FDA News Release: Importers Now Accountable for Verifying Safety of Food Brought into US.

FDA News Release: Nov 13, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today took major steps to prevent foodborne illness by finalizing rules implementing the bipartisan Food Safety Modernization Act that, for the first time, establish enforceable safety standards for produce farms and make importers accountable for verifying that imported food meets U.S. safety standards. The Agency also issued a rule establishing a program for the accreditation of third-party certification bodies, also known as auditors, to conduct food safety audits of foreign food facilities. These final rules will help produce farmers and food importers take steps to prevent problems before they occur.

An estimated 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick each year from foodborne diseases, according to recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year. Over the past few years, high-profile outbreaks related to various foods, from spinach to peanut products, have underscored the need to make continuous improvements in food safety.


    Foreign Supplier Verification Programs

rule requires food importers to verify that foreign suppliers are producing food in a manner that meets U.S. safety standards and that they are achieving the same level of food safety as domestic farms and food facilities. In 2013, USDA estimated that imported food accounted for about 19 percent of the U.S. food supply, including about 52 percent of the fresh fruits and 22 percent of the fresh vegetables consumed by Americans. The final rule ensures that importers conduct verification activities (such as audits of a supplier’s facility, sampling and testing of food, or a review of the supplier’s relevant food safety records) based on risks linked to the imported food and the performance of the foreign supplier.

The FDA has also finalized a rule on Accredited Third-Party Certification, which is part of FSMA’s new food import safety system. This rule establishes a program for the accreditation of third-party certification bodies (auditors) to conduct food safety audits and to certify that foreign food facilities and food produced by such facilities meet applicable FDA food safety requirements. To prevent potentially harmful food from reaching U.S. consumers, the FDA can require in specific circumstances that a food offered for import be accompanied by a certification from an accredited third-party certification body.

“The ultimate success of FSMA depends on full funding of the President’s FY 2016 budget request,” Taylor said. “This will help us train FDA and state food safety staff on the new system, fund our state partners to work with farmers on produce safety, provide technical assistance to small farms and food businesses, and successfully implement the new import system that U.S. consumers deserve and Congress envisioned.”

The FDA has finalized five of the seven major rules that implement the core of FSMA. Today’s historic rules build on the preventive controls rules the FDA finalized in September 2015, which mandate modern preventive practices in food processing and storage facilities. These rules work together to systematically strengthen the food safety system and better protect public health.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by ensuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Federal Register

•FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety
•FSMA Final Rule on Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals
•FSMA Final Rule on Accredited Third-Party Certification
•FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

Page Last Updated: 11/13/2015

Panama Canal Delays Continue

Weather, influx of larger ships behind recent Panama Canal delays

Nearly a month after a queue of ships began to mount on either side of the Panama Canal, canal authorities say they are now taking steps to expedite the traffic, decrease transit times and reduce the current backlog of vessels.
Journal of Commerce, 11/11/15

Delta & United Airlines Ban Bulk Shipments of Lithium-Ion Batteries

United Airlines has become the second major US airline to announce it will no longer carry bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries.

Delta Airlines stopped bulk shipments of the batteries in February. American Airlines stopped accepting some types of lithium-ion battery shipments in February.

Aviation officials believe lithium-ion batteries contributed to fires that destroyed two Boeing 747 cargo planes, killing all four crew members. Federal Aviation Administration tests found overheating batteries could cause major fires.In its tests, the FAA filled a cargo container with 5,000 lithium-ion batteries and a cartridge heater, which was added to simulate a single battery overheating. The heat from the cartridge triggered a chain reaction in other batteries, with temperatures reaching about 600C. This was followed by an explosion, which blew open the container door and set the cargo box on fire. A second test, some months later, produced similar results, despite the addition of a fire-suppression agent.

New rules

The increasing focus on battery safety will put pressure on other airlines to follow suit, as well as on the technology industry to come up with safer ways of transporting them.

Lithium-ion batteries power mobile phones, laptops and other digital devices. An estimated 4.8 billion lithium-ion cells were manufactured in 2013 and production is forecast to reach eight billion by 2025.

Shipments of rechargeable batteries on passenger planes are supposed to be limited to no more than a handful in a single box, under safety standards set by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation. But a loophole permits many small boxes to be packed into one shipment, meaning that thousands of the batteries may be packed into pallets and loaded into the cargo holds of passenger planes.

FAA tests also revealed that lithium-metal batteries, which are not rechargeable and power devices such as cameras and calculators, could catch fire much faster than other versions.

