In a Milestone for Regulation of Imported Foods, New Zealand and U.S. Food Safety Systems are Deemed Comparable

December 18, 2012

By Ricardo Carvajal

FDA announced that it executed a Food Safety Systems Recognition Arrangement ("RA") with its counterpart in New Zealand, the Ministry for Primary Indsutries ("PMI").  The RA is the culmination of an assessment that began in 2010 and included both paper and on-site reviews.  Based on that assessment, the two regulatory authorities “decided that their respective food safety regulatory systems provide for a comparable degree of food safety assurance” – the first such decision for FDA.  A principal consequence of that decision is stated in the RA as follows: 

This systems recognition decision allows for a more efficient and effective use of resources. This includes reductions in the type and frequency of further reviews of each other’s regulatory systems, the type and frequency of border checks when foods are offered for entry into their respective countries, and the level and type of verification activities expected by the Participant’s importers and exporters of food and feed products from either country.

It’s not yet clear how this language will be given effect, but the advantages for manufacturers, exporters, and importers in both countries could be significant – particularly in the absence of a viable third party certification alternative.  In a recent GAO report (see our prior post here), FDA defended its preference for RA’s over the more narrowly tailored comparability assessments recommended by GAO.  Now FDA can claim to have an RA under its belt.