WASHINGTON, DC — September 4, 2002 — “The retail food industry fully supports measures to combat terrorism,” said Food Marketing Institute (FMI) President and CEO Tim Hammonds. “The regulations implementing the new Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act, however, must be crafted carefully not to disrupt commerce with duplicative or overly broad requirements.”

In three separate sets of comments submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), FMI counseled the agency on how best to implement FDA’s new authorities to enhance food security while minimizing disruption to the food supply.

Focus the scope of facilities required to register — Section 305 of the Act generally requires facilities to register with FDA if they “engage in manufacturing, processing, packing or holding food intended for consumption in the United States.” FMI cited the statutory language and legislative history that exempt retail establishments providing food directly to retail customers. FMI further argues that the legislative history clearly intends to exempt warehouses and central kitchens serving food retailers under the “same ownership or management,” said Hammonds. “This should specifically include cooperative wholesale distribution centers as part of the exemption.”

Current retail recordkeeping practices serve biosecurity goals — FMI argues that much of the information that FDA could gather under Section 306 is already held by the industry and is routinely used to conduct efficient product recalls. FMI’s comments provide examples to make the point that “FDA’s regulations should utilize existing systems, rather than require the food industry to develop [new] records specifically for the purposes of this regulation.”

Tailor import notifications to mode of transportation — Section 307 of the Act addresses prior notice for imported foods. FMI asks that separate, minimum notification periods be established for different modes of transportation, such as truck, air, ship or rail.

In addition, the notice requires identification of the grower. FMI argues that in many cases the specific identity of the grower will not be known and that the importer should be able to declare “unknown” in the notification without deterring entry of the product into the US.

“The food industry is taking every step possible to improve biosecurity,” Hammonds said. “It is critical, however, that industry and government use our resources in a timely, cooperative and efficient manner. Our strategy must emphasize action over paperwork — especially when the information requested is already available.”

The full comments are posted on the FMI Web site www.fmi.org/gr/comments.