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Temporary Policy Regarding Accredited Third-Party Certification Program Onsite Observation and Certificate Duration Requirements During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: Guidance for Industry; Availability

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AGENCY:

Food and Drug Administration, HHS.

ACTION:

Notification of availability.

SUMMARY:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA, Agency, or we) is announcing the availability of a final guidance for industry entitled “Temporary Policy Regarding Accredited Third-Party Certification Program Onsite Observation and Certificate Duration Requirements During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.” Given the public health emergency presented by COVID-19, this guidance document is being implemented without prior public comment because FDA has determined that prior public participation is not feasible or appropriate, but it remains subject to comment in accordance with the Agency's good guidance practices. The guidance communicates the Agency's intention not to enforce certain requirements for the onsite monitoring activities and certificates for the currently recognized accreditation bodies (ABs) and accredited third-party certification bodies (CBs) in the Accredited Third-Party Certification Program for human and animal food in certain circumstances. Because travel restrictions and advisories related to COVID-19 may impact the ability of recognized ABs and accredited CBs to conduct onsite activities, this guidance provides temporary flexibility so that recognized ABs can maintain the accreditations of their CBs, and so that already-issued certifications need not lapse, in certain circumstances.

DATES:

The announcement of the guidance is published in the Federal Register on April 30, 2020.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit either electronic or written comments on Agency guidances at any time as follows:

Electronic Submissions

Submit electronic comments in the following way:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. Comments submitted electronically, including attachments, to https://www.regulations.gov will be posted to the docket unchanged. Because your comment will be made public, you are solely responsible for ensuring that your comment does not include any confidential information that you or a third party may not wish to be posted, such as medical information, your or anyone else's Social Security number, or confidential business information, such as a manufacturing process. Please note that if you include your name, contact information, or other information that identifies you in the body of your comments, that information will be posted on https://www.regulations.gov.
  • If you want to submit a comment with confidential information that you do not wish to be made available to the public, submit the comment as a written/paper submission and in the Start Printed Page 23920manner detailed (see “Written/Paper Submissions” and “Instructions”).

Written/Paper Submissions

Submit written/paper submissions as follows:

  • Mail/Hand Delivery/Courier (for written/paper submissions): Dockets Management Staff (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.
  • For written/paper comments submitted to the Dockets Management Staff, FDA will post your comment, as well as any attachments, except for information submitted, marked and identified, as confidential, if submitted as detailed in “Instructions.”

Instructions: All submissions received must include the Docket No. FDA-2020-D-1304 for “Temporary Policy Regarding Accredited Third-Party Certification Program Onsite Observation and Certificate Duration Requirements During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.” Received comments will be placed in the docket and, except for those submitted as “Confidential Submissions,” publicly viewable at https://www.regulations.gov or at the Dockets Management Staff between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

  • Confidential Submissions—To submit a comment with confidential information that you do not wish to be made publicly available, submit your comments only as a written/paper submission. You should submit two copies total. One copy will include the information you claim to be confidential with a heading or cover note that states “THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION.” The Agency will review this copy, including the claimed confidential information, in its consideration of comments. The second copy, which will have the claimed confidential information redacted/blacked out, will be available for public viewing and posted on https://www.regulations.gov. Submit both copies to the Dockets Management Staff. If you do not wish your name and contact information to be made publicly available, you can provide this information on the cover sheet and not in the body of your comments and you must identify this information as “confidential.” Any information marked as “confidential” will not be disclosed except in accordance with 21 CFR 10.20 and other applicable disclosure law. For more information about FDA's posting of comments to public dockets, see 80 FR 56469, September 18, 2015, or access the information at: https://www.govinfo.gov/​content/​pkg/​FR-2015-09-18/​pdf/​2015-23389.pdf.

Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or the electronic and written/paper comments received, go to https://www.regulations.gov and insert the docket number, found in brackets in the heading of this document, into the “Search” box and follow the prompts and/or go to the Dockets Management Staff, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

You may submit comments on any guidance at any time (see § 10.115(g)(5) (21 CFR 10.115(g)(5))).

Submit written requests for single copies of the guidance to the Office of Compliance, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration (HFS-607), 5001 Campus Dr., College Park, MD 20740. Send two self-addressed adhesive labels to assist that office in processing your request. See the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for electronic access to the guidance.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Doriliz De Leon, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (HFS-607), Food and Drug Administration, 5001 Campus Dr., College Park, MD 20740, 240-402-2772.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

We are announcing the availability of a guidance for industry entitled “Temporary Policy Regarding Accredited Third-Party Certification Program Onsite Observation and Certificate Duration Requirements During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.” This policy relates to the circumstances that gave rise to the public health emergency related to COVID-19 declared by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Given this public health emergency this guidance is being implemented without prior public comment because FDA has determined that prior public participation for this guidance is not feasible or appropriate. This guidance document is being implemented immediately, but it remains subject to comment in accordance with the Agency's good guidance practices. The guidance represents the current thinking of FDA on this topic and should be viewed only as recommendations, unless specific regulatory or statutory requirements are cited.

This guidance document concerns certain requirements for the recognized ABs and accredited CBs in the Accredited Third-Party Certification Program that was established in 21 CFR part 1, subpart M, as part of our implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (Pub. L. 111-353). The Accredited Third-Party Certification Program regulation (https://www.fda.gov/​food/​food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/​fsma-final-rule-accredited-third-party-certification) requires recognized ABs to monitor the performance of the CB(s) they accredited. While some of the monitoring activities can be conducted remotely, some of the activities must be conducted onsite. The Accredited Third-Party Certification Program regulation also requires that accredited CBs can issue certificates for a term only up to 12 months.

Due to the impact of the travel restrictions and advisories related to COVID-19, this guidance provides flexibility to the recognized ABs and accredited CBs in the Accredited Third-Party Certification Program for certain requirements related to the onsite monitoring activities and certificates that have already been issued, in certain circumstances.

II. Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995

This guidance refers to previously approved FDA collections of information. These collections of information are subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3521). The collections of information in in part 1, subpart M, have been approved under OMB control number 0910-0750.

III. Electronic Access

Persons with access to the internet may obtain the guidance at https://www.fda.gov/​FoodGuidances, https://www.fda.gov/​emergency-preparedness-and-response/​mcm-issues/​coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19 or https://www.regulations.gov. Use the FDA website listed in the previous sentence to find the most current version of the guidance.

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Dated: April 24, 2020.

Lowell J. Schiller,

Principal Associate Commissioner for Policy.

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[FR Doc. 2020-09169 Filed 4-29-20; 8:45 am]

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