The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs full cooperation at every step of the manufacturing and distribution process to ensure food imported into the United States complies with the same safety standards as domestic food, according to a panel discussion at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo.
The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011, contains sweeping provisions to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply. It is being implemented gradually, with all regulations to be published by June 30, 2015. The law aims to shift the focus of government policy from responding to food safety issues toward preventing problems in the first place. This will have a significant impact on imported food because safety procedures in other countries are often much different than in the United States.
"There can be no distinction between food made here and food made in a foreign country,” said panelist Luis Mejia, Ph.D., adjunct associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois. “If I am an importer, I need to make sure I am working with companies or industries where the food is compliant with all the laws in the United States.”
Global production of FDA-regulated products has quadrupled over the last decade and continues to grow. The agency says products now originate from more 150 countries, 130,000 importers and 300,000 foreign facilities, and there are more than 300 active points of entry into the United States. For the American consumer diet, that translates into 80 percent of all seafood consumed, 50 percent of fresh fruit and 20 percent of vegetables.
Cory Bryant, Ph.D., the FDA’s assistant country director, foods and veterinary medicine, is working in China to implement FSMA and achieve seamless food safety processes between the two countries. He said the goals of his office include:
- Products that meet safety and quality standards before they enter the United States
- Strong relationships with regulatory counterparts
- Responsible supply chain management at the point of manufacture, point of export and when presented for importation
Key to the success of FSMA will be the cooperation among all entities involved in food manufacturing, he said. This is especially important in a country as large China.