On July 26, the Food and Drug Administration issued the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs — proposed rules covering oversight of imported produce and accreditation of third-party auditors — as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Below are comments from other media about the proposed rules.
USA Today — by Elizabeth Weise, July 26
Although one-sixth of America’s food is imported, including 50% of the fresh fruit and 20% of the fresh vegetables, the Food and Drug Administration inspects only 2% of imports. That began to change Friday when the agency issued long-awaited rules that require imported food to meet the same safety standards as food produced in the United States.
Today “produce comes to our border without us having any enforceable standards in place for the conditions under which the produce was grown or for water quality and employee hygiene. And there’s no way for us to hold the importer accountable for the safety of the product they’re bringing in,” said Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.
Once the rules take effect, importers will be responsible for proving to FDA that the food they import was produced and packed under conditions that prevent food safety problems.
The New York Times — by Sabrina Tavernise, July 26
WASHINGTON — More than two years after Congress passed a landmark law meant to prevent the importation of contaminated food that sickens Americans, the Food and Drug Administration proposed rules on Friday that for the first time put the main onus on companies to police the food they import.
Major food importers and consumer advocates generally praised the new rules, but the advocates also said they worried the rules might give the companies too much discretion about whether to conduct on-site inspections of the places where the food is grown and processed. They said such inspections must be mandated. ...
The new rules would subject imported foods to the same safety standards as food produced domestically and require companies importing the food to make sure it meets those standards. American companies would have to prove that their foreign suppliers had controls in place with audits of the foreign facilities, food tests, and reviews of records, among other methods. The companies would also have to keep records on foreign suppliers. They would be allowed to hire outside auditors to make on-site inspections — if such inspections were ultimately required. The auditors would be vetted in a process approved by the FDA.
CNN — by Matt Sloane, July 26
The Food and Drug Administration on Friday promised a safer U.S. food supply when it implements two new rules regulating food imported to the United States.
The first rule would put the burden on U.S. food importers to ensure their foreign suppliers are meeting U.S. food safety standards. The second would establish provisions for certifying third-party auditors in these countries.
“Many of the most vulnerable commodities are coming from countries with less-mature systems in terms of regulatory oversight and farming practices,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said. “This is an opportunity to help build regulatory capacity and improve safety standards.” ...
The current food safety system in the U.S. relies on FDA inspectors at ports of entry around the country physically inspecting food and detaining items that may pose a hazard to the American public. But inspectors can only physically examine 2% of the nation’s incoming food supply, according to the agency, leaving the other 98% unchecked.
The Associated Press — by Mary Clare Jalonick, July 26
WASHINGTON – Chances are that about 15% of the food you eat — more if your diet includes lots of fruits, vegetables and cheese — comes from abroad, and the government is taking steps to make it safer.
New rules proposed Friday by the Food and Drug Administration would make U.S. food importers responsible for ensuring that their foreign suppliers are handling and processing food safely. Imported fruit and cheese has been responsible for many recent outbreaks, including 153 recent Hepatitis A illnesses linked to a frozen berry mix sold at Costco last month as well as four deaths last year that were linked to listeria in Italian cheese. ...
The guidelines would require U.S. food importers to verify that the foreign companies they are importing from are achieving the same levels of food safety required in this country. The government estimates that the rules, which would also improve audits of food facilities abroad, could eventually cost the food industry up to $472 million annually.