The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new guidelines last week aimed at better protection from unsafe imported foods.

In particular, agency officials will be “targeting unscrupulous importers who violate the rules and subvert the system by moving unsafe food into US markets.”
Shipments from ‘suspect’ importers’ will now be held in a secure storage facility at the importers’ expense until released by the FDA.” Importers who falsify records or otherwise attempt to thwart customs procedures may also be subject to fines up to the total value of the merchandise itself.

Many foreign importers try to circumvent existing rules by tactics such as “port shopping”–seeking admittance through a second or third US port when attempts at previous locales have failed. A proposal, still awaiting approval, “will require marking food shipments refused for safety reasons to indicate that the product was (previously) denied entry into the United States.”

A recent US General Accounting Office report found that “less than 3% of food imported into the US that is regulated by the FDA was actually inspected by anybody.”