foodsafety

Proposed Rules Could Affect Local and Foreign Farmers and Food Suppliers

The FDA has proposed a rule to create a Foreign Supplier Verification Program to regulate food imported from abroad, as well as one that would create an accreditation program for third-party auditors.

The Food and Drug Administration will hold another public meeting next week on its proposed rules on foreign suppliers' verification programs and accreditation of third-party auditors/certification bodies. The Oct. 22-23 meeting will take place at the Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Center, 701 West Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach, Calif.

The purpose of the public meeting is to discuss the two proposed rules aimed at ensuring imported food meets the same safety standards as food produced domestically. The Foreign Supplier Verification Program proposal would establish requirements for importers to verify that their foreign suppliers are implementing the modern, prevention-oriented food safety practices called for by Food Safety Modernization Act. The second rule on accreditation of third-party auditors/certification bodies would strengthen the quality, objectivity, and transparency of foreign food safety audits, which many U.S. food companies and importers currently rely on to help manage the safety of their global food supply chains. To request an opportunity to make an oral presentation, contact Juanita Yates, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Pkwy, College Park, MD 20740; telephone 240-402-1731, e-mail Juanita.Yates@fda.hhs.gov.

The United States imports 50 percent of its fruit and 20 percent of its vegetables, so the new rule would affect food safety in a large way. According to Food Safety Magazine, the foods that are imported come from around 150 countries. With the creation of the rules, the FDA hopes to ensure that all food, no matter where it is produced, is equally safe to eat.

The first rule, the Foreign Supplier Verification Program, is pursuant to Section 301 of the FSMA and would require food importers to provide the FDA with sufficient assurances that their foreign suppliers and providing food that is just as safe as food produced in the US. Hypothetically, a failure to comply with this rule would refuse admission of the imported food into the United States. The verification program would require compliance status reviews, hazard analysis, verification procedures, review and correcting, reassessment every three years, identification, recordkeeping, and more.

The second rule, accreditation of third party auditors, would establish an audit and certification program in order to meet the FDA's Voluntary Qualified Importer Program and for mandatory certification of foods that pose a safety risk. The proposed rule would ensure that audits done by third-party auditors would be unannounced and include a records review, on-site assessment and other assessments, depending on the type of facility. Auditors would be required to report a facility to the FDA if it poses a serious food safety risk.

The rules are subject to a 120-day comment period that ends Nov. 26.

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