July 25, 2013
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a direct final rule amending the regulation that bans the sale and distribution of small turtles in intrastate and interstate commerce. The direct final rule removes the provisions making viable turtle eggs and live turtles with a carapace (upper shell) length of less than four inches that are held for sale or offered for any other type of commercial distribution in violation of the ban routinely subject to destruction by or under the supervision of FDA. This rule will be open for comments from the public for 75 days following publication in the Federal Register. If no significant adverse comments are received, the rule will take effect 135 days following publication.
In 1975, FDA published a regulation under the Public Health Service Act that banned the sale and other distribution of small turtles to prevent the spread of turtle-associated salmonellosis, especially to young children. That regulation included a process for FDA to demand destruction of violative turtle eggs and turtles. This final rule does not change the substantive provisions of the regulations, which make it illegal to sell or distribute viable turtle eggs and turtles with a carapace length of less than four inches. FDA believes it can achieve its public health objectives without the need to destroy viable turtle eggs and live turtles. Other alternatives to destruction exist, including: raising turtles until they have a carapace length of four inches or greater; donating them to a scientific, educational, or exhibitional organization, or exporting the turtles in compliance with applicable laws.