WASHINGTON – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explained the agency’s strategy for ensuring that imported foods are safe for consumption.

Four goals guide the strategy:

  • Food offered for import meets US food safety requirements
  • FDA border surveillance prevents entry of unsafe foods
  • Rapid and effective response to unsafe imported food
  • Effective and efficient food import program

In a joint statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannis said, “Overall, our modern strategy is designed to leverage our different authorities and tools to provide a multi-layered, data-driven, smarter approach to imported food safety. We recognize that the FDA plays an important oversight role in securing consumer safety. We’re fully committed to keeping our food safety mission robust and highly effective in this increasingly complex and global food landscape.”

Steps FDA is taking to prevent food safety problems in foreign supply chains include onsite inspections of foreign food facilities. “These valuable inspections are resource-intensive, so our strategy will involve a more modern focus on tools for risk-informed prioritization of firms for inspection,” FDA said. “Our decisions will be informed by an increasing amount of data and information from other oversight activities and partners.”

For example, FDA recently started inspection under its Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) rule which requires importers to verify their suppliers are meeting US food safety standards. Key requirements obligate US-based importers to conduct hazard analyses, evaluations of the risk of the food and foreign suppliers and safety verification activities based on identified hazards.

Also, the Accredited Third-Party Certification program provides a framework for audits of foreign food facilities to verify compliance with US food safety standards. Importers can use the program to establish eligibility in the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) which offers an expedited review and entry of food products.

As part of the agency’s goal of detecting and refusing unsafe food products, FDA developed an automated import screening tool called Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting (PREDICT). “As part of our new strategy, the FDA intends to optimize this tool by incorporating new sources of data from foreign supplier verification programs, voluntary importer incentive programs, accredited third-party auditors, foreign regulatory authorities and domestic supply chain activities. This will allow us to form a more complete picture of the risk of imported food in a new era of smarter food safety.”

FDA intends to use data from multiple sources to develop surveillance sampling regimes that target the highest-risk products for sampling. “We’ll also continue our work with state and other partners to determine how we can improve testing methodologies and tools used to determine admissibility of food offered for import,” FDA said.

Finally, FDA will be developing an improved global inventory of food facilities and farms. Such an inventory is expected to optimize the agency’s allocation of resources dedicated to imported food safety oversight to high-risk areas.

Read more about the agency’s food safety strategy for imported food.