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28 May 2003

U.S. Streamlines Food Import Notification System

(Bioterrorism Act requirements to take effect by December 12) (770)

The U.S. government has announced that food importers will be able to
use a single integrated system to alert the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) and Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
of expected shipments.


In a May 27 news release, FDA noted that the prior notification
requirement for food shipments -- a provision of the Bioterrorism Act
passed by Congress in 2002 -- will go into effect no later than
December 12, 2003.


In order the streamline the process, FDA and CBP have agreed on a
system that will allow food importers to use the Customs Automated
Commercial System (ACS) to notify both agencies of future imports.

The close collaboration between FDA and CBP "is one of the essential
steps that we are taking to improve the security of our food supply
against new threats, while minimizing the impact on imported food,"
FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan said in the news release.

The advance notice of import shipments will allow FDA and CBP to
target import inspections more effectively and help protect the U.S.
food supply against terrorist acts and other public health
emergencies, FDA said.

Food and food products account for 20 percent of all imports into the
United States, according to FDA.

Following is the text of the news release:

(begin text)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Food and Drug Administration
May 27, 2003

FDA and Bureau of Customs and Border Protection Announce Steps to
Streamline Collection of Information on Food Imports

Washington, D.C. May 27, 2003 -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced
today that they will streamline the implementation of the prior notice
requirements of the Bioterrorism Act ("the Act") by allowing food
importers to provide required information on food imports to both
agencies using an integrated process. Under the Act, importers will
soon be required to provide "prior notice" about the content of their
food imports to FDA, starting no later than December 12, 2003. Since
the Act was passed last year, FDA and CBP have worked together to find
ways to modify CBP's Automated Commercial System, currently used to
obtain import information required by Customs. As a result of this
collaboration, importers, in most circumstances, will be able to
provide the required information to FDA using this existing system,
making it easier for them to comply with the new law.

Nearly 20 percent of all imports into the U.S. are food and food
products. Congress passed the Bioterrorism Act as part of its ongoing
effort to combat terrorism -- in this instance, by reducing the
ability of international terrorists to carry out terrorist attacks in
the U.S. by contaminating imported foods. The Act requires that FDA
receive prior notice before food is imported or offered for import
into the United States. The advance notice of import shipments will
allow FDA and CBP to target import inspections more effectively and
help protect the nation's food supply against terrorist acts and other
public health emergencies.

"FDA is dedicated to its mission as one of the nation's frontline
defenses against terrorism. Collaborating closely with CBP is one of
the essential steps we are taking to improve the security of our the
food supply against new threats, while minimizing the impact on
imported foods," said Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Mark B.
McClellan, M.D., Ph.D.

Created on March 1, 2003 as part of the new Department of Homeland
Security, Customs and Border Protection combines all of the agencies
with primary responsibility for the borders, including all 18,000
customs, immigration, and agriculture inspectors at more than 300
ports of entry into the United States.

"The men and women of Customs and Border Protection are the guardians
of our nation's borders," said CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner. "Our
primary mission is keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons from
entering the U.S. That is why we are partnering with the FDA to
protect our nation against the potential of terrorists contaminating
our imported food supply. And we are also partnering with the FDA to
develop a system that will be less burdensome on the trade while at
the same time fulfilling the mandates of the Bioterrorism Act."

FDA is reviewing the comments submitted on the proposed rule,
published on February 3, 2003, and is preparing a final rule. The Act
requires prior notice for imported food shipments beginning December
12, 2003. FDA anticipates publishing a final rule in early October.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)