USA Food Importing: Guide to the FDA’s Foreign Supplier Verification Programme (FSVP)
If you’re an importer in the USA or a supplier exporting to the USA, you may have heard of the Foreign Supplier Verification Programme (FSVP) that applies to some importers. The purpose of FSVP is to ensure that foreign suppliers are producing food in a responsible way and to the US standards required to provide public health protection, such as complying with safety regulations, adhering to preventive controls and ensuring correct labelling.
Who does FSVP affect?
FSVP applies to all importers of human and animal food, including dietary supplements. Some items are exempt (see below), but all other food imported will be subject to inspections by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure compliance with FSVP.
What Foods are exempt from FSVP?
The following food categories are exempt from FSVP:
- Juice, fish and fishery products subject to and in compliance with FDA’s applicable Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations
- Alcoholic beverages and specific ingredients used in alcoholic beverages
- Food imported for research or personal consumption
- Food imported to be processed and exported
- Meat, poultry, and egg products regulated by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) at the time of importation
FSVP Modified Requirements
Even if you’re not exempt, some importers will be able to import under modified requirements. These include:
- Importing from a country of origin that the FDA considers having comparable food safety standards such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
- Your dietary suppliers are subject to CGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices)
- Very small businesses (averaging less than $1m per year in sales of human food plus the market value of human food manufactured, processed, packed, or held without sale during the three years preceding the applicable calendar year) or those that import from certain small suppliers.
The Modified FSVP Requirements are:
- Identify the FSVP importer
- Identify a qualified individual (with the education, training, and experience necessary to manufacture, produce, package, and store safe food)
- Identify a qualified auditor (with expertise obtained through education, training, and knowledge required to perform auditing functions like an on-site audit)
- Provide annual written assurance (by 31st December each year) from foreign supplier companies that they minimise or prevent any identified hazards.
- Maintain electronic or hard copy records for two years.
Standard FSVP Requirements
If you don’t fall into the exempt categories and you are a large business, you’ll need to comply with the Standard FSVP requirements. To summarise, these include:
- Identify the FSVP importer
- Evaluate any food risk by verifying the supplier’s food safety history
- Perform a risk analysis that includes identifying hazards associated with each type of food and determining whether they require control
- Evaluate risks posed by the food and the performance of the foreign supplier
- Verify the supplier to ensure risks requiring control in the food you import have been significantly minimised or prevented. These activities may include:
- Annual on-site audit of supplier facility
- Sampling and testing
- Review of food safety records
- Use of a third party to verify and provide documentation
The FSVP Importer
The FSVP importer must be a US owner or consignee of the food items. If you are a non-US resident, you will need to appoint a US agent to act as your FSVP Importer who must sign an annual statement confirming as such. The FSVP Importer responsibilities include:
- Act as the point of contact for the FDA.
- Ensure compliance with FSVP requirements.
- Have a financial interest in the food being imported.
What information do I need to provide to John Good?
You’ll need to provide us with the following information:
- FSVP Importer’s Name
- FSVP Importer’s Address
- FSVP Importer’s Email Address
- FSVP Importer’s Unique Identifier or DUNS Number
A Suitable Logistics Provider
Separately, it is also important that you choose the correct forwarder, particularly when it comes to sensitive cargo such as Food and Beverages. Here’s our suggested list of questions you ask a forwarder that is going to handle your food and beverage shipments: [Checklist] Shipping Food or Beverages? 5 things to ask potential freight forwarders before you put your goods in their hands.