"The Obama administration on Friday released long-awaited proposals aimed at ensuring that the growing amount of imported foods, which now account for about 15 percent of the nation’s food supply, meet U.S. safety standards.
The new rules, drafted by the Food and Drug Administration, were mandated by far-reaching legislation passed by Congress in late 2010. They represent one piece in a broader effort to overhaul the nation’s approach to food safety for the first time in generations by preventing contamination and illness rather than simply reacting to outbreaks."
"The proposed rules published Friday are intended to leverage the agency’s limited resources by creating a set of standards and relying on U.S. companies and foreign governments to ensure that overseas importers abide by them.
If adopted, they would create a “foreign supplier verification program,” in which U.S. companies, for the first time, would have clear legal responsibility for making sure their overseas suppliers meet U.S. safety standards. They also would establish a system in which the FDA could authorize foreign governments and private companies to accredit third-party auditors, who then could inspect overseas manufacturers that have a troubled history or whose products are deemed "high risk."
"The proposed import rules, like the domestic versions before it, languished at the administration’s Office of Management and Budget for more than a year before being released Friday, much to the frustration of consumer advocates and some FDA officials. During that time, numerous outbreaks involving foreign imports have sickened hundreds of Americans — including pomegranates from Turkey that have caused Hepatitis A and mangoes from Mexico contaminated with salmonella.
“We want these rules finalized as soon as possible. With the delays we’ve had, we’ve seen outbreak after outbreak,” said Sandra Eskin, director of the food-safety campaign at the Pew Charitable Trusts. "The longer it takes, the more people are going to get sick."