers and diligent documentation is the best way to avoid claims.

“Insurers, industry associations and transportation lawyers are all trying to grapple with the issue with respect to the underwriter’s obligation and what insureds are responsible for, so we can design an appropriate coverage,” Silverman said.

“The most important thing is that risk managers at every step of the supply chain understand the law and how it uniquely applies to them, and make sure that employees understand what they have to do to comply.” &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Exclusive | Hank Greenberg on China Trade, Starr’s Rapid Growth and 100th, Spitzer, Schneiderman and More

In a robust and frank conversation, the insurance legend provides unique insights into global trade, his past battles and what the future holds for the industry and his company.
By: | October 12, 2018 • 12 min read

In 1960, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg was hired as a vice president of C.V. Starr & Co. At age 35, he had already accomplished a great deal.

He served his country as part of the Allied Forces that stormed the beaches at Normandy and liberated the Nazi death camps. He fought again during the Korean War, earning a Bronze Star. He held a law degree from New York Law School.

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Now he was ready to make his mark on the business world.

Even C.V. Starr himself — who hired Mr. Greenberg and later hand-picked him as the successor to the company he founded in Shanghai in 1919 — could not have imagined what a mark it would be.

Mr. Greenberg began to build AIG as a Starr subsidiary, then in 1969, he took it public. The company would, at its peak, achieve a market cap of some $180 billion and cement its place as the largest insurance and financial services company in history.

This month, Mr. Greenberg travels to China to celebrate the 100th anniversary of C.V. Starr & Co. That visit occurs at a prickly time in U.S.-Sino relations, as the Trump administration levies tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods and China retaliates.

In September, Risk & Insurance® sat down with Mr. Greenberg in his Park Avenue office to hear his thoughts on the centennial of C.V. Starr, the dynamics of U.S. trade relationships with China and the future of the U.S. insurance industry as it faces the challenges of technology development and talent recruitment and retention, among many others. What follows is an edited transcript of that discussion.


R&I: One hundred years is quite an impressive milestone for any company. Celebrating the anniversary in China signifies the importance and longevity of that relationship. Can you tell us more about C.V. Starr’s history with China?

Hank Greenberg: We have a long history in China. I first went there in 1975. There was little there, but I had business throughout Asia, and I stopped there all the time. I’d stop there a couple of times a year and build relationships.

When I first started visiting China, there was only one state-owned insurance company there, PICC (the People’s Insurance Company of China); it was tiny at the time. We helped them to grow.

I also received the first foreign life insurance license in China, for AIA (The American International Assurance Co.). To date, there has been no other foreign life insurance company in China. It took me 20 years of hard work to get that license.

We also introduced an agency system in China. They had none. Their life company employees would get a salary whether they sold something or not. With the agency system of course you get paid a commission if you sell something. Once that agency system was installed, it went on to create more than a million jobs.

R&I: So Starr’s success has meant success for the Chinese insurance industry as well.

Hank Greenberg: That’s partly why we’re going to be celebrating that anniversary there next month. That celebration will occur alongside that of IBLAC (International Business Leaders’ Advisory Council), an international business advisory group that was put together when Zhu Rongji was the mayor of Shanghai [Zhu is since retired from public life]. He asked me to start that to attract foreign companies to invest in Shanghai.

“It turns out that it is harder [for China] to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

Shanghai and China in general were just coming out of the doldrums then; there was a lack of foreign investment. Zhu asked me to chair IBLAC and to help get it started, which I did. I served as chairman of that group for a couple of terms. I am still a part of that board, and it will be celebrating its 30th anniversary along with our 100th anniversary.

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We have a good relationship with China, and we’re candid as you can tell from the op-ed I published in the Wall Street Journal. I’m told that my op-ed was received quite well in China, by both Chinese companies and foreign companies doing business there.

On August 29, Mr. Greenberg published an opinion piece in the WSJ reminding Chinese leaders of the productive history of U.S.-Sino relations and suggesting that Chinese leaders take pragmatic steps to ease trade tensions with the U.S.

R&I: What’s your outlook on current trade relations between the U.S. and China?

Hank Greenberg: As to the current environment, when you are in negotiations, every leader negotiates differently.

President Trump is negotiating based on his well-known approach. What’s different now is that President Xi (Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) made himself the emperor. All the past presidents in China before the revolution had two terms. He’s there for life, which makes things much more difficult.

R&I: Sure does. You’ve got a one- or two-term president talking to somebody who can wait it out. It’s definitely unique.

Hank Greenberg: So, clearly a lot of change is going on in China. Some of it is good. But as I said in the op-ed, China needs to be treated like the second largest economy in the world, which it is. And it will be the number one economy in the world in not too many years. That means that you can’t use the same terms of trade that you did 25 or 30 years ago.

They want to have access to our market and other markets. Fine, but you have to have reciprocity, and they have not been very good at that.

R&I: What stands in the way of that happening?

Hank Greenberg: I think there are several substantial challenges. One, their structure makes it very difficult. They have a senior official, a regulator, who runs a division within the government for insurance. He keeps that job as long as he does what leadership wants him to do. He may not be sure what they want him to do.

For example, the president made a speech many months ago saying they are going to open up banking, insurance and a couple of additional sectors to foreign investment; nothing happened.

The reason was that the head of that division got changed. A new administrator came in who was not sure what the president wanted so he did nothing. Time went on and the international community said, “Wait a minute, you promised that you were going to do that and you didn’t do that.”

