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U.S. FDA’s first set of Public Meetings to discuss FSMA

U.S. FDA held a series of Public Meetings during the week of March 28th.  The first focused on the import components of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the second on comparability considerations.  Both were held as an opportunity for U.S. FDA to gain insight from industry regarding best practices, current options, and future goals.

The import components of FSMA’s Title III proved to be largely undefined in the law as passed by U.S. Congress.  Therefore, the Public Meeting held on March 29th was an opportunity for U.S. FDA to listen to suggestions and requests from industry leaders and gain information to use when defining future regulations.  While no limit exists for written public input, which is due to U.S. FDA by April 29th, 2011, only a handful of industry leaders were able to gain speaking time during the one-day meeting.  Those able to speak included a broad range of leaders, including those from third-party certification bodies like ANSI-ASQ, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), and GlobalGAP.  During this meeting, U.S. FDA also hosted multiple breakout sessions wherein attendees could speak to U.S. FDA representatives in smaller groups focused on specific topics like the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP), the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), and Third-Party Certifications.  U.S. FDA also heard from panels representing state governments and foreign country governments.

Similarly to the vague language of the import components, the comparability requirements are also largely undefined in the new law.  The two-day Public Meeting, held from March 30 to March 31, was another opportunity for U.S. FDA to listen to the public’s opinions about how new regulations should be written regarding comparability of foreign governments.  This two-day meeting hosted multiple panels and included many speakers representing foreign governments, including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the European Union.  The U.S. FDA gave brief presentations on their past exploration in foreign government comparability test pilot programs and also heard from Ms. Mary Stanley, who spoke in detail about the USDA’s experience in certifying foreign governments in the agricultural sector.  U.S. FDA listened to opinions from the National Association of Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), the U.S. Trade Office, and the United States CODEX Manager.  In particular, the U.S. FDA asked many questions related to capacity building, registration of importers, particular details of comparability certification, and abilities of foreign governments to ensure that food is actually safe.

Over the three total days of Public Meetings, U.S. FDA heard varied and extensive opinions about how industry believes future regulations should be written.  While U.S. FDA has undeniably large questions to answer, no clear solutions were provided.  However, it is apparent that U.S. FDA has a valuable resource in the industry leaders that participated in this week’s event and had many options and concepts presented.  Additionally, U.S. FDA has already scheduled another Public Meeting for April 20th, 2011, to learn more about industry’s opinions on in-facility food safety and preventative protocols. It seems U.S. FDA is listening, and as always, Registrar Corp will be actively engaged in the discussion as it develops.

Next week, we will further explain the proposed Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) and Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) changes and what they mean for exporters, manufacturers, and other food industry professionals.

For more information about this and future U.S. FDA Public Meetings, contact us at [email protected]