FDA, Customs seek harmonization on advance notice rules for imports
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Customs and Border Protection announced a plan to harmonize separate but related security programs that seek electronic pre-filing of shipping data by importers and carriers in order to lessen the burden on industry.
Last December, FDA began requiring that companies submit advance notice of food imports two hours ahead of arrival via truck, four hours before arrival by air or rail, and eight hours notice if by ocean vessel.
At the same time, Customs published rules requiring companies to assist with targeting of high-risk shipments by electronically filing manifests one hour before arrival by truck or 30 minutes in advance for pre-approved carriers and importers participating in the Fast and Secure Trade program; two hours before arrival for railroads; and four hours before arrival for air cargo operators, unless the flight is of shorter duration and subject to 'wheels up' notice.
The Customs rules were in addition to the existing 24-hour rule for ocean carriers to file cargo information prior to loading a vessel.
Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner has said that creating a single timeline for submitting advance electronic information is a priority.
Under a new plan to achieve that goal, the two agencies will spend two months beginning Aug. 12 assessing existing procedures and staffing needed to receive, review and respond to prior notice submissions.
The second phase of the integration plan, from Oct. 13 to Nov. 12, will focus on identifying changes to work practices and staffing necessary to determine if FDA could continue to process all prior notice submissions with reduced timeframes.
From Nov. 13 to Feb. 12, 2005 FDA and Customs plan to implement necessary changes and adjust procedures to accommodate shorter prior notice timeframes.
The agencies said they expect to issue a final Prior Notice rule, incorporating this plan and comments from industry, in March 2005.
'The evaluation of whether to reduce the timeframes for prior notice review will depend on the level of compliance industry achieves during the assessment,' the agencies said in a joint statement. 'If we are unable to make such an assessment, our intended timeframe for issuing a prior notice final rule may be delayed.'