Testing of seafood is one example of how the FDA’s data-based PREDICT (which stands for Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting) system works. In fiscal year 2014, for example, the FDA tested a greater percentage of imported seafood than any other type of food. If other testing rates were around 2%, for seafood we tested 3.7% last fiscal year. That doesn’t sound like a big difference but it shows how we are able to target resources based on risk.
The FDA’s goal is to use physical examinations, records examinations, and laboratory tests in the most efficient way possible. Because the PREDICT system screens 100 percent of food entries, it helps FDA investigators identify foods coming in that may pose a concern. Laboratory tests are an important tool used by the agency, but not the only way to measure how the FDA is working to ensure food safety. For example, that 2% figure does not factor in record and label inspections, and physical examinations, all of which would occur prior to a sample being taken to a lab.
In fact, laboratory tests can even be seen as an ‘after the fact’ measure. The FDA seeks to prevent food that does not meet our standards from even reaching our ports of entry. When necessary, we place companies on Import Alert, a condition under which the exporter or importer must pay to test 100% of their product and prove to the FDA that it meets U.S. standards. This week the agency put shrimp and prawns from peninsular Malaysia on Import Alert, and shrimp, dace and eel are currently under a different Import Alert as well. The FDA also works with companies in the U.S. and abroad, as well as food safety officials in other countries to help them understand and meet applicable rules and regulations.