(Sept. 13) WASHINGTON, D.C. — The fourth and final phase of the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 is still awaiting implementation.

Phase IV had been scheduled to take effect Aug. 12.

But the FDA missed the deadline and does not know when it will publish regulations, the final phase of which lays out specifics about records that companies must keep and how quickly investigators must get them.

The act requires food producers, packers, distributors and importers to keep detailed records to help investigators trace and contain contaminated food. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration originally had until Dec. 12, 2003, to establish the record-keeping requirements, but delays ensued.

Phase III of the act took effect June 4, also after a short delay. The third phase requires that U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the FDA receive prior notice of all food products imported into the U.S.