FDA Comes to the Defense of India-Based Manufacturers
[Thursday, March 7, 2019]
FDA announced a four-point strategy to increase scrutiny of imported food, effective immediately. FDA would increase foreign food facility inspections, increase inspection of shipments of food at ports of entry, improve it response time in case of food-quality related issues, and create a comprehensive inventory of human and animal food facilities and farms to better track facilities that maintain compliant systems for quality and, those that do not, to prioritize monitoring efforts. US food supply is completely dependent on non-US sources with 94% of the seafood, 55% of fresh fruits, and 32% of fresh vegetables being imported into the country. The biggest exporters of food to the US are Mexico and Canada, followed by countries in Asia and Europe. Many of these measures have been in the works for a few years, since the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed by the Congress almost a decade ago. The new efforts create a comprehensive multi-dimensional plan containing 16 specific tasks to better address food safety issues. And FDA plans to work with foreign governments to control food quality at the source, with efforts to catch defective food upon arrival at the ports of entry, and reduce the number of events that require recalls, rescue and remediation. One key new element of FDA’s plan is to require US-based importers to evaluate their foreign suppliers for compliance with US food safety regulations via risk analysis and audits. FDA will also work with foreign governments to create compliance programs like those in the US so food from those countries could be more easily imported into the country. FDA announced that Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are the three countries with food quality laws close to US laws and is working with several European countries to similarly validated those laws to be at par with those in the US. Since Mexico and Asia together account for more food imports than all other countries combined, one can assume that FDA would work hard with those countries as well. FDA will use the source of the food and history of compliance of a given exporter to prioritize and automate its port-of-entry inspections. All the measures included in the strategy seem common sense and much needed. The good thing about these strategies is that just being aware of FDA’s expectations clearly goes a long way in getting exporters in compliance since as much as the US supply is dependent on these foreign suppliers, these providers are in turn economically dependent on being able to export their produce to the US. The exporters to the US want to assure that their business is not adversely affected and would proactively work to be compliant with the requirements of their clients in the US. And that’s good for all parties involved.