FDA will expedite reviews of Costco food imports

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) to be the first participant in the agency’s Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP).

Established by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), VQIP is a voluntary fee-based program that provides importers, “who achieve and maintain control over the safety and security of their supply chains,” faster reviews of their human and animal food imports.

“Costco has successfully demonstrated management of the safety and security of its supply chain, which will allow the company to utilize VQIP to import certain food products into the U.S. with greater speed and predictability, avoiding unexpected delays at the point of import entry,” FDA said in a statement.

U.S. food importers are required to meet certain requirements, such as ensuring that the facilities of their foreign suppliers are certified through FDA’s Accredited Third-Party Certification Program, which is also part of FSMA.

FDA has opened its VQIP application portal to U.S. food importers through May 31 to apply for the program’s benefits between Oct. 1, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021.

“Consumers will also benefit from the importer’s robust management of the safety and security of its supply chains,” FDA said.

The agency expects VQIP to help it reduce the potential for foodborne illnesses via imported foods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 48 million Americans become sick and about 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases.