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Denying entry to unsafe food imports

Americans are consuming double the amount of imported foods than just seven years ago. While imports must meet the same food safety requirements as domestically produced foods, concern about the safety of imported foods increased after several outbreaks of foodborne illness were traced to imports in 1999.

As part of the President’s Food Safety Initiative, the departments of the Treasury and Health and Human Services were directed to develop a comprehensive plan to better prevent unsafe food from entering the country.

As part of that plan, FDA and the U.S. Customs Service will stamp containers of rejected food with a clear label stating: “The United States Refused.” The label is intended to discourage importers from “port shopping,” or attempting to bring in products rejected at one port through a different port.

The National Food Processors Assn. had recommended such action to FDA. “Noncomplying imports must be marked or otherwise identified so that rejected products cannot re-enter the country elsewhere, and those attempting such fraud must be dealt with swiftly and effectively,” said Brian Folkerts, NFPA’s vice president of government affairs.

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