FDA WARNS OF MORE IMPORT AUDITS, INSPECTIONS
With increased public concerns of the nation’s food supply after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to increase the depth and frequency of importer record audits and shipment inspections.
“There’s a commitment on the part of the Health and Human Services Department to do a better job to protect public health,” said Charles M. Breen, district director for the FDA in Bothell, Wash.
The FDA plans to increase its number of field inspectors and investigators from 165 to about 365 by the beginning of next year, and shift to 24-hour operations at major ports. Yet, the agency estimates that it still will only be able to physically inspect 1.7 percent of the imports which it has jurisdiction over.
“You can help us,” Breen told customs broker executives at the Western Cargo Conference in Vancouver this weekend. “Information is what we’ll need from you.”
The FDA will also seek authority to destroy unsafe products that arrive in the country instead of depending on Customs to perform that task.
“We want the authority to ban imports of dangerous products,” Breen said. “Mistakes happen and that’s O.K. You correct them. But you have importers who will deliberately substitute products with bad ones.”
The FDA is considering whether to require the nation’s 46,000 food processors to establish and maintain records about their security procedures. The same procedures may be required for food processors overseas which ship to the United States.