GAO call on FDA to rethink certification reliance on imports

Ensuring the safety of food imports is a huge task.

A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office calls on the Food and Drug Administration to use the resources of other countries as it implements new requirements of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, produce industry publication The Packer reports.  The GAO suggests the FDA could use regulations in other countries to ensure food safety rather than mandate third-party food safety inspections.  

“If FDA had a comparability assessment agreement with a foreign country, a foreign competent authority would address any identified problems and take regulatory actions across the supply chain, as necessary,” according to the report.

From The Packer:

Under the Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA is required to develop preventive controls and guidance for all food under its jurisdiction. The GAO said the FDA must establish a voluntary user fee program for importers that encourages third-party certification. Encouraging importers to pay for the voluntary service will be a challenge, according to the GAO.

The FDA must also create standards for accreditation bodies, and will be hard-pressed to avoid potential conflicts of interests, according to the GAO.

The GAO report calls for the FDA to consider whether specific components of a foreign government’s oversight of a specific food industry are comparable with the U.S., and not require total comparability for all food regulated.

In a response to the GAO report, the FDA officials said it believes third-party certification is more appropriate for food safety controls on specific commodities, but said the agency would take comments from the public about their approach.