On February 25, the FDA unveiled the agency’s new strategy to improve its oversight of imported food. This consists of four pillars: prevention of food safety problems in the foreign supply chain, detection and refusal of unsafe foods at the border, rapid response, and measuring progress on efficiency improvements.
Some of the outlined tools are already in use by the FDA. However, the agency envisions refining them by enhancing the use of data, as well as fully implementing programs created in the Food Safety Modernization Act.
A central part of FDA’s new strategy is enforcing the FSVP requirements on importers. The FDA hopes to deter noncompliance by strategic enforcement of foreign supplier verification programs and supply chain controls. They will use import screening to prevent entry of food shipments by importers lacking adequate foreign supplier verification programs. Most likely, the FDA will start issuing import alerts and warning letters for FSVP violations beginning this year.
The FDA also aims to improve its Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting (PREDICT) screening system. 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.
Another measure the FDA is hoping to improve is the efficiency of its import sampling and testing, as well as sharpening its focus on higher risk products. The FDA will use an approach to examine and sample targets of highest-risk products, allow regular monitoring and surveillance of imported products, facilitate targeted assignments to collect data that informs oversight activities, and assist with verification of other related programs.
The FDA also plans to improve its measures of import safety and compliance so it can check its progress implementing the strategy. The FDA hopes to make the imported food safety program as efficient as possible by continuing to assess the performance of the program and take additional steps towards improving the performance based on the assessments. They intend on publishing measures and non-confidential data about imported food, foreign suppliers, FSVP importers, and other importers to the public as the information becomes available.
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