- The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) established the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP). VQIP is intended to expedite the review and import entry of human and animal foods into the United States. To participate in VQIP, importers must meet eligibility criteria and pay a user fee. Eligibility criteria include ensuring that the foreign supplier’s facility is certified by a recognized certification body under FDA’s Accredited Third Party Certification Program. Third-party “certification bodies,” otherwise known as third-party auditors, must be recognized by accreditation bodies before they can issue certifications under the Accredited Third-Party Certification Program.
- No importers were able to apply during the first VQIP application cycle, which ran from January 1 to May 31, 2018, because at that time no certification bodies had yet received accreditation under the Accredited Third Party Certification Program. Now there is one certification body (Perry Johnson Registrars Food Safety, Inc.) that has been accredited (by the American National Standards Institute) to conduct food safety audits and issue certifications to foreign bodies. Certifications may be obtained for FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis and Risk Based Preventive Controls for Human Food (Preventive Controls for Human Food rule), Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption (Produce Safety Rule), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Systems (Juice HACCP), and Fish and Fishery Products (Seafood HACCP). No certification bodies are yet accredited in other areas. As previously covered on this blog, however, accreditation bodies are in place with the ability to recognize certification bodies for additional program areas, including Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis and Risk Based Preventive Controls for Animal Food (Preventive Controls for Animal Food rule) and Thermally Processed Low-Acid Foods Packaged in Hermetically Sealed Containers (LACF) and Acidified Foods.
- FDA announced on September 19, 2018 that the VQIP application portal will open three months early for the Fiscal Year 2020 benefit period. Instead of opening January 1, 2019, the VQIP application portal will open on October 1, 2018 to allow importers to submit their Notice of Intent to Participate and their completed VQIP applications early.
Please feel free to contact Keller and Heckman at email@example.com with any questions about the VQIP.