In 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration issued proposed
regulations implementing the foreign supplier verification
programmes designed to strengthen the oversight of imported foods
and protect US consumers. About 15 per cent of the US food supply
is imported; the FDA wants to see the same standards applied to
both domestic and foreign firms.
The proposed rules place primary responsibility on the importers
for food imported into the US. The FDA has admitted that the task
of ensuring the safety of all imports is too big for the agency to
handle on its own; these rules shift some of that responsibility to
The proposed regulations vary based on the type of food product,
the category of importer, the nature of the hazard in the food and
who is to control the hazard. All importers (unless exempt) would
be required to develop, maintain and follow a foreign supplier
verification programme for each imported food.
Importers would have to conduct a range of verification
activities, including the following:
Compliance status review
Periodically review compliance status of food and potential
foreign supplier before importing.
Analyse and identify hazards reasonably likely to occur for each
type of food imported.
Provide adequate control of hazards identified above (e.g. through
supplier audits and other risk-based procedures).
Review complaints received about imported food, investigate when
necessary and take appropriate corrective actions.
Reassess their verification programme every three years – or
sooner if they become aware of new information about potential
Provide their name and DUNS identification number for each food
product offered for importation.
Keep records for these reviews, analyses and activities.
One of the main consequences of this is the shifting of
responsibility for safe-food imports from government to industry.
Although importers will still have to worry about FDA compliance,
the primary method of enforcement of a verification programme will
probably come through private litigation. Some of the language
contained in the proposed regulations might make such litigation
enticing to potential claimants. The combination of mandatory
verification standards and language requiring 'prudent',
'responsible' and 'careful' importers could lead to
class actions in response to adverse events.
Under the proposed regulations, certain products and importers
might be subject to modified requirements or exempt from the
verification programme altogether.
Public comments were due by January 27, 2014.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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