The rules were crafted to help the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) ensure foods imported into the country meet the same safety standards as domestically produced edibles. They cover verifying foreign suppliers, and accrediting third-party auditors to ensure foreign food firms fall in line.
FDA representative Sue Challis told FoodProductionDaily.com that the new rules are crucial to protecting the food supply.
“These new measures respond to the challenges of food safety in today’s global food system,” she said. “Imported food accounts for about 15% of the U.S. food supply, including about 50% of the fresh fruits and 20% of the fresh vegetables consumed by Americans.”
According to the FDA, FSMA focuses on proactively tackling food safety problems, instead of relying mostly on responding to problems and crises when they occur. American consumers and businesses are invited to review and comment on the proposed rules.
If enacted, the rules would place the burden on importers to verify their suppliers overseas are honed in on modern, prevention-oriented safety practices. The FDA also seeks to bolster quality, objectivity and transparency of foreign food safety audits.
According to Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., FDA commissioner, enactment of the measures will help safeguard consumers.
“Today’s announcement of these two new proposed rules will help to meet the challenges of our complex global food supply system,” she said. “Our success will depend in large part on partnerships across nations, industries, and business sectors.”
Under the proposed Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP), importers would be required to have a plan for imported food, including identifying hazards associated with each food that are reasonably likely to occur. Additionally, importers would be charged with providing adequate assurances that identified hazards are adequately controlled.
With the proposed program for the Accreditation of Third-Party Auditors for imported food, bodies would be recognized based on competency, impartiality and other criteria. Those bodies would in turn accredit third-party auditors to audit and issue certifications for foreign food facilities and food.
Importers will not generally be required to obtain certifications, but certifications may be used by the FDA to determine whether to admit certain imported food that poses a safety risk into the United States.
The proposed rules will be open for comment until Sept. 16. The FDA plans to grant a 60-day extension to give commenters sufficient time to compare earlier proposals and the two new rules.