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Be Prepared to Begin Your Foreign Supplier Verification Program

June 2017
Product Stewardship & Sustainability Report

Do you import animal or human food for sale in the United States? If so, you may now be subject to food safety verification requirements under the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs final rule (FSVP Rule). The FSVP Rule set a compliance deadline of May 30, 2017, for importers whose foreign suppliers supply food or feed products. Such suppliers must comply with current good manufacturing practice and hazard analysis, and risk-based preventive controls rules for human and animal food (the rule provides an exception for importers that are small businesses or qualified facilities).

The goal of the FSVP is to ensure that foreign suppliers operate in a manner that provides the same level of public health protection as required by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FSVP Rule imposes three primary requirements on importers that obtain food products from foreign suppliers. First, an importer is responsible for conducting a hazard analysis of its foreign suppliers to determine known or reasonably foreseeable risks associated with each food the supplier provides. The importer may approve foreign suppliers only after conducting the hazard analysis and determining that the supplier meets the applicable health standards. Second, the importer must establish verification activities to ensure the foreign supplier continues to meet the food safety requirements. Third, the importer must implement corrective actions when the verification process determines that the foreign supplier is not meeting the standards.

It is incumbent on importers to consider how best to comply with the FSVP Rule to avoid interruptions in the supply chain. Importers can conduct the hazard analysis and verification activities themselves, or they can use a third party, but importers are responsible for the conduct of third-party analyses. Importers that conduct their own analyses and verification activities will need to train and appoint a qualified individual as soon as possible. Importers must also decide how often to reevaluate the risk posed by a foreign supplier. Reevaluation must occur at least every three years, but importers may wish to conduct reevaluations more frequently. Importers will certainly want to conduct the reevaluations more frequently if verification activities show that a foreign supplier is failing to comply with food safety requirements.

The FSVP Rule is still very new and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still issuing guidance on how best to implement it. The hazard analysis and verification activities will require close cooperation between importers and foreign suppliers. This may require changes in the business relationship, including updates to contracts and closer scrutiny of the entire supply chain. Importers can only import from approved foreign suppliers, so failure to begin this process now could lead to headaches later. Don’t let the upcoming deadline interrupt your imports.