Feds Choose Farmed Shrimp to Test Import Safety Certification
During the inaugural Import Safety Summit in Washington, D.C., today, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt announced a pilot program to test and evaluate third-party certification systems for farmed shrimp.
As part of the new federal import safety strategy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is drafting guidance for third-party certification programs to ensure the certified products meet FDA requirements. It is a program the government hopes will multiply FDA's worldwide reach.
"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 center piece of our new strategy is to leverage and build on that kind of effort. It already exists - we are seeing it work."
The FDA's pilot program will focus first on farmed shrimp as a test case to examine aquaculture standards, such as the Global Aquaculture Alliance's Best Aquaculture Practices.
GAA Executive Director Wally Stevens says the group welcomes the FDA's oversight as an important step in promoting strict health and safety standards throughout the seafood supply chain.
"We were excited to learn from Secretary Leavitt that the Department of Health and Human Services has chosen aquaculture and specifically shrimp to test its new plans for third-party certification," Stevens says. "We applaud the leadership of the department for pursuing voluntary third-party certification as a key element of its comprehensive Food Protection Plan."
"This is evidence that HHS's Import Safety Action Plan is moving in the right direction at the right pace, often not seen in the government," adds National Fisheries Institute President John Connelly. "This is an opportunity for the seafood community to demonstrate that the steps they have voluntarily taken over the past several years meet the government's requirements. This public-private cooperation will help FDA do its job while influencing health and safety standards worldwide. Through this third party certification system, we are saying to the government, 'Track us, so you can trust us.'"