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How to Comply With The Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP)

Are you having trouble understanding the Foreign Supplier Verification Program Rule also known as FSVP? The following article will cover everything you need to know to comply with this rule enforced by the United States Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act (or FSMA).

What is the FSVP?

Given the high consumption of imported foods by Americans, The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act established a rule known as the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVPs) rule for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals that dictates that all foods imported from other countries be held to the same high standards required of domestic food.

Industry Expert Story And Experience

My first-time operating a boat was about 10 years ago while visiting a small island in the Gulf of Mexico. My husband had previously worked in the boating industry and understood the basics. I had no real knowledge of how to operate a boat; I didn’t know basic terminology nor have any instincts around boats.

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Every aspect was foreign to me and to this day, I am still slightly intimidated to take the captain’s chair. My husband has been involved with boats or water safety on and off for over 30 years and has much more knowledge than me, so I rely on him.

Just as I felt on the boat, FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) and FSVP (Foreign Supplier Verification Program) Rule can be intimidating and confusing. The terminology and acronyms are new to the industry. And we just learned who can be the FSVP Importer. So, as an industry expert, let me break it down simply.

Related Article: What is the FDA’s strategy for safety of imported foods?

Wha is an FSVP Importer?

The following video teaches about the Foreign Supplier Verification Program and whether you are subject to the FSVP rules and regulations.

Foreign Supplier Verification Program Compliance

Here is what you need to meet law requirements if you are FSVP importer:  

  1. Identify FSVP importer –The only entities to be named as FSVP importer are the US Customer, the US Consignee or a US agent. There must be a conversation with downstream supply chain contacts to determine WHO accepts the FSVP importer responsibilities. If you are a foreign supplier or exporter, do not assume the US Customer accepts the responsibility.
  2. Establish a Written Plan – this is a Standard Operating Procedure for how your FSVP is managed. Though a part of your Supplier Management program, FSVP should be separate ONLY because you don’t want the entire policy under scrutiny when inspected. You will also want a template to consolidate your verification and evaluation activities onto 1 or 2 documents for easy inspections.
  3. Hazard Analysis/Verify – food safety hazards for imported food items must be identified and determined if reduced to acceptable levels. If hazards are not mitigated by the foreign supplier(s), the US FSVP importer must ensure controls (e.g. label claims, further processing/treatment, etc.), verifying the product is safe for consumption. This analysis must be done by a QI (qualified individual) knowledgeable in food safety practices and hazards of the foods. Translation to English might be required depending on the QI native language.
  4. Evaluation – the foreign supplier must be evaluated for applicable US law requirements for each product they produce and appropriate food safety practices eliminating or controlling above-identified hazards. They also need to be checked to be in good standing with the FDA and other regulatory agencies.
  5. Approved Supplier List – once approved, a list of approved suppliers must be maintained. This can be a list of policy that includes ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) tools. The supplier must be continuously monitored for food safety incidents.  
  6. Corrective Actions – if a food safety incident (e.g. FDA import alerts, warning letters, recalls, etc.) occurs to the food or foreign supplier, the US FSVP importer must conduct corrective action(s) and determine next steps which might include discontinuing the foreign supplier.
  7. Record-Keeping – YOU MUST maintain the documentation for up to 2 years after the import date.
  8. Re-Evaluate – verification is required every 3 years. (Continuous monitoring is always required).

In summary, the FSVP importer program is easy to manage as part of your Supplier Compliance Management Program. You must have a Qualified Individual (QI) with food safety background involved in the process.

If you have not hired a QI, Safe Food En Route, LLC’s CEO/Founder, Jennifer Crandall, has over 20 years of experience in the food industry with an extensive background in supplier compliance and assisted one of the largest US Grocery retailers set up their FSVP program.  

About Jennifer Crandall

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Jennifer Crandall is a qualified person (QI) trained in PCQI, FSVP, BRC Internal Audit, SQF Professional and Certified in the Gluten Free Certification Program. She has a degree from Purdue University in Food Science and over 21 years of experience in the food industry, including food manufacturing and warranty and compliance with corporate quality and now in consulting. Most of Jennifer's career has been monitoring the compliance of private label providers for a Fortune 25 company and one of the world's largest grocery retailers. Jennifer is also a co-founder of the Global Food Blockchain Initiative in the US, and of the US Country Partner to Primority, LTD, the developer of 3iVerify Solution.

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