U.S. training double agents

WASHINGTON (Dec. 4, 2003) — Thousands of U.S. Customs agents along U.S. borders will undergo food training to more closely monitor food imports for signs of bioterrorism.

Deputy Customs commissioner Douglas Browning said U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration, has trained 1,600 to 1,800 officers to detect contaminated food products. Ultimately, all 18,000 Customs officers along the border could be trained, filling in gaps where the FDA lacks inspectors.

The interagency agreement is part of several measures officials are taking in response to bioterrorism legislation passed by Congress last year, including new pre-notification rules that take effect on Dec. 12.

The additional inspectors will help FDA keep up with new rules, which require importers and or carriers to give regulators prior notice — two hours for truck shipments — of the load before it arrives at the U.S. border. Officials said enforcement would be flexible at first, as firms adapt to the new rules.

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