January 2011 marked a monumental time for food importers. On January 4, 2011 President Obama signed into law the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. The new regulation will place responsibility and accountability for food safety on the importer bringing food products into this country.
Importers of food products will not be required to implement a foreign supplier verification program. The verification program will need to provide adequate assurance that the food products have been produced under risk-based preventive controls. Some importers may already have a verification program integrated into their food safety protocols, others may not. For those who do not have a verification program currently in place an FDA lawyer can assist with creating and implementing an adequate verification program. An adequate verification program needs to ensure that the importer's suppliers have systems in place to produce and harvest safe food.
The new FDA law will also allow for voluntary participation of an expedited importation program. Those importers choosing to participate must accompany all food shipments with safety certifications. The safety certifications will be issued by third-party accredited companies, however to date, FDA has not accredited any third-party companies. These third-party accreditation companies will do a site inspection, at the expense of the supplier, and assuming the supplier has the proper protocols in place and follows those protocols the third-party certification company will issue a certification. Customs and Border Protection and FDA will expedite those importations that are accompanied with these certification.
The new FDA law is and will continue to change the landscape of the food supply and those obligations for importers and food producers/harvesters alike. Consultation with an FDA lawyer can help ensure that you are up to date on the latest regulations as well as implementing the new regulations as they come to fruition.