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Costco has big plans as part of FDA import program

Mexican avocados at Costco.

Costco Wholesale BB #:150902 was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as the first in the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP).

Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance and food safety of the Issaquah, WA-based company, said the program is bigger than just improving food safety.

“It’s designed to really smooth out the FDA import process for companies like Costco and help us get goods to market faster,” he said March 2.

“We know goods will come from food safety-approved entities by the FDA,” he said.

FDA says “VQIP is a voluntary fee-based program that provides importers, who achieve and maintain control over the safety and security of their supply chains, expedited review and importation of human and animal foods into the United States.”

“To participate in VQIP, food importers must meet certain eligibility requirements, including ensuring that the facilities of their foreign suppliers are certified through the FDA’s Accredited Third-Party Certification Program, which is also part of FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act.”

Wilson said Costco hasn’t begun using the program, but it hopes to soon.

While he couldn’t say which fresh produce items would be first to use the program, he said eventually, he expects all fresh produce that’s imported to use the system.

“Consumers won’t be terribly concerned” about the program, he said. “It’s the right thing to do and it will improve product flow to the buildings, and we should see an improvement in quality.”

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services