With some foodborne illness outbreaks traced to imported goods—gourmet cheese, for example—the Obama administration has strengthened its initiatives for improving food safety in the country, according to a Washington Post report.
The government has finally released FDA proposals on ensuring that imported food meets US food safety standards. According to the CDC, over 48 million Americans get sick from contaminated foods. 3,000 die from these foods each year.
Determining the quality and safety of imported goods is tricky since they are pre-packed. No matter how much food safety training you have or even if you hold a current food handlers permit, you cannot painstakingly inspect each product. Companies have limited resources to do so, not to mention that it’s a huge time-suck.
The new regulations, in a way, are intended to address this problem so the average food server or convenience store clerk doesn’t have to painstakingly inspect each food item. Drafted by the US Food and Drug Administration, the new rules aim to put a food safety system in place by preventing foodborne illness incidences rather than simply containing outbreaks.
The FDA is aware that its resources are limited overseas. According to the report, the FDA only manages to inspect “less than 2 percent” of the incoming goods.
The proposed rules will help the FDA create a standard that will order US companies and foreign governments to ensure that importers are following food safety regulations. The drafting of the standard will culminate in the form of a “foreign supplier verification program” which will enforce third-party auditing for distributors of imported goods.
Under the new policies, US-based importers would have to guarantee that their overseas suppliers are observing strict food safety practices in their host countries. The policy also emphasizes on improving the transparency of food safety audits.
A number of companies are thrilled to await the approval of the said rules. One of these companies includes Cargill, a privately-held global food producer and marketer.
The FDA reports that 15 percent of the country’s food supply is sourced from overseas. These imports come from over 150 countries. These imports constitute 80 percent of seafood, 50 percent of fresh fruits and 20 percent of veggies.
The FDA is open to comments and suggestions on the new proposals for the next 120 days.
Last January, the FDA has proposed a standard specifically to address domestic food production. The rules are seen to impact the food industry in general, from fruit and vegetable farmers to large-scale food production facilities.