Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Proposed FDA Rule to Reduce "Port Shopping" For Refused Imported Foods

Pending before the The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a proposed rule designed to reduce a practice known as "port shopping" which affects the safety of imported food.

When the FDA refuses entry of a food into the United States, the food is generally exported or destroyed. Some owners or shippers may attempt to bring the refused food back into the United States by shipping it through another US port in the hopes that it will not be inspected there and then admitted.

The proposed regulation would require shipping containers of food barred from entry, and any accompanying documents, be permanently labeled as refused. The label would alert inspectors at other ports that the food has already been inspected and refused.

"This system will make it more difficult for food importers to evade import controls after being denied admission into the United States," said Randall Lutter, Ph.D., deputy commissioner for policy. "It will complement our ongoing efforts to monitor food imports."

The proposed rule implements a provision of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, which provided the FDA with new authority to protect the nation’s food supply.

Under the proposed rule, all owners or consignees of refused food would be required to affix a label to the shipping container that reads: "UNITED STATES: REFUSED ENTRY" in clear, conspicuous, print. A label would also have to be affixed to all documents accompanying the imported food such as invoices, bills of lading, and electronic documents.

International shippers have asked that the actual shipping containers be marked, but that the larger maritime container (containing the shipping containers) be unmarked. This is problematic as not every maritime container is opened. At a minimum, the FDA should compromise and mark the maritime container as "containing a refused food shipment." That way, owners and consignees would not be able to sit quietly knowing that part of their load containing a rejected food may pass a loose inspection.

Comments are invited up to December 2nd.

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