Participants Sought for FDA Pilot Program, GAA to Apply

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced in today's Federal Register it is seeking third-party certification organizations to participate in a pilot program for farmed shrimp.

The program, part of the federal government's new import safety strategy, was unveiled yesterday by Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt at the inaugural Import Safety Summit in Washington, D.C., attended by hundreds of food company executives and government officials.

The goal of the program is to help the FDA determine its infrastructure requirements so it can move toward broader recognition of voluntary third-party certification programs. The program will focus initially on farmed shrimp as a test case to evaluate aquaculture certification standards.

The Global Aquaculture Alliance - whose Best Aquaculture Practices are used by the independent Aquaculture Certification Council to certify shrimp hatcheries, farms and processing plants - will apply to participate in the program, GAA Executive Director Wally Stevens told SeaFood Business today.

"As [Leavitt] said many times [yesterday], we need to collaborate with existing [certification standards] to find a way to improve food safety," says Stevens. "I view what we're doing today as a working program, not a talking program. FDA is clearly well advanced in food-safety training, and to think that in some way we potentially could collaborate with FDA to even further improve food safety is a pretty intriguing thought."

One-quarter of global shrimp production, including 40 percent of Thai shrimp exports and one-third of U.S.-consumed shrimp go through a BAP-certified facility.

The deadline to submit a request to participate in the program is Aug. 25. The Federal Register notice is available at

For the past several months, the government has been advocating a risk-based approach to protecting the U.S. food supply, including training foreign inspectors and certifying producers of high-risk foods, as opposed to simply ramping up inspections.

"Just as the value of trade has changed, we must change our strategy. Simply scaling up our inspections isn't going to work. We have to develop new tools that meet the challenges we are going to face," says Leavitt. "A centerpiece of our new strategy is to leverage and build on that kind of effort. It already exists - we are seeing it work."

Leavitt chairs the Working Group on Import Safety, formed by President Bush last July. The interagency group published its "Action Plan for Import Safety" last November, and on July 1 it released its "Import Safety Action Plan Update" detailing the progress made by U.S. and foreign officials and private companies to bolster the safety of imported goods, including seafood.


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