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  1. Importing Food Products into the United States

Accredited Third-Party Certification Program

Accredited Third-Party Certification is a voluntary program in which FDA recognizes “accreditation bodies” that will have the responsibility of accrediting third-party “certification bodies.” The certification bodies will conduct food safety audits and issue certifications of foreign food facilities.

TPA Process

These certifications are used for two purposes.

  • Certifications can establish eligibility for participation in the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP), which offers expedited review and entry of food.
  • In rare and specific circumstances FDA can require that an imported product be certified to prevent a potentially harmful food from entering the U.S.

The Agency’s imported food goal is twofold:

  • To address potential safety issues before the food reaches the United States; and
  • To help ensure that imported foods are produced in accordance with the same safety standards as those required of U.S. foods.

Accreditation bodies under the Accredited Third-Party Certification Program must:

  • Assess third-party certification bodies to determine if they can be accredited. This includes observing a representative sample of the applicant’s work;
  • Monitor the performance of the certification bodies it accredits. Accreditation bodies must notify FDA of any change in, or withdrawal of, accreditations it has granted;
  • Assess and correct any problems in the accreditation body’s own performance;
  • Submit monitoring and self-assessment reports and other notifications to FDA;
  • Maintain and provide FDA with access to the records that the program requires.

Accreditation bodies may begin to accredit certification bodies to issue certifications under this program once they receive recognition from FDA.

Related Guidance Documents

Background

Additional Information

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