FDA releases plan for improving safety of imported food

March 5, 2013

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has unveiled its plan for improving food safety in countries that export food to the United States. The document, entitled “FDA’s International Food Safety Capacity-Building Plan,” fulfills one of the mandates of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), enacted by Congress in 2011, which calls on FDA to “develop a comprehensive plan to increase the technical, scientific, and regulatory food safety capacity of foreign governments [that export to the U.S.] and their respective food industries.”

The FDA plans to bolster food safety training for food manufacturers and regulators abroad, improve communication with foreign health agencies, and explore the possibility of a foreign inspection report that would be considered the equivalent of an FDA inspection. The agency outlined four main goals in its plan. These include:

  • Ensuring the efficiency of the FDA’s Foods and Veterinary Medicine program, which is responsible for overseeing the planning and implementation of FSMA.
  • Increasing the effectiveness of international food safety initiatives by monitoring their direct effects on public health. The agency will be sensitive to the different food safety risks of each country, and will tailor its policies accordingly.
  • Support the exchange of information between the FDA and other foreign government agencies or other entities by tapping into the latest technologies that permit such sharing.
  • Enhance technical assistance and capacity-building. This goal includes bolstering training of foreign food manufacturers and auditors, and pushes for universal lab testing techniques so that surveillance information can easily be shared from country to country.

This report highlights the importance of monitoring these foods not only when they enter the U.S., but also as they are manufactured in their country of origin. The agency says it will implement the plan over the next five years, provided that it has adequate funding to do so.

FDA plan (pdf)