UPDATED: FSMA rules focus on imports, auditors - The Packer

UPDATED: FSMA rules focus on imports, auditors

07/26/2013 11:18:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

(UPDATED 2 p.m.) Holding imported produce to the same standards as domestic food, the Food and Drug Administration issued proposed rules covering oversight of imported produce and accreditation of third-party auditors.

The FDA released the rules Foreign Supplier Verification Programs third-party auditor accreditation on July 26. The agency is accepting comments on the rules for four months — November 26. The rules are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

According to the proposed rules, the FDA can audit importers’ safety plans and importers would be required to verify that foreign suppliers are implementing prevention-oriented practices, according to the FDA.

The FDA has the authority to stop imports from entering the U.S. if it believes food safety measures (or implementation of those measures) are inadequate, said Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods.

“The FSMA is really all about defining industry responsibility for prevention and strengthening FDA’s ability to hold the industry accountable for meeting that responsibility,” Taylor said. “The foreign supplier verification program does this for imports. It really boils down to expecting our importers to know their suppliers, to know the foods they’re bringing into the country have potential hazards and to verify the preventive steps being taken to minimize those hazards.”

Officials with the Produce Marketing Association in Newark, Del., said the industry welcomes the release of the proposed rules.

“The implications of these proposals are critically important to our members’ businesses and to our overall objective of increasing produce consumption,” Bryan Silbermann, president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “It’s important that these proposed rules are geared toward advancing produce safety in a meaningful way for industry members that also protects public health.

“Food that’s consumed in the U.S., no matter where it’s grown, must meet the same standards,” Silbermann said in the release. “The release and the coordinated comment periods of these proposals are evidence that FDA is listening to industry’s needs.”

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Watsonville  |  July, 26, 2013 at 06:07 PM

Maybe this will help speed-up or eliminate the bottleneck of the import examinations... X-ray cargo, completely agree, but let's pre clear at the source...

Florida  |  July, 29, 2013 at 09:27 AM

The audits don't do anything to ensure safe produce. All they do is encourage the audited company to be on their best behavior for that one day the auditors are visiting. I demand that ALL imported produce is thoroughly inspected at the border for all the pathogens that commonly run rampant in the 3rd world countries that export to us.

Jimmy John James    
AZ  |  July, 31, 2013 at 02:37 PM

John, demand all you like. You can generalize about "imports" all you like, but that's like saying the operation of a Florida tomato grower is equivalent to that of an Idaho potato grower. How can you be so confident that domestically-produced food is safe or even SAFER than imports? I manage facilities in Mexico that are clean enough to eat off the floor of and I have been to (literal) sheds in Florida and Georgia that I wouldn't let my own mother VISIT, much less consume product from. All I can do is laugh when they say they are looking to hold imports to the same standards as domestics...

California  |  July, 31, 2013 at 02:57 PM

John, it's true that an audit is a snapshot of a single day's operating procedures but to say that they do nothing is ignorant. Audits are an important tool even if they are not a perfect solution. Equally ignorant is a demand that all imported produce undergo microbiological testing. Not only is that unnecessary, it would be impractical and ineffective. Finished product testing is not only unreliable, the US does not have the infrastructure to conduct that much testing. Why not demand testing all of our domestic production as well? After all, there have been outbreaks of Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli traced back to CA, FL, IN, NC and many other other states, not to mention the tragic Listeria monocytogenes outbreak from CO. Food safety standards must be based on science and not on prejudice or conjecture. Just as importantly, they must be applied the same everywhere.

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