The UN banned shipments of these batteries on passenger planes last year, and the ban came into effect in January.

All three US airlines will continue to accept shipments when the batteries are packed inside or with equipment such as laptops or power tools.

BBC News,  4 March 2015

West Coast Ports Gridlock

“West Coast ports ‘approaching complete gridlock”

Despite presence of federal mediator ‘no further agreements have been reached.’

   The Pacific Maritime Association, which is representing management in contract talks with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said Monday that “more than two months of ILWU-staged slowdowns… have methodically reduced terminal productivity at the five largest ports on the West Coast.”    “Operations are approaching complete gridlock,” PMA added.    “Since late October 2014, the ILWU has crippled what were fully productive terminals in the Pacific Northwest and Oakland, and exacerbated a difficult congestion issue at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by intentionally withholding dozens of essential skilled workers each shift for the past 10 weeks,” the association said.

LA-LB Container Ship Backup at 2-Year High

Its being reported today that….

LA-Long Beach container ship backup reaches 2-year high

Twelve container ships were anchored in the waters off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach this morning, the most waiting at one time in San Pedro Bay in two years, surpassing the previous record set on Oct. 26 as congestion continues to crush the largest container gateway in the Americas.

LAX-LB and NY-NJ Ports Still Plagued by Congestion

    Journal of Commerce, 10/17/14

Congestion at large U.S. ports is generating increased complaints by truckers and shippers about demurrage penalties for late pickup of containers that can’t be removed from gridlocked marine terminals. The problem is most acute at the two largest U.S. container gateways, Los Angeles-Long Beach and New York-New Jersey, both of which are struggling to deal with bigger ships, rising volumes and chassis supply. Senior Editors Bill Mongelluzzo and Joseph Bonney reporting.

FMC Issues Port Congestion/Surcharge Advisory

The Federal Maritime Commission Newsroom

Possible Port Congestion Surcharges Industry Advisory

May 29, 2014

The Federal Maritime Commission has received numerous informal inquiries in relation to certain congestion surcharges that have been announced in tariff rules required to be published under the Shipping Act of 1984, as revised by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (1998) and the Commission’s regulations at 46 CFR Part 520. This Industry Advisory is issued in order to respond to those inquiries.

Unless done pursuant to a waiver or exemption, any tariff rule (including surcharges) of a common carrier that results in an increased cost to a shipper may not be effective earlier than 30 days after publication. 46 U.S.C. § 40501(e); 46 CFR § 520.8.

The Shipping Act and the Commission’s regulations require that the rules applicable to any given shipment shall be those in effect on the date the cargo is received by the common carrier or its agent. 46 CFR § 520.7. Thus, if any cargo-related disruption were to occur at a port after cargo has been tendered by a shipper, a carrier may only lawfully charge the rates in effect on the day the cargo is tendered. These regulations apply both to import and export cargo.

While it may seem like only yesterday that a strike by East Coast and Gulf Coast dockworkers was averted with the signing of a new labor contract, more labor trouble at the waterfront is on the horizon.

This year, it involves West Coast dockworkers, whose six-year contract expires June 30. The workers, who are represented by the International Long shore and Warehouse Union, handle cargo at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington. Many US importers are a bit nervous that a strike or lockout will play havoc with container shipments.

Importers who use West Coast ports should act quickly to reserve space on ships that sail through the Panama Canal or Suez Canal and stop at ports along the East Coast or Gulf of Mexico. That would give them a backup plan to get their goods to the U.S. in the event of a work stoppage, but there could still be shipping delays because those ports could become backlogged.

A key issue in this year’s talks could be health insurance, which currently costs union members and retirees nothing and features policies that have no in-network deductibles and cover 100% of virtually all medical bills.

Such policies are classified as “Cadillac plans” by the Affordable Health Care Act, and a portion of the employer-paid premiums would be considered taxable income for workers. As a result, observers say the ILWU likely will want the plans to be restructured to avoid the tax — or insist that PMA members pay the tax for them.


US Imports Jump 15%

U.S. containerized import volume jumped 15.1 percent year-over-year in March 2014, the largest increase in 13 months, according to advance figures from PIERS, the data division of JOC Group Inc., dated 15 April 2014 by Journal of Commerce

Truckers Strike to Protest Port Delays

Truck drivers at Port Metro Vancouver carried out their threat to go on strike to protest extensive delays at marine terminals that the truckers say are making their economic situation intolerable. Journal of Commerce 11 March 2014