G.M.A. unveils import safety proposal

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — The Grocery Manufacturers Association has introduced an import safety proposal based on a private/public partnership between the food and beverage industry and the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.). If adopted, all importers would be required to adopt a "foreign supplier quality assurance program" and verify imported ingredients and products meet the F.D.A.’s food safety and quality requirements. The program would be based on F.D.A. guidance, industry best practices, and be monitored and enforced by the F.D.A.

A foreign supplier quality assurance program would entail food importers be required to establish a process by which they are able to verify that any foreign supplier has implemented and is maintaining effective food safety programs for any food, food ingredient or food-contact packaging material the importer brings into the United States.

"Ensuring the United States has the safest food supply in the world is priority No. 1 for the food and beverage industry," said Cal Dooley, president and chief executive officer of the G.M.A. "Because we cannot simply inspect our way to a safer food supply, industry can apply its vast knowledge and practical experience along the entire supply chain to prevent problems before they arise. And, under our proposal, a fortified F.D.A. will be right there with us, side by side, to make sure we do it right."

The proposal would allow the F.D.A. to focus its resources on products and countries deemed of higher risk through a program that would allow food companies and importers to qualify their products as lower risk by sharing test results, data and supply chain information with agency personnel in a confidential manner. Qualifying products and ingredients would receive expedited treatment at the borders, and allow the F.D.A. to train its resources on products that carry greater risk of contamination.

The proposal also focuses on building capacity within foreign governments to facilitate food safety standards that are more closely aligned with those of the F.D.A. Finally, recognizing that F.D.A. must be have the appropriate resources to administer the program and fulfill its food safety mission, the proposal seeks to expand the capacity of the F.D.A., by providing the agency with the resources it needs to get the job done.

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