In 1974, FDA added 14 mobile laboratories, which allowed the Agency to inspect imported foods at the dock.
The law gives FDA the authority to examine imported food (and any other FDA commodity) to verify its compliance. If FDA concludes the product appears non-compliant, then FDA shall refuse its importation. This fundamental legal authority has remained the same since 1906 (over 110 years).
How FDA implement this authority has changed much over the last 110 years, and even over the last 40 years. The above picture reflects a begone era — one of break-bulk and before containerization — where the inspections happened at the port when the food was being unloaded from the ship. This was also easier because the United States relied less on imported food.
Now food is imported in large containers (compare the first picture with a recent one for the same NY/NJ port area). These containers make it so that FDA inspects the food once it arrives at a nearby warehouse and not at the port. Additionally so that we can eat fresh raspberries any time, the United States now depends heavily on imported food, especially for its seafood (80%), and fresh fruits (50%) and vegetables (20%).
- FDA Consumer, April 1975, page 4, available through HathiTrust.
- Port of New York and New Jersey, Terminal Improvements.