The FDA issued a proposal to design new legislation to reduce a practice known as “port shopping”. This is a small step forward towards safer imports into the US; a little slow in development, but better late than never.
Currently there are over 300 ports of entry into the United States to receive imported goods from countries all over the world. Reports are that only 1% to 3% of all imported food or ingredient goods into the US are inspected by the FDA. Port shopping occurs when an import shipment is rejected by FDA officials, the exporter simply ships those products to another port of entry hoping to be one of the 97% that are not inspected.
As an example, let’s say Importer X ships corn gluten from China into a port of entry in Tampa, FL. This particular shipment was one of the 3% (or less) inspected, and the FDA discovered melamine in the gluten. The FDA inspector determined this shipment to be adulterated and refused it’s entry into the US. Current regulations state that the gluten would be destroyed or shipped back to China.
But…being a ‘trained professional port shopper’, Importer X tells the FDA official they will return the adulterated shipment to China, but instead they ship the tainted gluten to a port of entry in Las Vegas (yes, there is one!). Importer X is playing the odds that at the Las Vegas entry port this shipment will not be one of the 1% to 3% to be inspected (pretty good odds for Vegas). If at first you don’t succeed…
The proposed regulation would require that shipping containers of rejected food or food ingredients, along with any accompanying documents, be labeled as refused. The label would read “United States: Refused Entry”. Thank you, FDA. If this proposed regulation becomes law, Importer X in the example above would have their tainted gluten labeled ‘refused entry’ and they would be forced to ship the adulterated product back (or at least it would prevent entry into the US).
As it is with any new legislation, the FDA will accept comment on this regulation for the next 75 days and then they will decide if this is the right move. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the FDA finally does. Should you want to send the FDA a thumbs up approval of this legislation, here is the link to the release: http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2008/NEW01888.html. At the bottom you will find the link to send your input to the FDA.
Should you send the FDA a comment on the proposed legislation, you might want to suggest that more imported goods into the US be inspected. One to three percent of all imported foods or ingredients inspected, simply doesn’t cut it.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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