FDA may hold suspect food shipments for up to 30 days
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it has the regulatory authority to hold food shipments suspected of contamination for up to 30 days.
The regulation implements part of the congressional mandate for the agency under the 2002 Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act. The law allowed FDA to hold suspect food shipments as soon as it was enacted by Congress. However, the regulation clarifies the agency’s actions.
“This rule describes how the FDA can hold food in place while it initiates legal action in court to seize it and permanently remove it from commerce,” said Lester M. Crawford, acting FDA commissioner, in a statement. “Alternatively, our experts can determine that the food is safe, and the detention order may be terminated.”
Under the final rule, FDA may detain a shipment based on the “strength of credible evidence or information resulting from an inspection, examination or investigation.”
A detention order requires the approval of an FDA district director where the food shipment is located. A copy of the detention order must be given to the owner, operator or agent in charge of the place where the food is located, and to the owner of the food, if that can be immediately determined. If the food shipment is caught in the transportation process, the agency must also provide that carrier with a copy of the detention order.
Suspect food shipments must be held in designations deemed secure by the FDA. “The food may not be transferred from the place where it has been ordered detained, or from the place where the detained article has been removed without FDA approval, until FDA terminates the detention order, or the detention period expires,” the agency said. According to the agency, detentions may not exceed 30 days.
The FDA said the detention rules pertain mostly to domestic shipments, but can be used for contaminated food imports.
Since Congress passed the Bioterrorism Act, FDA has made good on two requirements of the legislation. On Oct. 10, 2003, the agency required the registration of all domestic and foreign facilities involved in the manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of food that will be consumed. The agency also issued regulations requiring prior notification of all food imports entering the United States.
The FDA soon plans to issue a fourth final rule pertaining to the Bioterrorism Act’s recordkeeping requirements to help the agency track the flow of food shipments for emergency management purposes.