New FDA Strategy on Safety of Imported Food
According to the FDA, the U.S. imports about 15% of its overall food supply in order to meet American consumer demands for an abundant but affordable, year-round food supply. That translates to more than 200 countries and about 125,000 food facilities and farms that supply 32% of the fresh vegetables, 55% of the fresh fruit, and 94% of the seafood that Americans consume annually.
New challenges for food safety have arisen due to the increasingly globalized and complex marketplace comes. Therefore, in 2011, Congress passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which shifts the strategy of federal regulators from a reactive to a proactive approach. In other words, regulators are focusing more on preventing contamination than just simply responding to it. Over the past several years, FDA has developed prevention-based standards applicable to foreign and domestic food growers, manufacturers, processors, packers, and holders. For imported foods, specifically, Congress has determined that more was needed to minimize the food safety risks associated with imported foods. Thus, the FDA was tasked with creating an oversight system designed primarily to prevent food safety issues from arising, preferably before the food arrives into the United States.
On March 1, 2019, FDA announced its new strategy that aims to decrease public health risks while maintaining a level playing field for both domestic and foreign producers. The strategy is guided by four main gols: 1) Food Offered for Import Meets U.S. Food Safety Requirements; 2) FDA Border Surveillance Prevents Entry of Unsafe Foods; 3) Rapid & Effective Response to Unsafe Imported Food; 4) Effective and Efficient Food Import Program.
Specific objectives associated with these goals include:
Optimize foreign facility inspections
Ensure effective implementation of Foreign Supplier Verification Programs
Utilize reliable third-party audits
Incentivize importers to use verified suppliers through the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program
Leverage Foreign Regulatory Cooperation
Continue to improve and enhance FDA’s import screening and entry review process
Optimize use of physical examination and sampling of imported food
Strategically utilize import alerts and import certifications
Improve testing methodologies and tools used to determine admissibility of food offered for import
Use information-sharing opportunities to prepare for and respond to the entry of unsafe imported food
Ensure effectiveness of import activities through performance assessment and continuous improvement
To learn more, visit: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/ImportsExports/Importing/ucm631747.htm