Imported Foods

June 4, 2014

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing two rules that represent a fundamental shift in its oversight of imported foods. The shift is designed to help prevent safety problems before those foods arrive in the United States, rather than having to rely primarily on inspections at U.S. ports of entry.

The proposed Foreign Supplier Verification and Accredited Third Party Certification rules are the next major steps in implementing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act signed by President Obama in 2011. The law calls for science-based changes to the food safety system to prevent foodborne illnesses.

The new rules would make importers more accountable for food safety, and would establish standards for third-party audits of foreign food producers. These proposals would strengthen FDA’s ability to monitor those facilities and respond if there are unsafe practices. A lot of the food we eat is imported—15 percent of the U.S. food supply, including nearly 50 percent of fresh fruit and 20 percent of fresh vegetables.

“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,” says FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

The new rules would complement two others proposed in January 2013. The proposed Preventive Controls for Human Food rule would set safety requirements for facilities that process, package or store food for people. And the proposed Produce Safety rule would establish science-based standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce on farms.

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