Thursday, Oct 30, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
While the registration under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 of the U.S., possible without a fee including online, is not a major issue, the task of naming an "agent'' for purposes of the Act is "problematic'' because of the reluctance of potential agents in the U.S. to offer themselves for the role, according to B. Bhattacharya, Dean of the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), New Delhi.
Addressing a meeting on "US visa regulations and changes in new FDA rules under the Bioterrorism Act", organised here today by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations, Southern Region (FIEO-SR), Prof. Bhattacharya said though, apparently, the purpose of requiring an agent physically present in the U.S. was only to enable the U.S. authorities to have access to information for tracing the supply chain of imported foods when needed, there was hesitation among potential agents because of the lack of clarity in the law about whether the agents would bear any ultimate responsibility for violations of the law. As a result, those who offered themselves to act as agents for purposes of the Act would demand high fees, raising costs of exports, he pointed out.
The Bioterrorism Act aims at preventing the possibility of terrorists using the food supply chain and at triggering rapid response in case of any terrorist attack. As per the "interim final regulations under the Act,'' notified by the FDA on October 10, four sections are relevant to exporters of food and veterinary products to the U.S.
Prof. Bhattacharya asked exporters to use the period given by the FDA for comments at present and another opportunity to be given next March, after which probably the "interim final regulations'' would be modified into "final regulations.'' The Indian software industry would have an opportunity to develop systems to enable exporters to comply with the U.S. Bioterrorism Act, he observed.
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