The Food and Drug Administration has created a new computerized import regulatory system the agency is touting as proactive, not reactive.


FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg introduced the system Feb. 4 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., according to an agency news release.


In the new system, dubbed PREDICT, imports are assigned a number based on how high of a risk they pose, Hamburg said. Inspectors will then focus on the most likely threats to public health.


PREDICT will replace the admissibility screening function of OASIS, the FDA’s legacy system, Hamburg said. In addition to helping inspectors target high-risk imported goods, it will also expedite the clearance of lower risk cargo, she said.


In assessing what number to assign imported goods, PREDICT will analyze data including whether foods may have been subjected to flooding, hot weather or market conditions that could have put them at risk of spoiling or of suffering other quality-related damage.


“We must move from an approach based on reacting to problems to one that proactively prevents such problems from ever occurring,” Hamburg said in her speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “This is a simple, yet profound paradigm shift.”


Allison Moore, communications director of the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, said the new system would be a good way to bring together disparate information and to handle inspections more efficiently.


But Moore wondered what plans the FDA had for beefing up inspections of U.S.-grown produce.


“The question I always want to ask is, ‘What is the domestic equivalent of it?’” she said. “They need to make the system cover the entire food supply.”


PREDICT was tested on a pilot basis in Los Angeles and is now being implemented in New York, Hamburg said. By the end of spring, the agency hopes to have it up and running nationwide, she said.