On April 19, 2017, FDA announced that both the United States and Australia have recognized each other's food safety systems as comparable to each other. This is the third time that the FDA has given this recognition to a country, the first being New Zealand in 2012 and the second being Canada in 2016.
The FDA and the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources have used the standards set forth in the International Comparability Assessment Tool ("ICAT") to evaluate whether a country's system of protections is similar to the other and whether their food safety authority or authorities provide similar oversight and monitoring activities for food produced under their jurisdiction. The ICAT indicates that foreign food safety system recognition should only be issued after evaluating the country's domestic and export food safety system, including: its regulatory foundation; training, inspection, program assessment and inspection audit, and compliance and enforcement program; food-related illness and outbreaks; industry and community relations; program resources; international communication and harmonization; and laboratory support.
Although imports from Australia must continue to comply with U.S. statutory and regulatory requirements to ensure safety and proper labeling, including the new standards adopted under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, systems recognition establishes a framework for regulatory cooperation in a variety of areas that range from scientific collaboration to outbreak response. For example, having comparable food safety systems means each partner intends to consider the oversight of the other when prioritizing inspection activities.