FDA Announces New Strategy to Advance Safety of Imported Foods

FDA Announces New Strategy to Advance Safety of Imported Foods

On February 25, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled its new strategy to ensure the safety of imported foods. The FDA advises that the U.S. imports about 15 percent of its overall food supply from more than 200 countries or territories representing about 125,000 international food facilities and farms.

The new strategy has four key goals:

  • Prevent food safety problems in the foreign supply chain before entry into the U.S. 
  • Detect and refuse entry of unsafe food at U.S. borders
  • Respond quickly when the FDA learns of unsafe imported food
  • Measure progress to ensure that the imported food safety program is effective and efficient

The FDA said it will take new steps to continue to ensure that food offered for import meets the same standards as domestically produced food. As onsite inspections of foreign food facilities are valuable, but resource-intensive, they will adapt their strategy to involve a more modern focus on tools for risk-informed prioritization of firms for inspection.

In addition, the FDA’s launch of the Accredited Third-Party Certification program will aid the agency in meeting their goal of preventing imported food safety problems prior to entry into the U.S. This will integrate with the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program to expedite review and entry of food based on the safety assurances that the audits provide. The program also provides the FDA with additional data and intelligence that will help them plan oversight activities based on a more accurate assessment of risk. 

The new strategy also outlines how the FDA intends to utilize a system recognition program. Under this program, the administration recognizes that certain countries’ food safety systems and oversight activities provide comparable levels of public health protection to those in the U.S. By partnering with those countries, the U.S. will be able to prioritize inspection and border screening activities on foods imported from higher-risk areas. So far, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have been assessed and recognized as comparable systems.

Other parts of the strategy include using a screening and review process at the U.S. border, enhancing the ability to swiftly respond to unsafe imported food, and developing performance measures and outcome indicators for imported food safety. The intention is to publish the measures and non-confidential data about imported food, foreign suppliers, FSVP importers, and other importers. 

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. We recognize that the FDA plays an important oversight role in securing consumer safety. We’re fully committed to keeping our food safety mission robust and highly effective in this increasingly complex and global food landscape,

                         said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas