Pew Hails New FDA Food Import Guidelines

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in an effort to strengthen oversight of imported foods, released two rules regarding foods that are imported into the United States. Imported foods make up about 15% of the US food supply. The Pew Charitable Trust, an organization dedicated to protecting the nation’s food supply, says the new regulations are a “huge step forward.”

Food Safety Modernization Act

The new regulations are mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act and require importers to verify that suppliers employ food safety practices to ensure prevention of contamination. In addition, suppliers must create a system that allows them to certify any third-party auditors. The rules are designed to insure that imported foods meet the same standards as foods grown in the United States.

Pew Highlights Need for These Measures

According to Pew, almost half of past multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States were linked to imported foods. Prior to these guidelines, the FDA had inspected only 2% of food imports, although 50% of fresh fruit and 20% of vegetables are imported. The Pew report Focus on: Food Import Safety, released October 19, 2011, found that the most common reason for foods to be rejected at the border was filth, which included insects, pests, or other debris. In addition, the agency found Mexico, the largest supplier of foreign raw produce, has the highest number of refusals. Most of those refusals were for illegal pesticide use, with salmonella detection and filth following close behind.

Urging Congress to Act

The 2011 Pew report had asked the US Congress to act quickly and provide the resources necessary for the FDA to perform adequate inspections to keep the United States food chain healthy. The new regulations are a step toward creating a stronger food import safety system, both within the country where the food originates and at the border, in order to keep the nation’s food supply safe for consumption.

Recent years have shown an increase in foodborne illnesses from imported foods, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which found that from 2005 to 2010, more than 2,300 people became ill in 39 outbreaks throughout the United States.

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