FDA outlines strategy for food import safety

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety Food safety modernization International trade

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has outlined its strategy for ensuring the safety of imported foods in an effort to move away from seizing harmful goods to preventing their arrival, the agency said.

The FDA’s strategy, laid out in a report​ issued Monday entitled “Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality”​,​revisits many ideas that the agency has previously suggested, including those detailed in the recently passed Food Safety Modernization Act, such as increased computerization of import tracking systems and better regulatory collaboration.

The report highlights several key areas for change, which center on global cooperation. It said that the FDA intends to partner with other food safety authorities worldwide to create global coalitions of regulators, which will develop data sharing systems and ways of sharing regulatory resources.

The agency also said it would increasingly leverage the food safety efforts of industry and other third parties, and allocate FDA resources based on risk.

FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said: "Global production of FDA-regulated goods has exploded over the past ten years. In addition to an increase in imported finished products, manufacturers increasingly use imported materials and ingredients in their U.S. production facilities, making the distinction between domestic and imported products obsolete. There has been a perfect storm - more products, more manufacturers, more countries and more access.”

The new FDA strategy is intended to address upcoming food import trends, particularly the expectation that manufacturers will adopt new processes and emerging technologies in response to growing demand and squeezed supply for many foods and ingredients in the years ahead, leading to a more globalized food system.

Hamburg said that FDA regulated imports have quadrupled since 2000.

"The FDA and our global regulatory partners recognize this new reality and realize we must work proactively and collaboratively to address the challenges we face,”​ she said. “The FDA must further collaborate and leverage in order to close the gap between our import levels and our regulatory resources. This report is an important step in ensuring we are able to fulfill our critical public health mission."

The full report can be accessed online here​.

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