Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration assured the American
public that infant formulas sold here in the United States do not contain
melamine, the toxic chemical that was recently found in Chinese infant formulas
containing milk proteins, and has made thousands of Chinese babies seriously
The FDA also announced that it was taking proactive measures
to ensure that the rest of the American food supply, not just infant formula,
was free of contaminants. In particular,
it has begun checking retail stores all over the country for food items imported
from China containing milk or milk proteins, including whole and non-fat milk
powder, lactose powder, whey powder, and casein, and testing these products for
melamine. Products that do contain melamine will subsequently be banned from
entering the United States.
To help put banning regulations in place and keep tainted products
out of the US food supply, the FDA has proposed a rule to put an end a practice
called “port shopping.” What usually happens at a given US port is that FDA inspectors
check the food that importers are trying to bring in, and let it pass through
if it’s deemed acceptable. If it’s deemed unacceptable, it’s not allowed to
enter the country, and importers are supposed to take it back and/or destroy it.
What often happens with rejected food, however, is that importers will simply
try again, and take it in the exact same condition to another US port, hoping
it gets accepted somewhere else. Occasionally, it works, and tainted food
ultimately lands on our grocery shelves.
To counter this, the FDA has proposed a system whereby rejected
food imports are immediately labeled “UNITED STATES: REFUSED ENTRY” on all
shipping containers and all accompanying documents, both paper and electronic. The labels will make it much easier for
inspectors at every port to know that a food product has been previously
rejected, and will hopefully put an end to “port shopping.”
the details of new regulations like this make one wonder why they haven’t been put
into place sooner. To comment to the FDA
on this proposal, submit your remarks in writing here.