Consistent with recent years, the Food and Drug Administration inspected just less than 2% of food and feed imports in 2012, according to a new report.
The report said the agency examined 1.9%, or 207,839, of more than 11.1 million food import shipments in fiscal year 2012.
In fiscal year 2012, the FDA reports that imported fresh fruit and vegetables totaled 2.189 million shipments out of a total 11.13 million U.S. imported food shipments, or 19.7% of the total. That compares with 1.92 million shipments of imported fresh fruits and vegetables in fiscal year 2011, which represented 18.5% of total imported food shipments of 10.44 million that year, according to the FDA. FDA defines food shipments to include human food, infant formula/food, animal feed, dietary and food and color additives.
The FDA’s 2012 inspection rate of 1.9% of food import shipments compares with a rate of 2.3% in fiscal year 2011, when the FDA said it examined 243,000 food import shipments out of total imports of 10.43 million. For fiscal year 2010, the FDA physically examined 2.1% of food import shipments, or 206,723 lots out of a total of 9.94 million shipments imported.
However, this year’s report said the FDA’s reach was greater than the percent of imports inspected.
“All import entries are electronically screened using an automated system, which helps field inspectors determine which products pose the greatest risk and, therefore, should be physically examined,” according to the report.
When needed, the report said the FDA can issue import bulletins which trigger greater scrutiny for a product or range of products from a supplier.
The average cost of physically inspecting/sampling is about $160 per field exam and $3,100 per sample analyzed, according to the report.
The FDA also provided statistics on the number of inspections the agency performed on domestic and foreign food facilities. In fiscal year 2012, FDA and the states under contract with FDA inspected (or tried to inspect) 24,462 domestic food facilities, according to the report; FDA officials inspected 1,342 foreign food facilities.
As of October 2012, the FDA said there 172,969 registered domestic food facilities and 285,977 foreign food facilities.
The FDA has identified 22,325 domestic food firms as high-risk. Of that total, the FDA said 11,007 were inspected in fiscal year 2011. In fiscal year 2012, another 8,023 high-risk facilities were inspected (or inspection was attempted), totaling 19,030 or 85% of the total high risk domestic food firms. In addition, another 3,736 firms inspected in fiscal year 2011 were re-inspected (or inspection was attempted) in fiscal year 2012.
In fiscal year 2012, the average FDA inspection cost for a high-risk domestic food facility was $15,500, according to the report. while the non high risk domestic food facility inspection average cost was $9,200. Foreign facility inspections were more expensive, the report said; foreign-high risk food facility inspections averaged $23,000 in fiscal year 2012.
Food facility inspections performed by the Food and Drug Administration cost nearly $200 million in fiscal year 2012 according to the FDA’s annual report to Congress on food imports and food facilities.
The report said the total budgeted money for inspections totaled $198.5 million in fiscal year 2012. Of that total, the FDA said $145.2 million was used for FDA inspections of domestic facilities and $34.7 million for FDA inspection of foreign facilities. In addition to those amounts, the FDA said $18.6 million was provided to state agencies, through contracts, to perform domestic inspections on behalf of FDA. Those figures don’t include the cost of inspections at the border, the FDA said, since those inspections are not performed in registered facilities, according to the report. The agency devotes more than 1,300 full time equivalent staff to conduct inspections and food safety investigations, according to the report.