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United Fresh Submits Comments to FDA on FSMA Foreign Supplier Verification Rule

Jan 27, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – United Fresh Produce Association submitted comments to the FDA today on a proposed rule under the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals (Foreign Supplier Verification Rule). United’s comments reflect review by diverse expert working groups who spent 10 months reviewing the proposed rules. The working groups represent numerous member companies throughout the fresh produce supply chain.

“From the beginning of our work to pass food safety legislation, we’ve advocated for a level playing field for foreign and domestic producers,” said Dr. David Gombas, United senior vice president of food safety and technology. “It’s critical that FDA establishes food safety requirements that keep consumers safe and that all suppliers meet, no matter what their geographic location or size.”

In its comments on the Foreign Supplier Verification Rule, the association raises several key issues:

Direct Suppliers
The importer’s Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) should be limited to the direct supplier, not the supplier’s suppliers. We agree that the importer should hold the aggregator accountable for meeting food safety regulatory requirements in its supply chain, but the importer should not be responsible for having specific detailed information about each of the original growers.

Verify Compliance with Relevant Regulation
FSVP should be limited to verifying compliance with the relevant regulation. We encourage FDA to limit importers’ requirements to verification that direct suppliers are in compliance with the relevant regulation and to not require importers of fresh produce to perform a hazard analysis beyond the scope of the Produce Safety rule.

Same Requirements as Domestic Suppliers
Foreign suppliers should follow the same requirements as domestic suppliers; therefore, standards for foreign suppliers should be the same as those in the Produce Safety rule, subject to the revisions we have recommended.

In the Produce Safety rule, FDA proposed to limit the risks covered in the rule to microbiological, not chemical or physical hazards. However, in the Foreign Supplier Verification rule, FDA proposes to require importers to evaluate potential chemical and physical hazards in fresh produce exported to the United States. This potentially requires foreign fresh produce growers to comply with food safety standards that exceed requirements of domestic operations, inviting a WTO challenge.

No Exemption for Small Foreign Suppliers
While very small foreign suppliers may have size-appropriate requirements, there should not be any exemptions. Importers’ requirements should be the same, regardless of the importer’s or foreign supplier’s size.

Flexibility of Tools and Approach
Importers should be allowed to use whatever tools/approach they deem appropriate for evaluating foreign suppliers’ compliance with the applicable regulation.

United working groups also reviewed the proposed Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule. United issued comments for those rules on November 15, 2013. To review United’s complete comments on the proposed Foreign Supplier Verification Rule, Produce Safety Rule and Preventive Controls Rule and, visit the United Fresh website.

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Founded in 1904, the United Fresh Produce Association serves companies at the forefront of the global fresh and fresh-cut produce industry, including growers, shippers, fresh-cut processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, foodservice operators, industry suppliers and allied associations. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Western Regional office in Salinas, Calif., United Fresh and its members work year-round to make a difference for the produce industry by driving policies that increase consumption of fresh produce, shaping critical legislative and regulatory action, providing scientific and technical leadership in food safety, quality assurance, nutrition and health, and developing educational programs and business opportunities to assist member companies in growing successful businesses. For more information, visit www.unitedfresh.org or call 202-303-3400.

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