As the FDA strengthens enforcement of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), I am reminded of how this might impact the importer who shared this concern with me, “Our food smells different and that causes problems with US Customs.”
“Problems” can mean having your shipment detained, opened and inspected, and re-exported or destroyed.
The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public’s health by ensuring that the U.S. food supply is safe and secure. The agency implements and enforces related laws and regulations, such as the Federal Food Drug & Cosmetic Act. The FDA is also stationed at ports throughout the country where agents have the authority to inspect, detain, and even destroy food, and other products entering the country.
In 2010, approximately 24 million shipments of products that the FDA has the authority to regulate passed through the nation’s ports. The FDA physically examined about two percent (2%) of these shipments. They rely heavily on their sense of smell, as well as the product’s appearance, taste and feel to determine which shipments get included in that 2%.
So, imagine that a shipment of a food product from your country is passing through a US port. A CBP agent, uninitiated to the smell of your food product, picks out the shipment and sends it over to the FDA for inspection. The FDA inspector smells it, opens, prods and pokes the package, hopefully reads the labeling. The inspector can determine that it’s safe after all. The shipment is then sent on its way, but in torn packaging. It may also have been delayed for several days while this process occurs. An alternative scenario is that the inspector determines this product is unsafe and marks it for destruction.
Here is a third alternative scenario. You, the importer, take the step to educate CBP and FDA about the product. This means contacting the agency and visiting with samples and educational information to explain the product. Repeat as often as necessary. As the agents become familiar with the product, the problem will diminish and possibly disappear.
For the most part, CBP agents would prefer that your shipments arrive at their intended destination. They just want to do their part to ensure that the contents pose no danger to the recipients.
Contact me to learn more about how you can engage with CBP!