Why Should Food Importers Utilize the FDA’s Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP)?

FDA Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP)Why Should Food Importers Utilize the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP)?

Importing ain’t easy. Certainly not if you’re importing food. Food importers deal with all sorts of red tape and regulations to import their products into the United States. It seems like each year it becomes harder and harder to import food products without complications. Whether it’s tariffs, new laws, or updated food standards, there is always something changing that requires food importers to adapt. To counteract some of the hurdles facing food importers, the FDA has launched the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP). Can VQIP help you import your food products? Find out below:

What is the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program?

The Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) is a program that allows importers of human and animal foods to expedite the review process and experience quicker import entry into the US. Eligible importers pay a fee to cover the cost of FDA administration which allows them to bypass unexpected import delays.

What are the Advantages?

The major advantage of VQIP is that it allows for quicker and simpler entry into the US. The FDA has developed a screening tool to ensure expedited services which recognizes and releases VQIP approved shipments immediately. The only VQIP imports that would be held are imports that require examination for an outbreak or illness investigation, sampling for microbiological risks, or spot checking for adherence to VQIP guidelines. For those products that do require examination or sampling, the procedure can be done at a preferred location with faster lab results turnaround time.

How Do Importers Sign up?

Unfortunately, not every food importer will qualify for VQIP. To qualify, food importers must meet the following requirements:

  • 3 years of importing food into the US.
  • A Data Universal System (DUNS) number.
  • Your paperless filers/brokers must have received an acceptable rating in their last FDA filer evaluation.
  • You are in compliance with supplier verification and importer responsibilities.
  • You have up-to-date facility certifications for each foreign supplier.
  • You’ve initiated a VQIP quality assurance program.
  • None of the imported foods are subject to an import alert or Class 1 recall.
  • You are not the subject of ongoing FDA administration or judicial action
  • You do not have a history of food safety non-compliance.
  • You haven’t been the subject of any U.S. Customs and Border Protection penalties, forfeitures or sanctions related to your FDA-regulated products.
  • You’ve paid the VQIP free prior to October 1st each year that your are approved for VQIP.

Once you’ve verified that you meet the requirements, you can begin the registration process at: https://www.access.fda.gov/

For additional information please visit the following link: https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/guidance-industry-fdas-voluntary-qualified-importer-program

While all of the above may sound complicated, it’s well worth it to expedite the import process and get your products to consumers sooner. Unfortunately, getting your products through the ports is only half the battle. Once your container is released, you’ll still need a reliable method of transportation your products to consumer. At Continental Logistics, we have extensive experience providing food importers with container drayage, full truckload and less than truckload transportation. Contact us today to discuss your transportation options before your containers are ready to be picked up from the port.

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