FDA Food Safety Modernization Act:
Impact on importers

"The United States imports food from more than 150 different countries through more than 300 ports of entry. About half of fresh fruits eaten in America are grown outside of the country; these imports allow us to enjoy our favorite produce year-round. More than three-quarters of our seafood comes from non-U.S. waters. Trade in food is critical to our diet and permits our farmers and other food producers to sell their goods abroad.”

"Yet it also means that real progress in food safety requires renewed attention to the global food supply."
-- From "Key Findings" of the federal agency "Food Safety Working Group," July 2009

Following a number of food-borne illness outbreaks in recent years, some of which were traced to foreign sources, the U.S. government has turned its attention to food importers and foreign producers of food for U.S. consumers. Importers face strict new government oversight from the recently passed food-safety bill. Companies that import food will also face several new requirements that could transform operations.


Certification of food safety

New certification requirements based on the risk of the food, including known safety risks associated with the food or with the country, territory or region of origin of the food. Companies will need to provide assurance that the food they are importing complies with the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Traceability

More rigorous record keeping aimed at enhancing product-tracing capability and integrity of the supply chain. This is consistent with the Food Safety Working Group's push for a food tracing system that can cut down reaction time in response of an outbreak of food-borne illness. FDA has stated that to be effective traceability systems need to extend into foreign supply chains.

Facility registration and increased inspection:

Registration with the FDA on a biennial basis, for companies that handle or process foods as an importer. Registered firms will be required to develop a detailed food safety plan, to which FDA will have routine access during inspections.

The FDA will have increased authority and resources to enforce these new requirements. Inspections are likely to increase, as will the civil penalties for failure to comply.