The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is highlighting its efforts to ensure the safety of imported foods with a novel approach to international partnerships. FDA has announced that it is piloting a new way of collaborating with foreign regulatory bodies, called regulatory partnerships, with shrimp as the focus of the project. Regulatory partnerships will align with FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety by improving global information-sharing.

FDA is guided by the FDA Strategy for the Safety of Imported Food, which emphasizes the use of preventative measures. Tools currently used by FDA to control unsafe imported foods include partnerships with foreign stakeholders, such as cooperative arrangements, confidentiality commitments, and systems recognition. The new partnerships will establish forums with other countries to discuss how U.S. and foreign regulatory bodies can work together effectively to strengthen the enforcement of food safety controls for specific goods.

Shrimp was selected as the vehicle for the pilot program because 94 percent of all seafood in the U.S. is imported, and shrimp is the most consumed seafood in the U.S. Due to the high volume of shrimp imports, Congress has urged FDA to increase its regulation of the commodity to more comprehensively ensure that shrimp imports meet Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) regulations. Regulatory partnerships with nations that export shrimp to the U.S. will allow FDA to work closely with foreign regulatory bodies by freely sharing data and information. FDA hopes this will lead to better-informed predictive analytics, as well as identify strengths and areas for improvement in exporting nations’ oversight systems. 

Regulatory partnerships differ from other collaborative, global tools for managing imports in that the partnerships are targeted to specific commodities or areas of mutual interest within the food safety system. The information shared through regulatory partnerships may provide several benefits, such as complementing existing U.S. controls, advising risk-based decisions, assuring that foreign suppliers are exporting safe food, and facilitating compliance education or training for exporting nations. Shared data may also better inform U.S. port officials of where shipments are traveling, as well as allow investigators to expedite examinations. 

A possible challenge that may arise with regulatory partnerships is that of adapting the arrangement with each nation based on its unique regulatory framework. Other difficulties may include misaligned areas of interest with exporting nations and pandemic-related issues.