Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a new website that allows organizations to apply for recognition as a Third-Party accreditation body. This launch fulfills the Accredited Third-Party Certification Program, a voluntary program established by the agency’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to expand FDA’s oversight of imported foods.
Accreditation bodies recognized by FDA will now have the ability to accredit third-party certification bodies, also known as third-party auditors. These accredited certification bodies will conduct food safety audits of foreign food entities and, based on their audit findings, may issue certifications of those entities and the foods for humans and animals that they produce. Such certifications may be used to help establish eligibility for participation in the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP), which was also established by FSMA. VQIP offers expedited review and entry of food for eligible participants. In addition, FDA can require that an imported product be certified in specific circumstances to prevent a potentially harmful food from entering the U.S.
Foreign governments and agencies or private third-parties may apply to be recognized as an accreditation body. The process includes a web-based application and a user fee.