The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed two rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) for verifying foreign suppliers and accrediting third-party auditors. Part of the agency’s effort “to ensure that imported food meets the same safety standards as food produced in the United States,” the proposed rules would (i) require importers to verify “that their foreign suppliers are implementing modern, prevention-oriented food safety practices,” and (ii) “strengthen the quality, objectivity, and transparency of foreign food safety audits on which many food companies and importers currently rely to help manage the safety of their global food supply chains.”

In particular, the rules establishing foreign supplier verification programs would hold U.S. importers responsible for ensuring that human and animal food produced abroad meets the safety standards set forth in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and is neither adulterated nor misbranded “with respect to food allergen labeling.” In addition, FDA has proposed creating a program to recognize foreign accreditation bodies—such as government agencies—that “would in turn accredit third-party auditors to audit and issue certifications for foreign food facilities and food, under certain circumstances.”

“FSMA provides the FDA with a modern tool kit that shifts the paradigm for imports, as well as domestic foods, from a strategy of reaction to one of systematic prevention,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor in a July 26, 2013, press release. “Rather than relying primarily on FDA investigators at the ports to detect and respond to food safety problems, importers would, for the first time, be held accountable for verifying, in a manner transparent to the FDA, that the food they import is safe.” The agency will accept comments on the proposed rules until November 26, 2013. See Federal Register, July 29, 2013.