FDA announces Costco as first to be approved for new importer program
Costco Wholesale will be the first participant in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) new program for importers, the body announced this Friday.
The Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) - part of the FDA's modernization act called FSMA - reviewed Costco's potential in the program and concluded that it was a well suited importer.
In its online description of the program, the FDA highlights that "participating importers will be able to import their products to the U.S. with greater speed and predictability, avoiding unexpected delays at the point of import entry". The voluntary-fee based initiative provides expedited review and import entry of human and animal foods into the U.S.
The retailer was chosen because it "successfully demonstrated management of the safety and security of its supply chain" according to the FDA release. This, it claims, will allow Costco to better implement new importing procedures and get its facilities registered with the new initiative.
In order to qualify for eligibility in the first place, membership-only grocery retailer Costco was required to meet certain standards through the FDA's Accredited Third-Party Certification Program. This program specifically addresses the safety standards associated with fresh food imports to the U.S. and determines whether or not importers can be duly accredited.
Benefits associated with this type of FDA import approval include predictive risk-based evaluation, limited examination policies and sampling and faster lab results. VQIP approved importers also get the benefit of extended FDA support.
The FDA also published material on how importers and retailers may go through the steps to complete such certification and be approved as VQIP importers. A few of the eligibility requirements it lists include a three year history of importing food into the U.S., having a valid Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) and that none of the importer's food are subject to ongoing FDA action or investigation.