2002N-0278 - Prior Notice of Imported Food Under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002; Reopening of Comment Period
FDA Comment Number : EC435
Submitter : Mr. Rik Saaltnik Date & Time: 05/17/2004 06:05:26
Organization : Bridge
Category :
Issue Areas/Comments
The Bridge and Tunnel Operators Association (BTOA) is an organization consisting of all international bridge and tunnel operators across the Ontario/Michigan/New York border. Together we facilitate the movement of over one billion dollars of daily trade between the United States and Canada. Over four million trucks and over 22 million cars pass through our borders each year.

The BTOA and its members continue to work towards assisting both the U.S. and Canadian governments with implementing border security measures that facilitate legitimate trade and travel. We are concerned with how the rules within the Bio Terrorism Act (BTA) will be implemented at our border crossings.

Impact on Border Traffic and Infrastructure

Under the new regulations, shippers and carriers of food and food related products must register with the FDA and submit prior notice or be subject to refusal and/or monetary penalties. While the BTOA supports the implementation of the BTA as an effective mechanism to enhance national security and facilitate legitimate trade and travel, we remain concerned about how the BTA will impact traffic and the continued gridlock we face on a regular basis.

More specifically:

- How will CBP deal with any confusion over the new rules or lack of compliance, including failing to register so as to not create further bottlenecks on our plazas.

- How will CBP ensure that any additional inspections of entering cargo will not result in back-ups or unnecessary delay at the border, jeopardizing just-in-time deliveries and other low-risk traffic.

- To accommodate the new regulations, the BTOA is unclear as to the governments need for additional space to handle processing and inspections.

- Our plazas were not designed for today?s traffic volumes or the post 9-11 environment which includes additional safeguards such as the BTA.

- As more staff are being deployed to the border and additional equipment is installed, we are running out of space on our plazas and our crossings.

We would welcome an opportunity to talk with the FDA, CBP and GSA in working on plans to improve our existing infrastructure.

Impact on Staffing

The BTOA understands that existing CBP officials will undertake food and agricultural inspections, on behalf of the FDA. The BTOA is concerned that this will result in staffing deficiencies for the existing commercial and vehicular traffic at each border crossing. The BTOA is further concerned about the number of FDA officials available at some border crossings on weekends, to handle to the new restrictions imposed by the FDA.

The BTOA encourages the CBP to audit staffing levels at our border crossings to determine if additional staff is needed, from all agencies involved at the border.

Education / Advocacy

The BTOA has seen other federal programs implemented at our crossings without effective marketing, education and advocacy campaigns attached to the programs. Without effective marketing or education campaigns, very few people take advantage of various programs or are otherwise unaware of complying with new regulations. We encourage Congress, the FDA, and CPB to make sure it has the resources to implement an educational campaign through the BTOA, trade associations in both the U.S. and Canada and the private sector, in making sure our members and other interested parties are aware of the new rules, to ensure compliance and avoid unnecessary delays at the border.

The BTOA is interested in working in partnership with the FDA and CBP in educating our commercial customers about the new guidelines emerging from your agencies. We regularly communicate with our customers, have individual websites and are otherwise your agencies eyes and ears at the international border crossings.

The BTOA is interested in working the CBP and the FDA in implementing the BTA and we have submitted additional comments which are attaching.