New food-safety center for imports opens

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security was commended by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Dec. 9 for opening a center devoted to ensuring the safety of foods imported to the U.S. The Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (C.T.A.C.) for Import Safety is operating under the direction of Customs and Border Protection (C.B.P.).

The center was created on the recommendation of President Obama's Food Safety Working Group, which is charged with advising the president on how to upgrade the U.S. food-safety system for the 21st century.

"As co-chairs of the Food Safety Working Group, we are committed to improving the safety of food produced in the U.S., and also improving the safety of all the food that makes it to the American consumers' dinner tables," Ms. Sebelius said. "With so much food coming from abroad, we must do all we can to ensure that it conforms to the same safety standards as our own food-safety systems."

Located in Washington, D.C., the import safety C.T.A.C. is one of C.B.P.'s six commercial targeting centers in the U.S. It will specifically target shipments of imported cargo, including food, for possible safety violations.

U.S.D.A.’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and other partnering government agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, will provide on-site expertise at the center.

F.S.I.S. will extend its enforcement efforts to target ineligible imports investigate suspicious shipments based on manifest information filed prior to the arrival of goods at U.S. ports, as part of its collaboration with C.B.P.

"As part of the Food Safety Working Group's efforts to strengthen the food-safety system in this country, we identified close cooperation between federal agencies as a key to achieving real progress," said Secretary Vilsack. "The new C.T.A.C. is an important step toward the type of collaboration necessary to ensure that Americans have access to a safe and healthy food supply."

"In addition to guarding against terrorism and crime, securing our borders and facilitating legitimate trade involve ensuring the safety of imported products," said Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security secretary. "This new targeting center will enhance the inspection of goods entering our country by centralizing and strengthening federal efforts to protect U.S. consumers."

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