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FDA Announces Strategy for Imported Food Safety


In a February 26th press release, the Food and Drug Administration issued a statement of strategy with respect to imported food. The FDA estimates that the U.S. imports 15 percent of its overall food supply. Products are derived from 200 nations or territories and comprise 30 percent of fresh vegetables, 55 percent of fresh fruit and 94 percent of seafood consumed.

The Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2011 placed emphasis on preventive action to avoid foodborne disease outbreaks. Accordingly, FDA has been granted supplementary oversight and enforcement to meet standards.

The four goals of the FDA strategy to protect the U.S. public are:

  • Food offered for importation meets U.S. food safety requirements

  • FDA border surveillance prevents entry of unsafe foods

  • A rapid and effective response to unsafe imported food

  • An effective food import program should be implemented

During recent months, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has aggressively pursued responsibility for aspects of food safety within the jurisdiction of his Agency. Although the goals as stated are realistic and desirable, it is noted that over 125,000 facilities produce or supply foods to the U.S. How the FDA intends to fulfill its mandate is less clear.

Given artificial barriers as designated by Congress, it is doubtful as to how the U.S. can have a seamless and integrated food safety program. Despite lofty goals, increased funding and advances in technology, ultimately a comprehensive food safety agency based on the pattern in the E.U. will have to be established in the U.S. This will leave the FDA with responsibilities for drugs and medical devices that at present it is hard pressed to fulfill. The USDA will have jurisdiction over existing activities with the exception of the Food Safety and Inspection Service.