"WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration proposed sweeping new rules on Friday that would require food importers like Walmart and Cargill to make sure that their foreign growers and processors were following American food safety standards to prevent contamination in an increasingly globalized food supply.
About 15 percent of food that Americans eat comes from abroad, including nearly two-thirds of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The rules, if made final, would shift the responsibility for ensuring that food is safe from the FDA to companies. American companies would have to prove that their foreign suppliers had controls in place through actions like auditing the foreign facilities, testing food, and reviewing records. American importers would have to keep their own records on foreign suppliers. They would be allowed to hire outside auditors to make on-site inspections.
These are the last major rules needed to implement the Food Safety and Modernization Act, a landmark law passed by Congress in 2010 that was the first significant update of the agency’s food safety authority in 70 years. The administration has been criticized for not moving more quickly to carry out the law. The first set of rules, which applied to domestic producers, was proposed in January. The new rules proposed Friday exempt importers of seafood and fruit juices."
"Erik Olson, a researcher at the Pew Charitable Trusts, which advocated for passage of the law, said the new rules would work only if they required an audit and that it was not clear that they did.
“That could end up as a paper exercise,” he said. “We view on-site verification as absolutely critical to a successful program.”
Mr. Olson said that 8 of the 19 multistate food outbreaks linked to F.D.A. regulated products that have occurred since January 2011 when the bill was signed into law have been linked to imports. Most recently, pomegranate seeds from Turkey sickened more than 140 people across the country with hepatitis A."