Chilean produce consultancy Decofrut is launching a service to help US fruit and vegetable importers implement the Foreign Supplier Verification Programme (FSVP) as required by the impending Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA).
Under new regulations that will come into effect in July 2018, US companies will be responsible for any eventual biological, chemical or physical contamination of the food they import.
The US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) rule requires that importers perform certain risk-based activities to verify that food has been produced in a way that meets US safety standards.
“The new law shares the growers and processors' responsibility of ensuring that the product has been produced and processed under innocuous conditions with the US importers,” Decofrut president Manuel Alcaino said.
“In addition, whereas before the responsibility was regulated by civil law, it will now be enforced under criminal law.”
Alcaino explained the term 'foreign supplier' in this case refers to the establishment where the food was produced and processed, not the exporter. The establishments in-question must have Food Safety Plan involving hazard analysis, preventative controls, oversight and management of preventative controls, a supply chain programme and a recall plan.
A new service called Assistance has been developed by Decofrut in conjunction with Fruits Safety SpA to help importers implement the FSVP programme quickly and efficiently. Assistance will initially be available for importers working with companies in Chile and Peru – two of the leading counterseasonal suppliers of produce to the US.
Run by highly qualified staff, the service will entail a complete and permanent follow-up of all foreign suppliers and their packing plants. The required documentation will then be processed and made available to the importer.
“It isn’t too difficult to be compliant with the law, especially because Chile and Peru already have quite good levels of compliance with food safety requirements,” Alcaino said.
“But the complicated aspect for the importer is gathering all of the documents for the various prevention plans and having them all available for when the fruit arrives in the US.”
He also pointed out that many importers work with numerous exporters, who in turn could receive produce from dozens of individual growers and processors.
As part of the Assistance service, Decofrut, which is well established within the Chilean and Peruvian fruit sectors, will make contact with exporters and gather all of the necessary documents.
“We will then upload them to a specialised online platform and build a profile for each company, which will take into account aspects such as certifications like GlobalGAP, prevention plans and water analysis, among others,” he said.
“The importer will be able to see the risk level of every foreign supplier and will have all the information they need ready when the shipment arrives.
“As the exporter will have to send us a Pallet List, we are going to know all of the producers involved with any given shipment. If we don’t have the details of a producer we are going to request them, and if they don't provide them that producer will be classified as high-risk. The importer will then be able to make the corresponding determination.”
In addition, importers who can demonstrate they have a reliable and robust FSVP will be able to apply to the FDA’s fee-based Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP), allowing for expedited entry of the imported produce.