The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced it will begin conducting remote inspections of importers under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.  FSVP requires importers to perform certain risk-based activities to verify that their foreign suppliers are producing food in accordance with U.S. food safety laws.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, FDA would conduct FSVP inspections by reviewing importers’ records at the importers’ place of business.  Now, because of travel restrictions, social distancing, and other governmental advisories, FDA has determined that onsite inspections are temporarily impractical and will instead use its authority to make written requests for importers to provide records to the agency electronically or by other prompt means.

FDA will begin conducting a limited number of remote inspections and will prioritize inspections of FSVP importers for food from foreign suppliers where the onsite food facility or farm inspection has been postponed due to COVID-19.  FDA also plans to remotely conduct previously assigned routine and follow-up inspections.  A FDA investigator will contact importers subject to remote inspection and will explain the process and make the agency’s written request for records.

Additionally, FDA may still choose to conduct an onsite FSVP inspection in rare situations.  In those cases, an FDA investigator will make arrangements to conduct the inspection while practicing social distancing recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We will continue to monitor developments related to the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on the FSVP regulations. Should you have any questions regarding this alert, contact Seth Mailhot, Emily Lyons, or your Husch Blackwell attorney.