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FDA promises to improve the safety of imported agricultural products with a new initiative

With 32 percent of the country’s fresh vegetables and 55 percent of its fresh fruit imported from other countries, the Food and Drug Administration is launching renewed efforts to make sure products are safe to eat.

In a new initiative announced this week, Activities to improve the safety of imported products, the agency is building on work that began in February 2019, according to a statement from the FDA. The 2019 effort, called Strategy for the Safety of Imported Foods (Import Strategy)covered the agency’s approach to imported foods.

This year’s effort is intended to help stakeholders better understand what is being used to ensure equal oversight between domestic and foreign-grown agricultural products. Overall, the United States imports food from more than 200 countries and territories.

With the work announced this week, the FDA details how the 2019 strategy applies specifically to imported agricultural products. The activities document outlines how the agency is working to improve the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables through the four goals set out in the 2019 Import Strategy. Those goals, as outlined in the document, are:

Goal 1: Food offered for import meets US food safety requirements.

  • One of the most effective ways to keep imported products safe is for industry to comply with applicable US food safety requirements. This section explores how the FDA participates in compliance verification activities through inspection and testing; exchange of information with foreign regulatory partners; and education and outreach activities to increase awareness and understanding of food safety requirements.

Objective 2: FDA border surveillance prevents the entry of unsafe food

  • The FDA conducts border surveillance activities at more than 300 active U.S. ports of entry. This section explores how the FDA uses information such as an importer’s compliance history and risks associated with the product to inform actions such as screening, examination, sampling, and import entry testing that can help prevent unsafe agricultural products from entering the country.

Goal 3: Quick and Effective Responses to Unsafe Imported Foods

  • This section explores FDA’s process for quickly responding to outbreaks and other contamination events, including efforts to remove hazardous agricultural products from the market if they have entered the country. This section also explores some steps FDA takes beyond outbreaks to reduce the likelihood of another outbreak event.

Goal 4: Effective and Efficient Food Import Program

  • Advancing FDA’s public health mission for imported foods includes enabling smarter food safety, a world-class workforce, integrated and agile management systems, and meaningful engagement with stakeholders. It also requires responsible stewardship of resources, including taxpayer dollars. This section explores how FDA is implementing an adaptive, risk-informed, and cost-effective infrastructure and management system to support organizational excellence, performance, and accountability.

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