“Two-if-by-Land” prior notice rule represents retreat by FDA

In response to food-industry pressure, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has weakened a critically needed anti-bioterrorism regulation, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Instead of requiring importers to notify the FDA by noon on the day before a food shipment arrives, the agency will ask for just eight hours notice before shipments arrive by sea, four hours notice if by air or rail, and a mere two hours if shipments arrive by land.

According to CSPI, it’s not clear if that’s enough time for the FDA to move its finite number of food inspectors to examine shipments that might pose a threat.

“These regulations are critically needed to protect the food supply, but we’re concerned that the agency is requiring less advance notice for imported food shipments,” said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. “If trucks of food can arrive at our borders with just two hours notice, it might be easier for someone to avoid inspection.” The second regulation finalized by FDA requires food domestic and overseas food manufacturers to register with the government. Requiring registration of food importers is a sensible means of letting the FDA know exactly whom it’s regulating, according to CSPI.

“Registration is like caller-ID for food processors,” DeWaal said. “The FDA needs to be able to separate bona fide food manufacturers from fly-by-night operators who would put our food supply at risk.”