Tuesday, March 29, 2011 by Lee Mannering
FSMA and imports meeting: Informing FDA of industry realities
Today, PMA Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs Kathy Means will offer oral testimony during the U.S. Food and Drug Administration public meeting “Food Safety Modernization Act: Title III–A New Paradigm for Importers.” She will also be testifying during FDA’s two-day hearing (tomorrow and Thursday) on the agency’s global comparability food safety tool.
In today’s remarks, Kathy noted that the Food Safety Modernization Act’s provisions for imported foods are particularly important to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry as imports increasingly supplement the U.S. supply of horticultural crops and products. She also stated that the “rules we put in place to protect the U.S. food supply must meet our obligations for world trade because access to non-U.S. markets is as important to the success of U.S. producers as imports are to ensuring an abundant year-round supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.“
Relative the new importer programs mandated by the FSMA, Kathy urged FDA to use the existing, extensive private audit and verification systems already in place because importers are concerned about future requirements, so it is important to provide guidance on importer verification as quickly as possible.
Concerning the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program, Kathy said this program is of great importance to produce suppliers, who will welcome reasonable measures to speed border crossings. The program will also “help relieve bottlenecks at the border, allowing FDA to better focus its resources. However, this will require having the third-party certification rules in place to work. FDA must resist the temptation to save this program for later and implement it as quickly as possible as it will provide immediate benefits to industry and FDA.”
Regarding third-party verification, Kathy advised FDA to take advantage of existing systems and resources. This will be essential to allowing FDA to carry out its duties under new law, both for non-U.S. and U.S.-produced food.
In addition, she brought to FDA’s attention the problems that have occurred recently at the border, often due to delays from product testing, and urged FDA to take action for immediate relief at the border even in advance of new regulations.
We’ll have more on PMA’s participation in these meetings in future Field to Fork posts later this week. In the meantime, you can follow Kathy on Twitter for real-time updates from the FDA meetings.