So the structure is such that it is very difficult. China can’t react as fast as it should. That will change, but it is going to take time.

R&I: That’s interesting, because during the financial crisis in 2008 there was talk that China, given their more centralized authority, could react more quickly, not less quickly.

Hank Greenberg: It turns out that it is harder to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.

R&I: Obviously, you have a very unique perspective and experience in China. For American companies coming to China, what are some of the current challenges?

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Hank Greenberg: Well, they very much want to do business in China. That’s due to the sheer size of the country, at 1.4 billion people. It’s a very big market and not just for insurance companies. It’s a whole range of companies that would like to have access to China as easily as Chinese companies have access to the United States. As I said previously, that has to be resolved.

It’s not going to be easy, because China has a history of not being treated well by other countries. The U.S. has been pretty good in that way. We haven’t taken advantage of China.

R&I: Your op-ed was very enlightening on that topic.

Hank Greenberg: President Xi wants to rebuild the “middle kingdom,” to what China was, a great country. Part of that was his takeover of the South China Sea rock islands during the Obama Administration; we did nothing. It’s a little late now to try and do something. They promised they would never militarize those islands. Then they did. That’s a real problem in Southern Asia. The other countries in that region are not happy about that.

R&I: One thing that has differentiated your company is that it is not a public company, and it is not a mutual company. We think you’re the only large insurance company with that structure at that scale. What advantages does that give you?

Hank Greenberg: Two things. First of all, we’re more than an insurance company. We have the traditional investment unit with the insurance company. Then we have a separate investment unit that we started, which is very successful. So we have a source of income that is diverse. We don’t have to underwrite business that is going to lose a lot of money. Not knowingly anyway.

R&I: And that’s because you are a private company?

Hank Greenberg: Yes. We attract a different type of person in a private company.

R&I: Do you think that enables you to react more quickly?

Hank Greenberg: Absolutely. When we left AIG there were three of us. Myself, Howie Smith and Ed Matthews. Howie used to run the internal financials and Ed Matthews was the investment guy coming out of Morgan Stanley when I was putting AIG together. We started with three people and now we have 3,500 and growing.

“I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

R&I:  You being forced to leave AIG in 2005 really was an injustice, by the way. AIG wouldn’t have been in the position it was in 2008 if you had still been there.

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Hank Greenberg: Absolutely not. We had all the right things in place. We met with the financial services division once a day every day to make sure they stuck to what they were supposed to do. Even Hank Paulson, the Secretary of Treasury, sat on the stand during my trial and said that if I’d been at the company, it would not have imploded the way it did.

R&I: And that fateful decision the AIG board made really affected the course of the country.

Hank Greenberg: So many people lost all of their net worth. The new management was taking on billions of dollars’ worth of risk with no collateral. They had decimated the internal risk management controls. And the government takeover of the company when the financial crisis blew up was grossly unfair.

From the time it went public, AIG’s value had increased from $300 million to $180 billion. Thanks to Eliot Spitzer, it’s now worth a fraction of that. His was a gross misuse of the Martin Act. It gives the Attorney General the power to investigate without probable cause and bring fraud charges without having to prove intent. Only in New York does the law grant the AG that much power.

R&I: It’s especially frustrating when you consider the quality of his own character, and the scandal he was involved in.

In early 2008, Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging a meeting with a prostitute at a Washington Hotel and resigned shortly thereafter.

Hank Greenberg: Yes. And it’s been successive. Look at Eric Schneiderman. He resigned earlier this year when it came out that he had abused several women. And this was after he came out so strongly against other men accused of the same thing. To me it demonstrates hypocrisy and abuse of power.

Schneiderman followed in Spitzer’s footsteps in leveraging the Martin Act against numerous corporations to generate multi-billion dollar settlements.

R&I: Starr, however, continues to thrive. You said you’re at 3,500 people and still growing. As you continue to expand, how do you deal with the challenge of attracting talent?

Hank Greenberg: We did something last week.

On September 16th, St. John’s University announced the largest gift in its 148-year history. The Starr Foundation donated $15 million to the school, establishing the Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative at St. John’s School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science.

Hank Greenberg: We have recruited from St. John’s for many, many years. These are young people who want to be in the insurance industry. They don’t get into it by accident. They study to become proficient in this and we have recruited some very qualified individuals from that school. But we also recruit from many other universities. On the investment side, outside of the insurance industry, we also recruit from Wall Street.

R&I: We’re very interested in how you and other leaders in this industry view technology and how they’re going to use it.

Hank Greenberg: I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.

R&I: So as the pre-eminent leader of the insurance industry, what do you see in terms of where insurance is now an where it’s going?

Hank Greenberg: The country and the world will always need insurance. That doesn’t mean that what we have today is what we’re going to have 25 years from now.

How quickly the change comes and how far it will go will depend on individual companies and individual countries. Some will be more brave than others. But change will take place, there is no doubt about it.

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More will go on in space, there is no question about that. We’re involved in it right now as an insurance company, and it will get broader.

One of the things you have to worry about is it’s now a nuclear world. It’s a more dangerous world. And again, we have to find some way to deal with that.

So, change is inevitable. You need people who can deal with change.

R&I:  Is there anything else, Mr. Greenberg, you want to comment on?

Hank Greenberg: I think I’ve covered it. &

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]