THE FOOD AND DRUG Administration(FDA) introduced a new electronic registration system for both foreign and domestic food facilities in mid-October. Available online atwww.cfsan.fda. gov/~furls/ovffreg.html, the system is designed to bolster the safety and security of America's food supply and help with quick identification and notification of food processors and other facilities involved in any deliberate or accidental contamination of food.
"Registering online will be fast and simple," said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Mark B. McClellan. "Our site will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, available to anyone in the world with access to the Internet. This new system will permit 400,000 facilities to register worldwide in 60 days."
FDA is encouraging electronic registration because it is faster and more efficient than paper registration. Each firm registering online will receive a unique registration number, which will be required for doing business in the U.S. beginning December 12, 2003. Paper registration may be submitted via regular mail or fax. Facilities will not be charged for registration, which is a one-time procedure.
In another step to keep the nation's food supply safe, last month FDA sent Congress a report detailing its progress to develop rapid tests and sampling methods to improve the agency's ability to identify contamination of food.
The report, entitled "Testing For Rapid Detection of Adulteration of Food," responds to provisions in the Bioterrorism Act that charged FDA with developing faster methods to detect adulterated foods and animal feed at U.S. ports of entry that do not unduly delay the flow of food.
According to the report, FDA currently has over 90 different active research projects involving test and sampling methodology development. Research includes: developing and validating effectiveness of rapid testing technology and methods for detecting potential biological, chemical and radiological threat agents in foods; and developing and assessing processing technologies and systems that may mitigate or eliminate potential biological and chemical threats to the food supply. The full report is available at www.fda.gov/oc/bioterrorism/bioact.html.
FDA maintains its position that there is not a high likelihood of a terrorist attack in the next year. It did say there is a high likelihood of a significant foodborne illness outbreak in the next year (as there is every year) and that one possibility is that the outbreak would come from a terrorist attack. The actual likelihood of a significant terrorist attack on the food supply in the next year is difficult to quantify precisely, FDA says.