Del Monte Brings Suit Challenging FDA Import Alert

Aug 25, 2011   
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On August 22, 2011, Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. (Del Monte) brought suit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), seeking to invalidate an import alert the agency placed on cantaloupes imported from Guatemala. The challenged Import Alert, found here, was issued after the FDA concluded that cantaloupes being imported from Guatemala were the source of a Salmonella Panama outbreak that left several people ill. In its complaint, Del Monte alleges the FDA had insufficient evidence that Del Montes cantaloupes were the source of this outbreak.

Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), the FDA has the authority to inspect various types of goods being offered for import into the United States. While routine inspections may provide a basis for imported goods to be detained and even refused entry into the country, an import alert, like the one challenged by Del Monte, can cause goods to be detained without having to undergo any inspection at all.

Because import alerts can prevent shipments from entering the country without an allegation that the specific goods are unsafe, it is not uncommon for companies to challenge the bases for these alerts. For example, we previously reported on a case brought by Seagate, in which we successfully challenged the legality of an import alert. As in the case of Del Monte, FDA detained a series of Seagates shipments without alleging that the specific products were contaminated. In that case the FDA released the detained products soon after we filed suit. In this case, however, it is unclear how the FDA will proceed.

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