(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.”