The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is fast-tracking the draft memorandum of agreement (MOA) that will deputize local government units (LGUs)-starting with Quezon City LGU for the pilot project-to conduct inspections on micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the food processing sector to facilitate the issuance of the FDA’s License to Operate or LTO.
The latest draft of the MOA is now being circulated within the FDA office for internal consultation, according to Dr. Oscar G. Gutierrez, Jr., OIC-director of the FDA’s Policy and Planning Service, in an update during a recent e-forum.
“We’ll get in touch with ARTA [Anti-Red Tape Authority] with our draft and conduct a meeting with the Quezon City counterpart to make sure that the micro food processors, especially MSMEs, can secure their license to operate,” said Gutierrez.
ARTA and FDA, together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the health department of Quezon City and the National Association of Business Permits and Licensing Office, earlier discussed deputizing LGUs to inspect small food-processing enterprises with low-risk products.
The initiative will be pilot-implemented in Quezon City, as the city has the highest volume of business in the country, and it already has a food and drug regulation officer plantilla position, Gutierrez noted.
Currently, LGUs conduct inspections for the issuance of sanitary permits while FDA conducts inspections for the issuance of the LTO.
By deputizing inspection functions to LGUs, they would be able to inspect food manufacturing enterprises for issuance of FDA’s LTO, together with their inspection for sanitary permits, making LGUs the supervising body while FDA retains jurisdiction.
The LGU inspectors will be duly trained and provided with the standard checklist for conducting inspections in line with the Good Manufacturing Practice regulations being enforced by the FDA. The joint endeavor of deputizing LGUs to conduct these functions aims to address the backlog of FDA’s Center for Food Regulation and Research in releasing LTOs.
Gutierrez in his update explained that they found that during the lockdown, LGUs were highly dependent on large manufacturers for their community food supplies and needs.
FDA, he said, recognizes that unlike medium and large enterprises, micro food processors source their raw materials only from the community and that the scope of their market is limited only to that community.
“We thought this MOA, which is only a pilot project, can be fast-tracked so that other cities, LGUs can come on board and [we can ] then launch it in the major cities just to make sure that FDA contributes to the development of our food supply in the provinces, municipalities and cities,” he further said.
“The MOA includes facilitation of LTO through IT system, meaning [enterprises] can apply online and … submit their requirements online and the inspection of the establishment can be done by the local government units in cooperation with the FDA,” said Gutierrez.
The FDA has to step in to ensure that micro and small food processors are able to comply with the health and food safety standards as required by the Food Safety Act of 2013, the executive further said.
“The plan is to hold hands with the micro food processors so that they are able to ensure food safety for the public.”
The online forum was organized by the UPPAF Regulatory Reform Support Program for National Development last month.