Domestic food exporters shipping to or transshipping through the US must register with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before the US Bioterrorism Act takes effect on Dec. 12.
Violators will risk having their merchandise held at the port of arrival, sent to a secure facility or returned to the exporting country.
The FDA can also bring civil and criminal action against parties that are not registered and prohibit further trade activity of any person convicted of a felony violation of the act.
James Swanson, program officer of the US Customs and Border Protection under the Department of Homeland Security, said the purpose of the act is to ensure the security of food for human or animal consumption imported to the US.
"It's very important to protect the food supply," Swanson said. "As we all know, an attack on the food supply anywhere in the world will have devastating consequences, not only for the country that was attacked but also for countries around the world."
Swanson made the remark yesterday morning during a three-hour seminar to discuss the US government's new measure and its registration rules.
The event was organized by the US Department of Homeland Security, Taiwan's Council of Agriculture, the Directorate General of Customs under the Ministry of Finance, the Board of Foreign Trade under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the China External Trade Development Council.
Local and foreign firms that manufacture, process, pack or hold articles or food for human or animal consumption may begin registration today. Registration must be completed prior to importation to the US. New facilities that commence operations after Dec. 12 may continue to register. They must also register before shipping articles covered by the act to the US.
Non-profit facilities, retailers, farmers, restaurants, fishing vessels (with the exception of those engaging in seafood processing) and facilities subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the US Department of Agriculture are not required to register. Homemade goods shipped as gifts via international mail are also excluded.
Registered groups must appoint a US agent who resides and maintains a place of business in the US and is physically present in the country. The agent will act as the emergency contact for the FDA.
"All we want is one person, so the FDA, if they have the problem, they can contact who's close to their time zone and at the other side of the telephone line can speak English," Swanson said.
Exporters with knowledge of the required information may submit a prior notice or have it transmitted on their behalf.
"The intent is to provide the FDA with advance information to target potentially high-risk shipments that could threaten public health and the security of the food chain by an act of bioterrorism," Swanson said.
A prior notice is required for merchandise covered under the act and imported to the US. Every entry item that has a separate FDA product code requires a separate prior notice and every entry item from separate facilities requires a separate prior notice.
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