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FDA's Food Supplier Verification Program Has Importers and Customs Brokers Scrambling

NCBFAA RAC Co-Chair Mike Lahar participated in a panel at the Grocery Manufacturers (GMA) annual Science Forum, giving food importers the perspective of customs brokers on the upcoming FSVP requirements, which go into effect on May 30, 2017. During the panel presentation, Lahar called FSVP "a game changer." Lahar told the attendees:

"Brokers and importers alike have already had to contend with significant changes in the import process over the last year under the expanded data requirements of both ACE and ITDS. Now, the FSVP will require brokers to report a new data set in the PG 19 record. For food shipments of subject food products, brokers will need to transmit a DUNS number as well as e-mail, name and address of the 'FSVP Importer'."

Lahar reminded the audience that the FSVP importer is not necessarily the Importer-of-Record. Often these will be two different parties, he explained. The FSVP importer, he said, is the party who, at the time of entry owns the food, has purchased the food or has agreed in writing to purchase the food.

Lahar further emphasized, "The important thing to remember, this isn't just a new data set, it is an additional 'qualified data set' that will very soon become mandatory." It is "Qualified ", he said, "in that a broker's client will need to provide information on the party in the United States (i.e. the FSVP importer) who is responsible for verifying that the foreign manufacturer or processor is in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act rules."

The FSVP importer must have detailed documentation that they have a verification program and have performed specific verification activities. "Not only that," he added, "but the FSVP importer must have a 'qualified individual' do the verification (that is, someone with the education and background to perform a hazard analysis of and verification actions for the food product)."

Lahar urged the food importers "to do your homework" to identify the responsible FSVP importer for each food shipment. Further, he suggested, "brokers and their clients will need to have a discussion in this regard to ensure that each is in agreement on a method to ensure that the data provided and transmitted is indeed accurate and to protect the interests of all parties at hand." As an example, Lahar pointed to shipments entered for a nonresident "importer of record." In this case, the responsibility for FSVP would fall on the U.S. consignee/owner. In this circumstance, Lahar suggested that some form of written agreement should be in place between the nonresident importer and the U.S. owner/consignee, providing that the owner/consignee will assume the FSVP responsibility. "An acknowledgement of responsibility should be conveyed to the broker prior to entry certification," Lahar said.

Lahar added, "In addition to the verification requirements, which many importers find confusing and unnerving, the rule also contains many exclusions and modified requirements." Lahar pointed to the modified requirements for countries that have achieved a mutual recognition agreement of their food safety systems by the FDA. Canada, New Zealand, and most recently Australia have received such recognition, with the FDA recognizing their respective food safety system rules and regulations as comparable to those of United States. "As Such," he explained, "the rules for verifying the safety of the food products that fall within the scope of the agreement are greatly reduced for the FSVP importer. Nevertheless, the broker must still provide the required information on the FSVP importer in ACE at entry."

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