The Main Stream

Jul 26, 2013 8:21 PM by Erika Flores

FDA importer verification program proposal

RIO RICO - The FDA released its proposal for strengthening the oversight of food imported to the U.S.

This proposal is under the Food Safety Modernization Act that was signed into law in 2011 allowing FDA to develop guidelines to ensure the safety and security of food.

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas tells News 4 Tucson this proposal just reinforces what most importers already do.

"We have measures set up to when we're harvesting that we know we're not exposing the food to any other dangers," said Chris Ciruli of Ciruli Brothers.

Ciruli said they inspect everything from the water that's used on their produce to the storage areas.

"Then we also audit ourselves internally to make sure we have no issues ongoing every day," said Ciruli.

They keep an internal record of everything that comes through from the field to the buyers.

"This field is certified by a third party in Mexico to say that it is exportable before it ever comes up here," said Ciruli.

Even once the produce is in grocery stores, it can be traced back.

"This is the packing shed and this is the lot number," said Ciruli.

The FDA's proposed rule for foreign supplier verification programs for importers promises to help build safety throughout the supply chain from producers to U.S. consumers.

"That includes audits, that includes testing of the water...a variety of factors," said Lance Jungmeyer, president of Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

Jungmeyer said the proposal requires importers to verify food safety.

"The companies are already doing a lot of the same things because their buyers-the grocery stores like Safeway and Walmart have already demanded it," said Jungmeyer.

But there are a few extra elements of record keeping and auditing.

"Another new component is the accreditation of third party auditors," said Jungmeyer.

Third party auditors on behalf of FDA making sure contamination and microbial issues aren't part of the equation.

Comments about this proposal can be submitted to the FDA by November, and after that the FDA will make its decision on this proposal.

Here is the proposal:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/07/29/2013-17993/foreign-supplier-verification-programs-for-importers-of-food-for-humans-and-animals

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