The food industry is not ready for new rules on bioterrorism in the US rapidly created and cleared after the events of September 11, 2001, highlights a new survey.
The new government regulations on food production, processing and shipping companies designed to protect against terrorist threats to the food supply face massive non-compliance when they go into effect next month, reports the US law practice Becker & Poliakoff.
The survey of more than 200 food industry executives regarding the new registration, recordkeeping and reporting requirements found that more than 50 per cent of food industry executives remain unaware of the existence of the 2002 Bioterrorism Act, which dramatically expands the US Food & Drug Administration's oversight of the food industry.
The new rules require all food producers, processors, packers and shippers to register with the FDA, and require non-US companies to designate a registered agent in the US. In addition, a further, and rather controversial, provision requires prior notice of all food shipments entering the US. Non-compliance could mean thousands of food shipments being held at the US border, a potentially disastrous situation, especially for importers of perishables.
"The findings are alarming and suggest the possibility of widespread disruptions of food shipments when the regulations take effect next month," said Peter Quinter, chair of the international law practice at Becker & Poliakoff.
The survey, co-sponsored with the Latin Trade magazine, found that more than 70 per cent of the respondents expect that efforts to promote free trade across the Americas will be negatively affected by the act, echoing sentiments that the regulations are a form of US protectionism.
In addition, over half of the executives believe the regulations will be only somewhat effective or not effective at all in protecting the food supply. Of slight concern, Becker & Poliakoff reported that no executive at a large company believes the measures will be extremely effective.
Complete findings of the survey will be presented tomorrow at the Complying with the New Bioterrorism Act conference in Miami.