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Interview with an Expert

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

Robert Um, the National Compliance Manager for OEC Group’s Customs & Brokerage operations in the United States, discusses the main issues with the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) increasing enforcement of the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP).

What is the FSVP?

The FSVP is one of seven foundational programs included in the Food Safety Modernization Act. The legislation was introduced by the FDA, and it was officially signed into law in 2011. It requires importers to verify that their foreign suppliers of food for human and animal consumption meet applicable FDA safety standards. The purpose of this piece of legislation is to make certain that food safety procedures are consistent across every product meant for human or animal consumption in the U.S., regardless of its place of origin. Additionally, goods in that category must be properly labeled and handled in regard to allergens. Importers are required to uphold standards outlined in the FSVP, and the FDA enforces compliance.

How is the FSVP changing?

Midway through 2021, the FDA announced that they will be shifting to the next phase of implementation. All compliance dates have passed, and the government agency is now moving into verification and enforcement. FDA representatives are now reviewing compliance documents for certain importers and conducting numerous on-site inspections. Their goal is to ensure that all entities importing goods into the United States are following all FSVP compliance legislation.

What does this mean for shippers?

As long as shippers follow the FSVP rules and pass all inspections, there will not be any transit delays. However, if shippers are not compliant with FDA rules and regulations, the FSVP has the potential to cause major issues and significant delays. As a result, your Customs & Brokerage team could get tied up attempting to fix issues that are largely out of their hands.

What can you do to avoid FSVP issues?

To avoid severe problems from potential delays and spoilage, now would be the time to ensure your FSVP program is in place and running. You can find training for importers through a number of online portals made available by the FDA and other organization. Training is designed to provide the knowledge required to successfully comply with the FSVP. This information is also available to others who have an interest in ensuring that FSVP requirements are met, such as brokers, foreign suppliers, and representatives of foreign governments.

What happens if you are not compliant?

If you are not compliant expect the FDA to come for an inspection. The main focus of all agents who will visit will be to discuss your daily operations, ask questions, and gather official information. With these on-site inspections, investigators are going to root out any potential FSVP deficiencies regarding physical procedure, document handling, or any other part of an importer’s process. Once all relevant information is gathered, investigators will point out and give detailed explanations of any issues that the importer may have. Then, they will be given the opportunity to fix any of the issues discovered by the FDA on an agreed upon timeline.

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