• The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discusses how the Agency is integrating new tools, that are a result of the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), with existing ones to improve the safety of imported foods in a newly released publication, “Strategy for the Safety of Imported Food.” (For background information on these new tools, see our previous blogs on the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), the Accredited Third-Party Certification program’ and the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP).)
  • Noting that the U.S. imports about 15% of its overall food supply from more than 200 countries or territories, FDA explained that the volume and variety of imported food and the complexity of global supply chains make food safety a challenging issue to address. Below is a brief summary of the goals that FDA has outlined in the Strategy document.
  • Goal 1 – Food Offered for Import Meets U.S. Food Safety Requirements. This involves optimizing the use of foreign inspection, effective implementation of the FSVP, use of reliable third-party audits and the VQIP. In addition, FDA will collaborate with foreign governments, standards development organizations, and others. For example, FDA has made system recognition arrangements with New Zealand, Canada, and Australia and is working with the European Union on a mutual assessment.
  • Goal 2 – FDA Border Surveillance Prevents Entry of Unsafe Foods. FDA’s surveillance of imported food at more than 300 active U.S. ports of entry generally involves screening, examination, sampling, and testing. The Agency plans on incorporating new sources of information into import screening and expanding testing methods. Additionally, FDA will collaborate with state and other regulatory authorities; use import alerts; and require import certification as a condition of admission, where appropriate.
  • Goal 3 – Rapid and Effective Response to Unsafe Imported Food. While FSMA granted FDA mandatory recall authority, voluntary recalls are still the primary means to remove “violative products” from the U.S. food supply. Reaching this goal will also involve gaining greater access to information from foreign sources and maximizing effectiveness of response to an event involving imported food. FDA also plans to further develop and refine processes to enable use of Agency authorities to prevent importation of unsafe food from facilities, including those with suspended registrations.
  • Goal 4 – Effective and Efficient Food Import Program. FDA will develop an improved global inventory of food facilities and farms to optimize resource allocation for imported food safety oversight to areas of higher risk.
  • In a statement on FDA’s new strategy to advance oversight of imported food, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas concluded, “Overall, our modern strategy is designed to leverage our different authorities and tools to provide a multi-layered, data-driven, smarter approach to imported food safety.”