It has come to our attention that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is likely to propose a major shift in how it inspects and regulates imported foods. The goal, as we understand it, is to shift to a 'risk-based' system under which FDA inspectors, using extensive information, would focus on shipments posing the biggest potential hazards. To do that, the agency could collect more data from overseas on how foods are produced and handled—called 'life-cycle' data—and feed it into a database for its inspectors. Under the new approach, countries and private businesses—including foreign manufacturers, importers and US manufacturers using imported ingredients—might be required to provide the FDA with more information about the production, packaging and transportation of imported foods.
The agency is considering major elements of a 2002 blueprint that suggested that the FDA move to a risk-management approach in which products from countries with mixed of subpar safety records would get closer scrutiny. The idea was to 'enable FDA's inspectors to focus their inspections on the highest-risk shipments while facilitating importation of safe and secure products.' The agency would spend little time worrying about products from countries considered to have strong food-safety standards such as Britain and Canada and focus instead on products and countries such as China with less-stringent regulatory standards.
The Assistant Commissioner for Food Protection, David Acheson, is working closely with the Commissioner of FDA, Andrew Von Eschenbach, on a new plan to improve safety of both imported and domestic food and a plan is expected to be proposed in the next two months. FEMA is in the process of setting up a meeting with Acheson to get more details about this new policy. Once we have additional information we will share it with you.