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Food carriers face new bioterrorism rules

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has implemented the third phase of the Bioterrorism Act (BTA), which requires that CBP and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receive prior notice of all food for humans and animals imported or offered for import into the United States, effective June 4.

Truck carriers must file prior notice two hours before reaching a port of entry. Without prior notification, the CBP will hold the goods at the port of entry or at an FDA-registered secure facility. The carrier can send the items back to their origin if compliance with the BTA cannot be fulfilled.

“It’s been going very smoothly so far. There has been minimal impact to the flow of goods across the border,” said Rick Pauza, spokesperson for CBP at its Laredo TX branch.

According to David French, senior vice-president of government relations for the International Foodservice Distributors Association, feedback from its members so far is positive.

“They’ve (our members) indicated they’ve seen very few hangups so far,” French said. “We’re all susceptible to some supply disruptions here and there; to date, there has been none. So far, we are cautiously optimistic.”

International carriers have been sending CBP shipment manifests via automated broker interface. Officials have been engaged in outreach programs targeted to educating carriers on BTA regs since it was passed in September 2003, Pauza said.

“The third phase relates to the enforcement. Prior to that, we’ve been engaged in informed requirements that remind them to send the manifests,” Pauza said.

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