The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released its “Strategy for the Safety of Imported Food,” which outlines the agency’s comprehensive approach to helping ensure the safety of food imported into the United States. Currently, the United States imports about 15% of its overall food supply. More than 200 countries or territories and roughly 125,000 food facilities plus farms supply approximately 32% of the fresh vegetables, 55% of the fresh fruit, and 94% of the seafood that Americans consume annually. This increasingly globalized and complex marketplace has also placed new challenges on the U.S. food safety system.

In 2011, the U.S. Congress passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it. Over the past several years, the agency has developed prevention-based standards applicable to foreign and domestic food growers, manufacturers, processors, packers, and holders. In addition to establishing new food safety standards, FSMA has granted the FDA new and supplementary oversight and enforcement authorities to ensure industry is meeting these standards.

While inspectional oversight remains the primary tool for domestic food producers and is an important tool for foreign producers, it was determined that more was needed to control the food safety risks associated with imported foods. Through FSMA, the FDA was provided with new tools and authorities to meet this need and the agency was charged with creating an oversight system designed primarily to prevent food safety problems from occurring, preferably before the food arrives at our border or reaches the plates of U.S. consumers.

The new strategy document describes how the FDA is integrating the new import oversight tools with existing tools as part of a comprehensive approach to imported food safety. The strategy is guided by four goals:

  1. Food offered for import meets U.S. food safety requirements
  2. FDA border surveillance prevents entry of unsafe foods
  3. Rapid and effective response to unsafe imported food
  4. Effective and efficient food import program

This strategy document outlines several methods the agency is using to accomplish these goals including strategies for objectives.

Strategy for the Safety of Imported Food

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