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A 1987 handbook published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s division of Agricultural Marketing Service received a 21st-century update thanks to a team led by University of Florida researchers.

“Many people in the food transportation industry had been asking for a revised handbook for years, to include all of the developments in technology, best practices and food safety that have occurred since then,” Jeffrey Brecht, horticultural sciences professor at the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said in a news release.

Brecht assembled the team experts and led the revision of USDA-AMS Handbook No. 669, “Protecting Perishable Foods During Transport by Truck and Rail.” 

The new handbook, created under contract to USDA-AMS, provides comprehensive information for shippers, loaders, carriers and receivers on the equipment used to transport fresh and frozen perishable foods, Brecht said in the release. It also offers recommendations for handling different perishable food items to reduce losses in quality while maintaining sanitary conditions.

The free document is available through the university extension’s online collection while it awaits the USDA’s review process to be officially accepted as the new Handbook No. 669.

Although a few revisions were made to the guide since its original publication, it had also been at least a decade since the handbook was reprinted. 

Previous revisions were minor, Brecht said in the release, and included items such as updated references to the Congressional Record and Food and Drug Administration regulations. 

 “The original guide was printed and sized to be put in the glove compartment, so that truck drivers could reference it as needed,” Brecht said in the release. “The idea was for it to be carried around eve-rywhere. Now, that’s like our smartphones. Part of our proposal to USDA-AMS was to create a smart PDF, to be easily navigated and searchable.”

One change is the addition of many commodities, such as tropical fruits, packaged salads and baby carrots, that have become more mainstream over the years.

Steven Sargent, a UF/IFAS professor of horticultural sciences who worked on the project, said in the release that advancements in perishable-goods transportation technology has spurred the need for changes.

“A major area of technological advancement that has occurred is computerized refrigerated transport vehicles and telematics, which is the monitoring mechanism behind these systems,” Sargent said in the release. 

The document can be viewed online or downloaded here. Its current version, however, is in the process of becoming more mobile-friendly and they are working on developing an app, Sargent said.

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