On Jan. 4, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act, which mandates a number of new responsibilities on food manufacturers and food producers.
The safety of imported food was a major consideration for lawmakers in supporting this legislation. The law requires importers to verify that imported food and food ingredients are produced in accordance with U.S. requirements and that records be maintained for two years and be accessible to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Each importer is required to perform risk-based foreign supplier verification activities. This may include providing records for shipment, annual on-site inspections and checking the hazard analysis and risk basis preventive control plan for foreign suppliers. Certification can be done by either a foreign national government or entity third-party auditor that is accredited by the FDA. Certification will depend on a variety of factors, including new safety risks associated with the country of origin or findings that the government programs are inadequate under U.S. standards.
The FDA is required to provide guidance and regulations on the foreign supplier verification program within two years of the passage of the Act. However, rule making should be complete within one year under section 301 of the Act.
If you supply or buy food bound for the United States, you should begin planning now for the accreditation process and ensure that you or your suppliers are working with laboratories that will become FDA accredited.
The Act also provides for a voluntary qualified importer program. The FDA will provide for expedited entry for qualified importers that voluntarily participate in the program. Eligibility includes a third-party certification. Participation will require a fee to reimburse the FDA for related costs associated.