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From GMA…

The Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) has told the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that requiring food companies to comply with proposed new federal rules requiring prior notice of imported food shipments could cause serious and costly disruptions to the nation's food supply without significantly strengthening homeland security.

“We strongly support measures that will enhance the security of America's food supply and we commend the efforts of the FDA to do so,” said GMA Vice President of Federal Affairs Susan Stout. “But under these proposed regulations, the system will not achieve its intended objectives, and in fact, the entire system could fail under the weight of unintended consequences.”

The proposed regulations regarding prior notice and registration are designed to implement the Bioterrorism Act of 2001, which Congress passed following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The law goes into effect Dec. 12, and while designed to ensure the safety of the nation's food supply, the proposed rules would also create a system that is unduly complex, rigid and potentially crippling to the existing prior notice system already in place.

"Under the proposed new rules, the FDA has recommended going far beyond what was specified in the Bioterrorism Act," Stout said. "The agency has proposed elements that won't produce any benefit in terms of food security, while imposing difficult, if not impossible, compliance burdens on manufacturers to meet the differing notification requirements of multiple agencies."

Stout added that much of the information that would be required of a manufacturer -- for example, the lot or production code of a shipment -- isn't known until a truck is loaded and is ready to roll. But Stout said the greatest drawback of the proposed rules could be the inevitable confusion and delay they would cause as shippers and inspectors try to comply with new requirements that overlap with existing U.S. Customs prior-notice regulations.

"With modifications, we believe the FDA's proposed regulations can achieve greater security for our food supply, while at the same time ensuring that consumers in the United States enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food in the world," Stout said.
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