The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today proposed two rules meant to make sure imported foods meet the same safety requirements as food produced in the U.S. The rules would implement provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was passed in early 2011.
One of the new rules would hold importers accountable for ensuring that their suppliers are "implementing modern, prevention-oriented food safety practices." Importers would be required to identify hazards associated with their imports, and provide "adequate assurances" that the hazards are being controlled.
The other rule would, according to the FDA, "strengthen the quality, objectivity, and transparency of foreign food safety audits." The FDA plans on giving accreditation to third-party auditors for food imports, which could include foreign government agencies or private companies.
“We must work toward global solutions to food safety so that whether you serve your family food grown locally or imported you can be confident that it is safe,” said Dr. Margaret Hamburg, FDA Commissioner. “Today’s announcement of these two new proposed rules will help to meet the challenges of our complex global food supply system. Our success will depend in large part on partnerships across nations, industries, and business sectors.”
The FSMA is meant to update the U.S. food safety systems to prevent food safety problems, rather than react to them. According to the FDA, the U.S. currently imports around 15% of its food supply from 150 different countries around the world. In particular, half of all fresh fruits and one-fifth of fresh vegetables eaten by Americans are imported.
“FSMA provides the FDA with a modern tool kit that shifts the paradigm for imports, as well as domestic foods, from a strategy of reaction to one of systematic prevention,” said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “Rather than relying primarily on FDA investigators at the ports to detect and respond to food safety problems, importers would, for the first time, be held accountable for verifying, in a manner transparent to the FDA, that the food they import is safe.”