USA – The Food and Drug Administration of the United States has announced a new strategy to advance its food safety mission and modernize oversight of imported food.

The FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Deputy, Frank Yiannas have outlined steps the federal agency will undertake to promote FDA’s food safety and the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The agency is looking to optimise its FSMA implementation activities, to provide for a more comprehensive approach to ensuring food safety.

The review will enable FDA to maintain an effective and efficient import program by adopting modern tools while developing an improved global inventory of food facilities and farms.

“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 in a statement.

Same ‘high’ domestic standards for imported foods

According to a statement issued by the two leaders, the U.S. imports about 15% of its overall food supply from more than 200 countries or territories representing about 125,000 international food facilities and farms.

32% of the fresh vegetables, 55% of the fresh fruit and 94% of the seafood is imported from foreign countries, bringing in the need to ensure same domestic standards apply to imported foods.

In a statement, the FDA said the new food safety strategy aims to prevent food safety problems in the foreign supply chain before entry into the United States and detect and refuse entry of unsafe food at the border.

It also targets to respond quickly to reports of unsafe imported food, and measure progress to ensure that the imported food safety program is effective and efficient.

To achieve this, the FDA will take new steps to ensure that imported food meets the same food safety standards as domestically produced food.

This will be guided by optimizing the implementation of FSMA, which gave the FDA additional authority over importers and food producers sending products to the U.S. market and provided support for a level playing field between domestic and international producers.

How FDA plans to achieve the goals

One of the tools to be used in achieving the ambitious goals is onsite inspections of foreign food facilities, with a modern focus on tools for risk-informed prioritization of firms for inspection.

It will also be ensured through a data-driven approach by increasing amount of data and information from other oversight activities and partners.

In line with this, FDA began inspections for the FDA’s Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) rule, a program requires importers to verify that their suppliers are meeting U.S. food safety standards.

Some key requirements under this rule include obligating U.S.-based importers to conduct hazard analyses, perform evaluations of the risk of the food and foreign suppliers, and conduct safety verification activities based on the identified hazards, including the use of third-party audits as appropriate.

The agency has launched the Accredited Third-Party Certification program to prevent imported food safety problems prior to entry into the U.S.

The new strategy also outlines how it will utilize a systems recognition program, an initiative that recognizes that certain countries’ food safety systems and oversight activities provide comparable levels of public health protection to US’s.

In turn, these countries adopt a similar reliance on our systems and oversight activities, leveraging partnerships between the U.S. and other countries with very strong food safety system.

FDA revealed that Canada, New Zealand and Australia have been assessed and recognized as comparable under the systems recognition program, and a mutual assessment is underway with the European Union.

It looks to double its efforts in preventing and stopping unsafe food from entering the U.S through regular monitoring and surveillance of imported products.