American consumers increasingly rely of goods manufactured in foreign countries: in Fiscal Year 2011, roughly 24 million shipments of FDA-regulated products were imported into the US. Regulating that large volume of varied shipments is a complicated and unending task, and one of great importance in the realm of consumer protection. Every day there are FDA field investigators in offices throughout the country and in FDA headquarters dedicated to providing this consumer protection.
The FDA will host a webinar “FDA’s Import Operations: How FDA regulates imported products”, Wednesday, November 30th at 11:00 AM ET. The featured speaker, John Verbeten, is a branch director for FDA’s Division of Import Operations and Policy and a former field investigator. He will give an overview and answer questions about FDA’s consumer protection activities related to imported products.
There are a limited number of spots available for the webinar. Materials from the webinar will also be made available on the FDA website following the presentation.
It’s not every day that I have a chance to see first-hand what companies are doing to strengthen their food safety preventive practices, but that’s just what happened on a recent trip to Minneapolis. The facility tour we took is part of FDA’s continuing effort to hear from all stakeholders on the best ways for us to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
I was joined by several FDA colleagues working hard on implementing the new food safety law, as well as the commissioner and assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the department’s director of the division of dairy and food inspection, and the chief science officer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
We met with company executives, plant and shift managers, and those responsible for the safety of our food on a day-to-day basis. A key take away message from our interactions: food safety is a journey that requires sustained leadership and commitment.
We learned about how individual companies have evolved their food safety programs over the past few years. We heard about what works and what challenges they face. We looked at how they verify their suppliers are providing safe products, when and how they conduct environmental monitoring, and how they train employees. All of these efforts are important in preventive control programs. The companies we visited had a lot of experience with preventive controls and are continually improving their systems. The significance of FSMA is that, now, preventive controls will be the norm across the industry.
In two days, we visited Cargill Kitchen Solutions, a marketer of processed liquid and cooked egg products; a Land-O-Lakes feed mill that manufactures feed for a variety of different animal species; a General Mills plant that produces baked goods; Buddy’s Kitchen, a smaller enterprise that prepares ready-to-eat entrees and sandwiches; and a Malt-O-Meal plant that manufactures dry cereal. In the evening we joined a consortium of Minnesota industry leaders and state representatives for a lively dinner that provided additional opportunity for us to hear thoughts on FSMA and food safety.
We saw on our visit to Minnesota the kind of leadership and management commitment to food safety that is the essential foundation for success in providing consumers the safest possible food supply.
Michael R. Taylor
Deputy Commissioner for Foods