Ever since the Food Safety Modernization Act was passed in 2011, the Food and Drug Administration has been attempting to take more of a preventative stance when it comes to foodborne illness. Up until fairly recently, much of their actions were limited to ensuring that outbreaks were unable to spread rather than ensuring that they never took place at all.
At the beginning of this year, the FDA took two big steps toward a more preventative approach. First, they proposed a regulation that would target produce. That rule called for new standards which would have to be met by any facilities and producers that were growing, preparing, and storing produce.
The second proposed regulation, known as the Preventative Controls for Human Food rule, would be slightly more encompassing. It would create benchmarks that any plant involved in the preparation or storage of food intended for human consumption would have to meet.
Now, two new proposals are set to join those previous measures, and in a new report, the FDA details exactly what they mean and why they’re needed. What differentiates these measures from the previous proposals is the fact that they pertain to the realm of foods imported into the United States from foreign soil.
The first rule essentially establishes parameters that foreign food suppliers would have to conform to as an assurance that the food being produced and shipped to our shores meets the same standards as homegrown products. That means that every food producer would have to take into account all those hazards which typically affect a given food. Once likely threats were ascertained, the producers would be held responsible for auditing and testing to ensure that those hazards don’t rear their heads. If they do occur, the producers will have to correct the issue. All of this must be done in a way that allows the FDA to readily see the work that’s being done.
Backing up this rule would be a proposal that provides an accreditation process for third party auditors who can go in and verify the safety of foreign food facilities. This would create a sort of one-two process where the the people checking on the safety of food would have to meet certain certification requirements as would the food itself. The auditors would be able to offer certificates that the FDA can take into account when pondering whether or not to allow the import of a certain product.
A four month comment period has been opened up. If passed as is, the thought is that the new rules would help ease the burden of inspectors on US shores.