FDA Recognizes Australia as Having a Comparable Food Safety System to the U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has signed an arrangement with the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources recognizing each other’s food safety systems as comparable to each other. This is the third time that the FDA has recognized a foreign food safety system as comparable, the first being New Zealand in 2012 and Canada in 2016.

By recognizing each other’s systems, the FDA and Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources have confidence that they can leverage each other’s science-based regulatory systems to help ensure food safety. For example, each partner intends to consider the oversight of the other when prioritizing inspection activities, but the benefits go beyond inspection and admissibility. Systems recognition establishes a framework for regulatory cooperation in a variety of areas that range from scientific collaboration to outbreak response.

Systems recognition involves reviewing a foreign country’s domestic food safety regulatory system to determine if it has a food safety system that provides a similar system of food safety protection to that provided by the FDA. Domestic systems provide the baseline level of public health protection that helps assure the safety of exported foods from that country. Systems recognition also helps the FDA focus more on potential risks when planning the scope and frequency of its inspection activities, including foreign facility inspections, import field exams, and import sampling.

The FDA, working with Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, conducted a systems recognition review and assessment using the International Comparability Assessment Tool. The process includes a comprehensive review of key elements of the country’s national food safety control system such as its relevant laws and regulations, inspection programs, response to food-related illness and outbreaks, compliance and enforcement and laboratory support.

Systems recognition is voluntary and not required in order for a country to export foods to the U.S. The FDA continues to have inspection authority over food imported from any country with which it has an arrangement and can exercise this authority as needed. Imports from Australia must continue to comply with U.S. statutory and regulatory requirements to ensure safety and proper labeling, including the new standards adopted under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

For more information see:

(Source: FDA website)

FDA Releases Final Guidance for Voluntary Qualified Importer Program

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is announcing final guidance for industry for a voluntary, fee-based program to allow the expedited review and importation of foods into the United States from importers with a proven track record of food safety and security. The final guidance is in question-and-answer format to explain how this program will work.

In particular the document address the following points:

  • The benefits VQIP importers can expect to receive;
  • The eligibility criteria for VQIP participation;
  • Instructions for completing a VQIP application;
  • Conditions that may result in revocation of participation in VQIP; and
  • Criteria for VQIP reinstatement following revocation.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), indeed, required FDA to establish a voluntary, fee-based program for the expedited review and importation of foods from importers who achieve and maintain a high level of control over the safety and security of their supply chains. This control includes importation of food from facilities that have been certified in accordance with FDA’s program for Accreditation of Third-Party Certification Bodies to Conduct Food Safety Audits and to Issue Certifications (see FDA’s third-party certification regulations at 21 CFR part 1, subpart M), as well as other measures that support a high level of confidence in the safety and security of the food they import. Expedited entry incentivizes importers to adopt a robust system of supply chain management and further benefits public health by allowing FDA to focus its resources on food entries that pose a higher risk to public health.

Speaking of benefits for companies, they will be the following:

• FDA will expedite entry into the United States for all foods included in an approved VQIP application (VQIP foods). FDA will set screening in its Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting (PREDICT) import screening system to recognize shipments of food which are the subject of an approved VQIP application to expedite the entry of such food. The system is designed to recognize the information and release the shipment immediately after the receipt of entry information, unless examination and sampling are necessary for public health reasons. (See Question A.5.)

• FDA will limit examination and/or sampling of VQIP food entries to “for cause” situations (i.e., when the food is or may be associated with a risk to the public health), to obtain statistically necessary risk-based microbiological samples, and to audit VQIP. (See Question A.5.)

• In the examination and/or sampling circumstances identified in the previous bullet, FDA will attempt, to the extent possible, to examine an entry and collect samples at the VQIP food destination or other location preferred by the VQIP importer. If exportation is warranted, FDA will assist in fulfilling an importer’s request to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to export from the port preferred by the importer.

• FDA will expedite its laboratory analysis of “for cause” or audit samples of VQIP entries, to the extent possible in accordance with public health priorities.

• FDA will maintain a VQIP Importers Help Desk dedicated to responding to questions and resolving issues raised by VQIP importers about VQIP food and this guidance document. The VQIP Importers Help Desk will be available for assistance with completing the VQIP application and facilitating review of VQIP food that does not receive an immediate release.

• FDA will post a publicly available list of approved VQIP importers on FDA’s VQIP Web page. VQIP importers may choose not to be listed on the VQIP importers list. A VQIP importer’s decision to opt out of being listed on the publicly available list of approved VQIP importers will not have any effect on its participation.

Additional Information