The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) published a final rule in the Federal Register today confirming that food importers are required to provide notice prior to importation of “the identity of any country to which an article of food has been refused entry.” The announcement finalizes, without change, an interim rule that has been in effect since July 2011.
In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) became law and included provisions strengthening the FDA’s capacity to address port shopping by importers seeking to enter unsafe food products into the U.S. market. Port shopping schemes allowed companies to withdraw merchandise from one port after the refusal of entry and attempt entry to the U.S. market at another port where the goods might not be screened. Port shopping significantly undermined the effectiveness of food safety controls at the port, since unsafe food imports would still make their way to the plates of American consumers even after being initially refused. Accordingly, in advocating for stronger food safety laws, the Southern Shrimp Alliance identified and documented the damage caused by port shopping in the U.S. seafood market.
To address this problem, the FSMA required importers providing prior notice of food imports to also include information regarding prior refusals of the goods to be imported. In announcing the final rule, the FDA again confirmed that the requirement to report a refusal from “any country” “refers to the country or countries, including the United States, where an Agency or representative of the government of the country has refused entry to the article of food.” In result, where prior notice is required, an importer is obligated by law to disclose whether the merchandise sought to be entered had been refused at another port.
Read the FDA’s Federal Register Notice “Information Required in Prior Notice of Imported Food: Final Rule” (May 30, 2013):
Review additional SSA materials on port shopping: http://www.shrimpalliance.com/tag/port-shopping/