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Saturday, July 20, 2024


July 18, 2002 — The federal Food and Drug Administration opened its first office in the Virgin Islands on Thursday as part of efforts to prevent bioterrorism through food and pharmaceutical supplies.
The opening of the office in the Federal Building on St. Thomas marks the first time that the FDA has had a permanent presence in the Virgin Islands, according to Wayne Matthews, acting director of the FDA district office in San Juan.
"We have a lot of imports coming in through the Virgin Islands. Once they get here, it's easy for them to be distributed throughout the United States," Matthews said Thursday. "Establishing a presence here is all part of the counter-terrorism efforts."
Until now, FDA personnel have flown to the Virgin Islands occasionally to make inspections of imported food, medicines and medical supplies, he said. The new office will have two permanent inspectors who will work with U.S. Customs and other federal agencies, Andres Toro, the head of investigations in the FDA's San Juan office, said.
"We're trying to increase our vigilance of what goods come into the Virgin Islands," Toro said. FDA officials have wanted to open an office in the Virgin Islands for more than 20 years but lacked the resources to do so until new funding became available in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said.
At a small ceremony at the Federal Building on Thursday, St. Thomas Administrator Louis Hill said he was "thankful that the federal government is taking more of an interest in our activities in the Virgin Islands." He said he hoped the move might signal a trend that would include increasing the number of immigration officials posted in the territory to help secure its shores.
The FDA office will be in the Federal Building only temporarily, officials said, until arrangements are made to move to other space on Veterans Drive.
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