Imported Foods Under the Microscope with New FSMA Mandate

The FSVP is administered by the FDA to verify that foreign suppliers are producing food at the same levels of public health protection as the preventive controls and produce safety regulations that exist in the United States.

Importers are responsible for the following:

  • Determine known or reasonably foreseeable hazards with each food.
  • Evaluate risk posed by a food, based on the hazard analysis, and the foreign supplier’s performance.
  • Use that evaluation of the risk posed by an imported food and the supplier’s performance to approve suppliers and determine appropriate supplier verification activities.
  • Conduct supplier verification activities.
  • Direct corrective actions.

Importers must create and follow written procedures to ensure that imported foods are procured from approved foreign suppliers. What impact will this have on food processing and distribution operations in the Pacific Northwest, California and the Mountain regions?

“Due to the high volume of imports, seafood and meat importers could feel the impact of product shortages first,” says Tim Gallagher, director of strategic accounts, for Sprague. “Suppliers will have to be vetted by the FDA and if their product is suspect upon arrival, it may be held at the port or other entry points.”

Gallagher says the obligation is on the foreign suppliers to prove their worthiness, and on the U.S. processors and distributors to qualify their suppliers and ensure their documentation is in order.

Providing verification and gaining assurances from foreign suppliers that their food safety protocols meet FDA standards strengthens the overall quality of imported food across the supply chain.

“Strong lines of communication between suppliers and importers are important to begin with but this mandate reinforces the need to know your supplier and their operating practices,” adds Gallagher.

While large multi-national firms are starting to conduct their own audits on foreign suppliers, mid-size importers can gain peace of mind by checking references, comparing notes with their peers and holding foreign suppliers accountable.

In key port cities of Washington including Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, and other Sprague area ports, imported food is often transferred to “3PLs” – third-party logistics — warehouse, distribution and fulfillment facilities which store until it is ready to be dispatched to its destination.

With the high volume of food present and operations that run 24/7, the risk for pest infestations in storage facilities is high. Sprague works with hundreds of 3PL facilities training their staff to spot signs of pest activity and understand basic pest identification.

Storage facility managers and staff are provided with high-resolution photos of pests, mainly stored product pests. When a container is opened, and pests are spotted, they know to pull the container away from the facility and call Sprague. 

“We will come in and assess the situation and, if necessary, fumigate the container,” says Gallagher. “It is easier and less costly to eliminate pests in a 20 ft. shipping container than in a 200,000 sq. ft. warehouse.”

Pest activity rises in the summer and it is critical that 3PL facilities remain pest-free. If your facility deals with a high-volume of imported foods, Sprague can be your partner in protecting it from unwanted pests. 

Agriculture, Food Processing & Manufacturing, Food Retail & Grocery