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Food Importers Must Ensure Food Meets U.S. Safety Standards Under FDA’s Food Supplier Verification Program

Requirements take effect this week under the FDA’s new Food Safety Verification Program (FSVP), which makes retailers and other businesses that import food into the United States responsible for verifying that the food has been produced in a manner that meets applicable U.S. safety standards.

FSVP is one of the seven foundational rules of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.

A central tenet of the FSVP is that the same preventive food safety standards should apply to all food consumed in the U.S., regardless of where the food is produced. The FSVP therefore requires that importers have a program in place to verify that their foreign suppliers are producing food in a manner that

FDA Revises Guidance on Prior Notice of Imported Foods

April 2, 2014

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On March 31, 2014, FDA opened a sixty-day comment period on revised draft guidance regarding prior notice of imported foods.  As its name suggests, the rule requires notice to FDA prior to importing any food into the United States.  Nearly every Q&A in the guidance document has been updated, and changes have been made to the information that must be provided in a prior notice.  For example, under the new guidance a prior notice will need to indicate whether the food has been refused entry by another country.

This guidance, now in its third edition, has not been updated since May 2004, meaning the impacts of the Food Safety Modernization Act had not been taken into account.  Comments on the draft guidance are currently due May 30, 2014.

Update: Canada Poised to Respond if COOL Requirements Stay As Is in the Farm Bill

A decision has not come down from the U.S. Court of Appeals regarding the USDA’s Country of Origin Labeling “COOL” law , but Canada is positioning itself to launch a trade-war with the United States just in case.

Earlier this week, the Farm Bill was passed by the House of Representatives and made its way to the Senate for approval.  A Senate vote is expected next week, but Canadians are not hopeful for an amicable settlement as the House did not make any substantive changes to the country of original labeling requirements.

Since 2008, when COOL was initially adopted, Canada has dissented, claiming that the it is far too costly and injures the meat industry.  Gerry Ritz and Ed Fast, Canada’s Federal Agriculture Minister and International Trade Minister made the following combined statement:

“By refusing to fix country-of-origin labelling, the U.S. is effectively legislating its own citizens out of

FDA Extends FSMA Rule Comment Periods

Today, FDA extended the comment periods for four pending rules designed to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act. These rules, and the new due dates for comments, are:

(1) Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Foods (new due date is November 22, 2013)

(2) Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption (new due date is November 22, 2013)

(3) Accreditation of Third-Party Auditors/Certification Bodies to Conduct Food Safety Audits and to Issue Certifications (new due date is January 27, 2014)

(4) Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals (new due date is January 27, 2014)

For information on these rules and how to comment, see FDA’s website.

FDA Reports That 12% of Spice Imports Are Contaminated

What is in all of those little spice containers in the your kitchen?  According to the FDA, as recently reported by the New York  Times, about 12% of spice imports are contaminated with “insect parts, whole insects, rodent hairs, and other things.”  Nearly 7% of spices imported contained salmonella.   Under the Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA is looking at new rules to address food imported into the United States, including modifications to the foreign supplier verification program.  Recent changes to those proposed rules, however, are seen by many to weaken the program.  Those changes, which include eliminating the requirement for onsite audits and exemptions for importers doing less than $500,000 in business, would surely impact spice importers (as well as other food importers).

FDA Publishes Draft Food Import Rules

FDA today announced two new draft rules to further implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, both impacting the import of food.  One rule, relating to Foreign Supplier Verification Programs, requires importers to verify that their suppliers meet the same safety standards as domestic producers.  A second rule relates to the accreditation of third party auditors to issue certifications for foreign food production facilities.  The rules will be published in the Federal Register on July 29, 2013, and comments are due within 120 days of publication.

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