Speaking in front of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on behalf of Produce Marketing Association (PMA) members, Drs. Bob Whitaker and Jim Gorny commented on the accreditation of third-party auditors and foreign supplier verification programs (FSVP) proposed rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FDA public meeting on September 19 and 20 discussed these two proposed rules aimed at assuring imported food meets the same safety standards as food produced domestically.

Commenting on the FSVP proposal, Dr. Gorny, PMA vice president of food safety & technology, stated the produce industry has great expectations for this proposed rule. He said by providing a more preventive approach to import produce safety, the FSVP proposed rule would significantly reduce the frequency of produce testing at the border, which often causes severe and significant economic losses of perishable commodities.

“The Foreign Supplier Verification Programs proposed rule is incredibly important to the fresh produce industry because it provides the opportunity for FDA to shift from relying heavily on import surveillance and product testing at the port of entry, to a preventive approach of assuring the safety of imported produce,” said Dr. Gorny.

In his comments on third-party auditors, PMA Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Whitaker noted what have often become points of contention for the industry: what standard should be audited against and whether the level of rigor is appropriate for a specific commodity or production environment.

“But in reality the biggest source of frustration with food safety auditing for producers and buyers has been with the process itself: how the audit is conducted, the competency of the auditor, the scheduling of audits, record keeping, corrective actions communications, overall costs and general acceptability to the buying community,” said Dr. Whitaker.

PMA thanks FDA for expeditiously releasing the third-party accreditation and FSVP proposals and synchronizing comment periods with the previously released Produce Safety and the Preventive Controls for Human Food proposed rules. Earlier this year, PMA and others made this request to FDA so stakeholders could understand and comment on this portfolio of interrelated rules.

View Dr. Whitaker’s and Dr. Gorny’s complete FDA testimonies online.