What You Need to Know About Imported Food + How FSMA Will Help Keep it Safe
When it comes to the food we eat here in the United States, do you know that approximately 30% annually is imported from other countries?
That’s A LOT of food.
To help you understand more about imported food and what the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will accomplish to ensure safe food from other countries, STOP Foodborne Illness brings you this article with some highlights + key resources for in-depth learning.
First, let’s look at current challenges.
On a basic level here in the U.S., there’s an expanding market for food imports and sub-optimal standards on the safety rules for importing food. Those two things combined creates a perfect storm for higher risk of foodborne illness from imported food.
Current import rules generally only require that a foreign facility where food is manufactured/processed/packed/held be registered with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA); that prior notice of the food import be provided to import officials; and that the product complies with U.S. laws (eg: labeling laws).
So, monitoring and inspecting foreign facilities is difficult. And, fundamentally, standards for food safety practices around the world vary greatly. This report helps you understand more about those standard variances and the “why” behind them. In the report, countries are ranked on common elements of global food safety across risk assessment, risk management, and risk communications. Here’s a summary on what’s analyzed:
- Pesticide use
- Total diet studies
- Foodborne illness rates
- National food consumption studies
- Food safety response capacity
- Food recalls
- Food traceability
- Radionuclides standards
- Food allergies
- Public trust
Seventeen (17) nations were studied:
- United States
One quick point before we move on:
You’ll see that this is a Canadian study, which found Canada to be the most advanced country as it relates to food safety. While that may have you a bit skeptical (understandably), this report is what we believe to be the most detailed, in-depth study on global food safety available. And, as the report points out, global food safety measurement is a tricky area.
Although not perfect, we feel this report has value in helping you learn more about food safety standards across different countries. Download the report here to take a deeper dive. (Related: FDA Recognizes Canada as Having a Comparable Food Safety System to the US)
Next, let’s look at how FSMA will help.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.
The FSMA rule that affects food imports is the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals.
Key mandates of this rule include:
- Importer Accountability: For the first time, importers have an explicit responsibility to verify that their foreign suppliers have adequate preventive controls in place to ensure that the food they produce is safe.
- Third Party Certification: The FSMA establishes a program through which qualified third parties can certify that foreign food facilities comply with U.S. food safety standards. This certification may be used to facilitate the entry of imports.
- Certification for High-Risk Foods: FDA has the authority to require that high-risk imported foods be accompanied by a credible third party certification or other assurance of compliance as a condition of entry into the U.S.
- Voluntary Qualified Importer Program: FDA must establish a voluntary program for importers that provides for expedited review and entry of foods from participating importers. Eligibility is limited to, among other things, importers offering food from certified facilities.
- Authority to Deny Entry: FDA can refuse entry into the U.S. of food from a foreign facility if FDA is denied access by the facility or the country in which the facility is located.
All of this sounds good, right? And it certainly holds huge potential for positive change when it comes to safer imported food for Americans. But, comprehensive implementation of this rule (and other rules of FSMA) is largely dependent on full funding of FSMA by the U.S. government.
This is where YOU can help!
Right now, won’t you please click here to visit our Legislative Action Center where you can advocate for this?
Here’s our big takeaway for you:
Becoming more knowledgeable about where your food comes from AND taking action to improve the safety of that food goes a long way toward creating a food supply that’s safe to eat for you, your family, and all of us.
THANK YOU for caring and for your support of STOP!