The number of Food and Drug Administration(FDA) border inspectors has seen a drastic drop in the past four years. The 480 inspectors in 2002 has decreased to 170 in 2006. A possible reason for the drop may be the hiring freeze that the FDA instituted after Congress increased the number of import inspectors following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Although there are fewer border inspectors, imports have increased from US$1 million in 1986 to US$11.6 million in 2004. According to an FDA official, the lacking budget for the FDA may be a reason for the hold-up at United States' borders.
The FDA is reportedly working to implement a border protection system that does not rely on taking samples. To speed up border inspection, the FDA may have to outsource or share some of Customs and Border Patrol's systems.