Economy

More inspections in store for food exporters to the US

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on February 24, 2016

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More inspections are in store for food exporters to America, as new final rules under the food safety law there look to hold foreign suppliers to the same level of scrutiny as their US counterparts.

“The Food Safety Modernisation Act is our nation’s most sweeping reform of our food safety system in 70 years,” said Howard Sklamberg, Deputy Commissioner for global regulatory operations with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Focussed on being preventive than reactive, the Act will hold US importers accountable to the FDA “for verifying that their foreign suppliers are using methods to prevent food safety problems” and adhering to the same public health standards, he said at a select media interaction.

This new accountability on importers will be backed up by more overseas inspections.

“We do site inspections now and we will continue to do them. And probably the numbers will increase as imports increase,” Sklamberg told BusinessLine. The USFDA conducts about 100 inspections a year on food facilities in India.

The FDA has an India office. But most India inspections are largely done by FDA personnel from the US, he said, adding, “FDA is staffed to meet its obligations.”

The law places obligations on food producers — whether it’s a farmer, an owner of a food manufacturing plant or someone in the supply chain that exports to the US — to make sure that they follow the right procedures. Inspections will be supplemented by the foreign suppliers verification programme. Foreign suppliers will have to be qualified by spring 2017, so sometime this year Indian food exporters will start having conversations with their US customers, another USFDA official explained.

A suggestion doing the rounds among Indian authorities is that local regulators like the Food Authority be allowed to certify exporters to the US. However, a USFDA official clarified that there were ways for government entities to become auditors and certify.

But they would have to ensure that the practices in the exporting facility met the FSMA requirement. And presently no such certification exists, another official added.

Published on February 24, 2016
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