On November 10, 2016, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an industry Guidance regarding the FDA’s Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP). The program, created under guidance from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), is a fee-based trusted trade program for the expedited review and importation of both human and/or animal food products. Participation in the VQIP program is limited to importers who have at least 3 years’ experience importing food into the US, possess a Dun and Bradstreet (DUNS) number, are in good standing with the FDA, and maintain a certified facility.
Those accepted in VQIP will be eligible for the benefits listed below:
- The FDA will expedite entry into the US for all foods included in an approved VQIP application.
- The FDA will limit examinations and/or sampling of VQIP food entries.
- In the event that FDA samples VQIP food, the FDA will expedite laboratory analysis.
- The FDA will establish a VQIP Importers Help Desk dedicated to responding to questions and concerns from VQIP importers.
Applications for the FDA’s VQIP program may be submitted from January 1st – May 31st each year for the fiscal year beginning in 2018; participation will be limited to 200 importers for the first year of the pilot. Interested importers can visit the FDA Industry Systems website to establish an online account. In addition, VQIP participation must be renewed annually and participating importers must pay a fee to cover FDA’s costs of administering the program. In the Federal Register of June, 5 2015 (80 FR 32136), FDA estimated that a flat annual fee of approximately $16,400 would be paid by all VQIP participants. The FDA has yet to finalize the fee for applications in January 2018, but will publish the fee amount in the Federal Register on or before August 1, 2017, and each year thereafter.
Full VQIP Guidance, including eligibility criteria, can be accessed on the FDA’s website. To further discuss the VQIP program, please call (518) 298-8281 or send an email to Deringer’s Compliance Department.