Agencies Team Up to Protect Food Supply

Article excerpt

The Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have launched a new joint effort to protect the nation's food supply. Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in December 2003, thousands of Customs agents are now authorized to inspect foods imported into the United States.

Signed by FDA Commissioner Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., and CBP Deputy Commissioner Douglas Browning, the agreement allows the FDA to commission CBP officers in ports and other locations to conduct, on the agency's behalf, investigations and examinations of imported foods. This unprecedented FDA-CBP collaboration significantly strengthens the implementation of the Bioterrorism Act to ensure the security of imported foods.

"This MOU is an important milestone in our extensive efforts to protect the safety and security of the national food supply," McClellan said at the signing ceremony on Dec. 3, 2003. "It enables us to work more efficiently with CBP, combining their strong resources with our own expertise in keeping on the alert for potentially hazardous foods and responding to possible threats. We are committed to using the bioterrorism law to safeguard our food supply to the fullest extent possible, without imposing any unnecessary costs or restrictions on food imports."

"We are pleased to be an integral part of this new initiative to safeguard the country's food products," Browning added. "This agreement reflects dose cooperation and countless hours of discussion not only with FDA, but with our trade partners here and around the world. It also supports our twin goals of securing the border from terrorists and terrorist

weapons while ensuring the movement of legitimate trade."

Building on a long history of close FDA-CBP cooperation, the agreement includes steps to enhance the two agencies' teamwork in training, day-today operations, and information sharing. Under the agreement, the FDA can commission all the CBP officers the two agencies consider necessary to enforce new food safety and security regulations. The FDA and CBP will provide specialized training for the commissioned CBP employees who will carry out this work, and both agencies will expand their existing cooperative arrangements to directly share information affecting the safety and security of imported foods. …