The term “third-party auditor” means a foreign government, agency of a foreign government, foreign cooperative, or any other third party, as the Secretary determines appropriate in accordance with the model standards described in subsection (b)(2), that is eligible to be considered for accreditation to conduct food safety audits to certify that eligible entities meet the applicable requirements of this section. A third-party auditor may be a single individual. A third-party auditor may employ or use audit agents to help conduct consultative and regulatory audits.
The term “accredited third-party auditor” means a third-party auditor accredited by an accreditation body to conduct audits of eligible entities to certify that such eligible entities meet the applicable requirements of this section. An accredited third-party auditor may be an individual who conducts food safety audits to certify that eligible entities meet the applicable requirements of this section.
Not later than 18 months after January 4, 2011, the Secretary shall develop model standards, including requirements for regulatory audit reports, and each recognized accreditation body shall ensure that third-party auditors and audit agents of such auditors meet such standards in order to qualify such third-party auditors as accredited third-party auditors under this section. In developing the model standards, the Secretary shall look to standards in place on January 4, 2011, for guidance, to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts and costs.
Prior to accrediting a foreign government or an agency of a foreign government as an accredited third-party auditor, the accreditation body (or, in the case of direct accreditation under subsection (b)(1)(A)(ii), the Secretary) shall perform such reviews and audits of food safety programs, systems, and standards of the government or agency of the government as the Secretary deems necessary, including requirements under the model standards developed under subsection (b)(2), to determine that the foreign government or agency of the foreign government is capable of adequately ensuring that eligible entities or foods certified by such government or agency meet the requirements of this chapter with respect to food manufactured, processed, packed, or held for import into the United States.
Prior to accrediting a foreign cooperative that aggregates the products of growers or processors, or any other third party to be an accredited third-party auditor, the accreditation body (or, in the case of direct accreditation under subsection (b)(1)(A)(ii), the Secretary) shall perform such reviews and audits of the training and qualifications of audit agents used by that cooperative or party and conduct such reviews of internal systems and such other investigation of the cooperative or party as the Secretary deems necessary, including requirements under the model standards developed under subsection (b)(2), to determine that each eligible entity certified by the cooperative or party has systems and standards in use to ensure that such entity or food meets the requirements of this chapter.
An accreditation body (or, in the case of direct accreditation under subsection (b)(1)(A)(ii), the Secretary) may not accredit a third-party auditor unless such third-party auditor agrees to issue a written and, as appropriate, electronic food certification, described in section 381(q) of this title, or facility certification under section 384b(a) of this title, as appropriate, to accompany each food shipment for import into the United States from an eligible entity, subject to requirements set forth by the Secretary. Such written or electronic certification may be included with other documentation regarding such food shipment. The Secretary shall consider certifications under section 381(q) of this title and participation in the voluntary qualified importer program described in section 384b of this title when targeting inspection resources under section 350j of this title.
An accredited third-party auditor shall issue a food certification under section 381(q) of this title or a facility certification described under subparagraph (B) only after conducting a regulatory audit and such other activities that may be necessary to establish compliance with the requirements of such sections.
Following any accreditation of a third-party auditor, the Secretary may, at any time, require the accredited third-party auditor to submit to the Secretary an onsite audit report and such other reports or documents required as part of the audit process, for any eligible entity certified by the third-party auditor or audit agent of such auditor. Such report may include documentation that the eligible entity is in compliance with any applicable registration requirements.
The Secretary may withdraw accreditation from an accredited third-party auditor in the case that such third-party auditor is accredited by an accreditation body for which recognition as an accreditation body under subsection (b)(1)(C) is revoked, if the Secretary determines that there is good cause for the withdrawal.
The Secretary shall establish by regulation a reimbursement (user fee) program, similar to the method described in section 1622(h) of title 7,2 by which the Secretary assesses fees and requires accredited third-party auditors and audit agents to reimburse the Food and Drug Administration for the work performed to establish and administer the accreditation system under this section. The Secretary shall make operating this program revenue-neutral and shall not generate surplus revenue from such a reimbursement mechanism. Fees authorized under this paragraph shall be collected and available for obligation only to the extent and in the amount provided in advance in appropriation Acts. Such fees are authorized to remain available until expended.
The audits performed under this section shall not be considered inspections under section 374 of this title.