Why GAO Did This Study
U.S. reliance on imported food increased from 2000 through 2011. For some products, imports make up a considerable share of the total amount consumed in the United States. FDA-- responsible for ensuring the safety of most imported foods--received new authority under FSMA to enhance its oversight of food imports, including express authority to establish a system for accrediting third parties, which may include foreign governments and private auditing firms, to certify foreign food facilities' compliance with U.S. food safety requirements. FDA has also begun to assess selected foreign food safety systems to determine if these systems provide the same level of public health protection, among other things.
GAO was asked to (1) identify major actions FDA is to take to implement a system for accrediting third parties and challenges, if any, it and others report with these actions and (2) examine FDA's approach for using comparability assessments to leverage other countries' oversight capacity and enforcement authority. GAO reviewed FDA documents and interviewed officials from FDA and other agencies, and stakeholders, such as consumer groups and industry representatives.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that FDA revise its comparability approach to one that also includes assessing foreign food safety systems for particular food products, such as seafood. FDA neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation.