In an effort to avoid illness outbreaks from imported foods, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed new rules that would require importers to verify that their suppliers' standards are on par with those of domestic growers and processors.
The agency has shifted its focus to preventing disease outbreaks rather than simply responding to them. Imported food accounts for about 15% of the U.S. food supply, the agency said.
“We must work toward global solutions to food safety so that whether you serve your family food grown locally or imported you can be confident that it is safe,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg.
Food safety officials have had to deal with contaminated food from other countries on a number of occasions in recent years.
A recent salmonella outbreak, for instance, sickened more than 70 people in 18 states. That outbreak was traced to imported cucumbers from Mexico. Imports from the Mexican supplier were halted as a result.
The proposed rules are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law in 2011 by President Obama.
Under the rules, U.S. importers for the first time would have to verify that their suppliers produce food that meets U.S. food safety requirements. The FDA is also proposing requiring third-party auditors to inspect foreign facilities.