With 32 percent of the country’s fresh vegetables and 55 percent of its fresh fruit imported from other countries, the Food and Drug Administration is launching renewed efforts to make sure that produce is safe for consumption.

In a new initiative announced this week, Activities to Enhance the Safety of Imported Produce, the agency is building on work begun in February 2019, according to an FDA statement. The 2019 effort, called the Strategy for the Safety of Imported Food (Import Strategy), covered the agency’s approach to imported food.  

This year’s effort is intended to help stakeholders better understand what is being employed to ensure parity of oversight between domestic and foreign-grown produce. Overall, the United States imports food from more than 200 countries and territories.

With the work announced this week, the FDA is detailing how the 2019 strategy applies specifically to imported produce. The activities document outlines how the agency is working to enhance the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables through the four goals established in the 2019 import strategy. Those goals, as outlined by the document are:

Goal 1: Food Offered for Import Meets U.S. Food Safety Requirements

  • One of the most effective ways to keep imported produce safe is for industry to comply with applicable U.S. food safety requirements. This section explores how the FDA engages in compliance verification activities through inspections and testing; information sharing with foreign regulatory partners; and education and outreach activities to raise awareness and understanding of food safety requirements.

Goal 2: FDA Border Surveillance Prevents Entry of Unsafe Foods

  • The FDA conducts border surveillance activities at more than 300 active U.S. ports of entry. This section explores how the FDA uses information such as an importer’s compliance history and risks associated with the commodity to inform actions such as import entry screening, examination, sampling, and testing that can help prevent unsafe produce from entering the country.

Goal 3: Rapid and Effective Responses to Unsafe Imported Food

  • This section explores the FDA’s process for quickly responding to outbreaks and other contamination events, including efforts to remove unsafe produce from the marketplace if it has entered the country. This section also explores some steps the FDA takes beyond outbreaks to reduce the likelihood of another outbreak event.

Goal 4: Effective and Efficient Food Import Program

  • Advancing the FDA’s public health mission as it pertains to imported food includes enabling smarter food safety, a world-class workforce, integrated and agile management systems, and meaningful engagement with stakeholders. It also requires responsible stewardship of resources, including taxpayer dollars. This section explores how the FDA is implementing an adaptive, risk-informed, and cost-effective management system and infrastructure to support organizational excellence, performance, and accountability.

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