FDA Resources Help Food Importers Comply With FSMA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has several online resources designed to help importers comply with requirements under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

SILVER SPRING, Md., Oct. 18, 2018 (PRNewswire) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has several online resources designed to help importers comply with requirements under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). New developments in three programs established by FSMA strengthen oversight of imported foods: Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP), the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) and the Accredited Third-Party Certification Program.

FSVP: This rule places responsibility on importers for ensuring that foreign suppliers meet applicable U.S. safety standards. The FDA has conducted over a thousand inspections and investigations under the FSVP rule since the first compliance date in May 2017.

To help importers and manufacturers/processors meet supply-chain requirements, the FDA recently released a new feature of the Data Dashboard: the Firm/Supplier Evaluation Resources page under the FSMA Data Search component.  This section will make it easier to find compliance and enforcement information related to specific firms (i.e. foreign suppliers).  Details include whether companies have been inspected by FDA, received a warning letter, are listed on an FDA Import Alert, initiated a recall, and other compliance information.

The FDA has made public a List of Participants, identifying FSVP importers and the states in which they do business, which it will update on a quarterly basis.

VQIP: On October 1, 2018, the application portal opened for importers to apply for participation. This fee-based program provides expedited review and import entry of human and animal foods for participating importers.  Importers must demonstrate that the foods in their application are from facilities certified through the Accredited Third-Party Certification program and complete an application providing other information.

One of the benefits for importers approved for VQIP is the option to have their company publicly listed by FDA. This list will inform the public that the products are being imported by companies with a high level of control over the safety and security of their supply chains.

Third-Party: The Accredited Third-Party Certification Program has established a framework in which accreditation bodies recognized by the FDA can accredit third-party auditors, called certification bodies, to conduct food safety audits of eligible entities. The certifications issued by these auditors are required for participation in VQIP; they may also be required in other circumstances to prevent a potentially harmful food from reaching the United States.

Four accreditation bodies have been recognized by the FDA:

  • American National Standards Institute
  • ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board
  • International Accreditation Services, Inc.
  • National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards

And the first certification body has been accredited:

  • Perry Johnson Registrars Food Safety, Inc.

The FDA has established a registry of Accreditation Bodies and Certification Bodies as a resource for importers.