This FSMA rule establishes a voluntary program for the accreditation of third-party certification bodies, also known as third-party auditors, to conduct food safety audits and issue certifications of foreign entities and the foods for humans and animals they produce. These requirements are intended to help ensure the competence and independence of the accreditation bodies and third-party certification bodies participating in the program.
Under FSMA, there are two specific uses for certifications. First, these certifications may be used by importers to help establish eligibility for participation in the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP), which offers expedited review entry of food. The list of pre-qualification requirements, the yearly VQIP fee, and a current list of VQIP participants are available on the FDA VQIP website. Second, the third-party certifications can be used to help prevent potentially harmful food from reaching U.S. consumers. Under specific circumstances, FDA can require that a food offered for import be accompanied by a certification from an accredited third-party certification body.