VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese exporters have been taking hectic preparations to get adapted to the US new law on food safety, showing their determination to boost exports to the market.
Gearing up in preparations
Under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), domestic and foreign production units that make, process, pack or store food for humans and animals must make re-registrations with the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
The new regulation would take effect from January 1, 2013.
Huynh Duc Trung, Director of Nhat Duc Company Ltd in Ca Mau province, said his company has followed the procedures for the re-registration through the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).
Nguyen Trung Hai, general director of Halong Canfoco Company, which specializes in making canned food products, said he has met no problem in making re-registration with the FDA, adding that this is just an administrative formality.
In registering, the production units located in the US have to give the email addresses of the representatives of the units, while the producers not in the US have to provide the email addresses of their US agents.
Le Thi Hoang Yen, Business and Production Director of Vilfood, said her company has hired a US firm to follow the registration formalities with the FDA and to act as the representative for Vilfood in the US.
The company which specializes in exporting processed seafood has been mostly exporting products to Europe, while the exports to the US just account for five percent of the company’s total exports.
However, Yen said the company still decides to make the re-registration because it attempts to penetrate more deeply into the US market.
The US has been importing food materials from Vietnam in big quantities, but it has not imported much in processed food.
Meanwhile, Hai of Canfoco said Canfoco does not hire any US firm to act as its representative in the US. It has decided to open a representative office there.
“We are considering opening a representative office in the US, which would help satisfy the requirements set by the US competent agencies and seek more US clients as well,” he said.
Regarding the expenses to run a representative office, Hai said it would cost about two billion dong a year, the sum of money, which Hai believes is nearly equal to the fee to spent to hire an US firm. Meanwhile, US firms cannot help expand the market.
Still targeting the US market
Under the new regulations, FDA would strengthen its inspection to the companies which export food products to the US.
According to David Lennarz, who was once the technique expert of FDA, now Deputy President of Registar Corp, FDA planned to conduct 1200 inspection tours to overseas production units in 2012, while the number of inspection tours is believed to double year after year.
In 2011, about 600 inspection tours were taken by FDA officials.
According to Yen, after the re-registration, food companies would be granted the registration numbers and PIN codes. In the past, the registration numbers and PIN codes were enough for Vietnamese enterprises to export food to the US.
However, with the new regulations, after granting the code numbers, if FDA finds it necessary, it would send officials to the production workshops of the manufacturers to find out if the production process can create the products that fit the US standards on food hygiene.
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