New FDA Requirements for Imported Ingredients
Importing any food or supplement products? Do you have training, procedures and records according to FDA’s FSVP guidance?
Many firms in the food and dietary supplement industry are quietly putting significant investment into meeting the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FSMA was signed by President Obama in 2011 as the first major legislation to update food safety regulations in more than 50 years. FSMA and FSVP represent the best approach to ensuring a safe global food chain.
FDA Requires You To Do these Things:
- Your FSVP includes all written procedures and records that demonstrate compliance with FSMA, especially the requirements for Supply Chain Preventive Controls (PC). If you purchase any ingredients directly from foreign sources outside the U.S., then you must have a written FSVP. And if your U.S. based supplier imports ingredients, you are responsible for verifying their FSVP is effective.
- Warehouses, marketers and distributors, and supplement manufacturers are subject to “modified” FSVP requirements. Even if you don’t receive product, or open any containers, you must still verify those you designate to handle, order, process or store your product. If your name is on the label of any product or package, then you must be able to show (with written documentation) that your supplier, warehouse, processor, and customer ensures the safety of the product within 24 hours of the FDA visiting you or requesting this information by phone.
- If you import, own and/or have a financial stake in the imported goods, then you are probably responsible for the goods as the designated “FSVP Importer”. For imports involving multiple U.S. parties, there must be a written agreement specifying who is responsible for what. Foreign firms who send goods to the U.S. without a designated buyer must have a U.S.-based agent to act as importer, and take responsibility for the shipment once it arrives to the U.S.
- You need to have a Qualified Individual or QI to write your FSVP. No standard training is required to be a QI, but it will greatly help your QI to be trained on PCQI and/or FSVP. Because the final FSVP rule includes more than 300 mentions of the word ‘flexibility’, you still gotta know what you’re doing.
- With few exceptions, importers must perform a hazard analysis on all imported products. This requires you to know how your ingredients are grown and made, where they came from, and what biological, chemical or physical hazards may be present that could make them unsafe. A hazard requiring a preventive control is defined as one that is “known or reasonably foreseeable to cause significant injury or illness”. It’s up to your QI to determine these hazards. You can agree in writing with your supplier or customer to ensure that they are responsible for a preventive control – otherwise, the responsibility probably falls on you.
- The most common hazards are:
- Undeclared allergens
- These three are the source of 88% of all product recalls!
- Economically Motivated Adulteration (EMA) and radiological contamination are often overlooked as hazards, and often require PC in the FSVP guidance.
- Much of the available information on hazards is provided by FDA for free. Some examples:
- FDA Import Alerts
- FDA Warning Letters
- FDA Product Recalls
- FDA Guidance on Potential Hazards for Foods and Processes
- FDA Bad Bug Book
- FDA Guidance on Chemical Hazards
- FDA Reportable Food Registry
- Product specifications that control for hazards like salmonella and allergens. These are often not publicly available, but many are found on industry databases like UL Prospector.
- The easiest and most impactful thing you can do to start evaluating your foreign supplier is to request their hazard analysis!
- Third party experts are the most popular way to develop FSVP programs. A couple days of staff training is not the same as experience and expertise, especially with today’s global supply. Remember that suppliers are not allowed to verify themselves – this duty is left to customers, third party auditors, or other qualified individuals sent on behalf of the customer.
If you don’t have the time or expertise on staff to handle your supplier verification according to FSMA, make sure you talk to someone trained in FSVP with experience in qualifying your type of products and suppliers.
For more information on FSVP, visit the FDA page “FSMA Final Rule on Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals”
NaturPro Scientific LLC is a leading natural products consultancy specializing in evaluating and maximizing the value of foods and dietary supplements. Contact us for more information at http://naturproscientific.com/contact-us.