November 10, 2016
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is announcing final guidance for industry for a voluntary, fee-based program to allow the expedited review and importation of foods into the United States from importers with a proven track record of food safety and security. The final guidance is in question-and-answer format to explain how this program will work.
The Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) will benefit both industry and consumers. Expedited entry provides importers an incentive to adopt a robust system of supply chain management and will allow FDA to focus its resources on examining and sampling food imports that are more likely to present a potential risk to public health.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law in January 2011, provides the FDA with authority to ensure that foods imported into the United States meet the same safety standards as those set for domestically produced foods.
In addition to establishing mandatory standards for importers of food under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), FSMA also requires the FDA to establish VQIP for importers who achieve and maintain a high level of control over the safety and security of their supply chains. This control includes the import of food from facilities, including farms, that have been certified under FDA’s Accredited Third-Party Certification regulation as following appropriate food safety practices.
- benefits VQIP importers can expect to receive;
- eligibility criteria;
- instructions for completing a VQIP application;
- conditions that could result in revocation of VQIP participation; and
- criteria for VQIP reinstatement following revocation.
FDA plans to begin accepting applications for VQIP on January 1, 2018 for participation in fiscal year 2019 beginning October 1, 2018. The agency encourages food importers with robust supplier verification programs to apply for participation in VQIP.