(Sept. 23, 10:30 a.m.) The Food and Drug Administration is seeking to end the practice of “port-shopping,” in which rejected fresh produce and other food is sent to another entry point for possible importation.

The proposed rule has a comment period that extends to Dec. 2, and it seeks to thwart unscrupulous traders, said FDA information specialist Michael Herndon, in an e-mail Sept. 22. The rule would require owners or consignees to label imported food that is refused entry into the U.S. with a label reading “United States: Refused Entry.”

Herndon noted that when the FDA refuses to admit a food into the U.S., the food must be exported to another country or destroyed.

However, in the past some traders have attempted to bring the refused food back into the U.S. by shipping it to another port in a bid to have the food admitted. The rule applies to all food, including pet food.

The agency said requiring a label to be placed on rejected food would reduce the odds that the refused food would be reoffered for import into the U.S. The cost of port shopping, the agency said, would increase because importers would have to repackage a labeled product.

“Affixing a label to refused food will help us identify previously refused food. This will deter port shopping,” Herndon said in the e-mail.

Herndon said the FDA does not know how prevalent the practice is.

However, the issue has been a subject of concern for some time. In a 1991 article in The Packer, then-FDA Commissioner David Kessler said the agency wanted to prevent the practice and punish repeat violators.

In the proposed rule, the agency noted it attempted rule making in 2001 to address the issue. The agency said the 2001 proposed rule also was in response to an April 1998 report by the General Accounting Office and 1998 hearings in the Senate. However, the proposed rule was put aside with the passage of the 2002 Bioterrorism Act, which contained similar but not identical provisions.

Under the current proposal, the FDA said there is no direct counterpart to the rule for domestic food, but the agency said it has other regulatory and enforcement options, including seizure, injunction and request of a voluntary recall.