Export managers and sales executives for food firms outside of the United States regularly find themselves in the position of having a category manager of supermarket chain interested in sourcing their product, but only if it can be sold under DDP terms. Many major supermarket chains in the U.S. will not serve as the Foreign Supplier Verification Program importer (FSVP) and require vendors to provide documentation of a U.S.-based FSVP importer.
Why won’t food retailers and wholesalers serve as the FSVP importer?
Businesses that violate the FSVP regulations are subject to tens of thousands of dollars in fines and can lose their food importing privileges.
Corporate officers of businesses that violate the FSVP regulations can be held criminally liable personally even if they have no actual knowledge of the violations. The criminal penalties for violations of the FSVP regulations include fines and even imprisonment. More information is here.
The FSVP regulations are by far the most heavily enforced requirements by FDA. Almost 80% of all FDA citations (including foods, drugs, biologics and medical devices) in fiscal year 2021 involved FSVP. Virtually all food importers can expect to be inspected regularly by FDA for FSVP compliance.
If FDA finds an issue during the FSVP inspection that is not resolved in a period of weeks, then they may issue a warning letter which is made available to the public. FDA warning letters harm the reputation of food businesses.
Performing the FSVP compliance activities is complex. Importers have an obligation to perform ongoing monitoring of the food safety practices of their foreign suppliers as well as keep track of their compliance status with FDA. Records must be maintained for at least two years. The staff time consumed by FSVP compliance and the recordkeeping systems that need to be maintained impose significant expenses on food retailers and wholesalers.