As the 2013 International Association of Food Protection conference was getting underway Sunday, a large notification told attendees of the Charlotte, NC meeting that a special last-minute presentation had been added to the program: Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner of Foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, would be appearing on the final day of the conference to talk about new proposed import rules released as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Though the talk wasn’t in the official program, the notice did the trick. Attendees packed the seats of the ballroom and stragglers stood around the back. Last week, Food Safety News published a detailed article on the new import rules which will shift the emphasis of import regulation from inspections to proactive prevention of contamination. Taylor thanked the audience of industry professionals for its interest in all of the new Food Safety Modernization Act rules, saying that the comment periods on each of the rules was producing a lot of quality feedback. “There’s no way you can establish a large regulatory framework without points of disagreement, but by and large we feel a lot of support from the community, and that’s critical,” Taylor said. “There’s no substitute in our government system today for public stakeholders who have an interest in being vocal about the process.” Taylor called the import rules the next big step in ensuring the safety of a modern, global food system. He said that achieving that goal will require the import management expertise of food industry leaders. Foreign inspections will be bolstered thanks to the new rules, along with cooperation with the food safety agencies of foreign governments. There’s also a mandate to build foreign food safety system capacities. One crucial aspect of the import rules requires that the FDA authorize an accredited third-party audit of food systems overseas in “high risk situations,” such as the Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. FDA plans to host public meetings on these rules nationwide, just as it has hosted meetings on other FSMA rules that allow members of the public and industry to voice their opinions to FDA and learn about the new rules in person. And while the new import rules took the spotlight, Taylor started his discussion by acknowledging delays in getting the proposed FSMA rules out and reminding attendees that even more proposed rules were on the way. “You may not feel the sense of momentum that we feel on animal preventive controls, safe transport and intentional adulteration,” Taylor said. “But we have documents well along in the pipeline that are going to be coming out in the next few months.” Rules on traceability and lab accreditation were also in various stages of development and will be seen “in the coming months,” he added.