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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21

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The information on this page is current as of April 1 2020.

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Help | More About 21CFR
[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 21, Volume 1]
[Revised as of April 1, 2020]
[CITE: 21CFR20]





TITLE 21--FOOD AND DRUGS
CHAPTER I--FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
SUBCHAPTER A - GENERAL
 
PART 20PUBLIC INFORMATION
 

Subpart C - Procedures and Fees

Sec. 20.40 Filing a request for records.

(a) All requests for Food and Drug Administration records shall be made in writing by mailing or delivering the request to the Freedom of Information Staff at the address on the agency's web site at http://www.fda.gov or by faxing it to the fax number listed on the agency's web site at http://www.fda.gov. All requests must contain the postal address and telephone number of the requester and the name of the person responsible for payment of any fees that may be charged.

(b) A request for Food and Drug Administration records shall reasonably describe the records being sought, in a way that they can be identified and located. A request should include all pertinent details that will help identify the records sought.

(1) If the description is insufficient to locate the records requested, the Food and Drug Administration will so notify the person making the request and indicate the additional information needed to identify the records requested.

(2) Every reasonable effort shall be made by the Food and Drug Administration to assist in the identification and location of the records sought.

(c) Upon receipt of a request for records, the Division of Freedom of Information shall enter it in a public log. The log shall state the date received, the name of the person making the request, the nature of the record requested, the action taken on the request, the date of determination letter sent pursuant to § 20.41(b), and the date(s) any records are subsequently furnished.

(d) A request by an individual, as defined in § 21.3(a) of this chapter, for a record about himself shall be subject to:

(1) The special requirements of part 21 of this chapter (the privacy regulations), and not to the provisions of this subpart, if the record requested is retrieved by the individual's name or other personal identifier and is contained in a Privacy Act Record System, as defined in § 21.3(c) of this chapter.

(2) The provisions of this subpart if the record requested is not retrieved by the individual's name or other personal identifier, whether or not the record is contained in a Privacy Act Record System.

[42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977, as amended at 46 FR 8456, Jan. 27, 1981; 68 FR 25285, May 12, 2003; 76 FR 31469, June 1, 2011; 79 FR 68114, Nov. 14, 2014]

Sec. 20.41 Time limitations.

(a) All time limitations prescribed pursuant to this section shall begin as of the time at which a request for records is logged in by the Division of Freedom of Information pursuant to § 20.40(c). An oral request for records shall not begin any time requirement. A written request for records sent elsewhere within the agency shall not begin any time requirement until it is redirected to the Division of Freedom of Information and is logged in there in accordance with § 20.40(c).

(b) Within 20 working days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) after a request for records is logged in at the Division of Freedom of Information, the agency shall send a letter to the requester providing the agency's determination as to whether, or the extent to which, the agency will comply with the request, and, if any records are denied, the reasons for the denial.

(1) If all of the records requested have been located and a final determination has been made with respect to disclosure of all of the records requested, the letter shall so state.

(2) If all of the records have not been located or a final determination has not yet been made with respect to disclosure of all of the records requested, e.g., because it is necessary to consult the person affected pursuant to § 20.47, the letter shall state the extent to which the records involved shall be disclosed pursuant to the rules established in this part.

(3)(i) In unusual circumstances, the agency may extend the time for sending the letter for an additional period.

(A) The agency may provide for an extension of up to 10 working days by providing written notice to the requester setting out the reasons for the extension and the date by which a determination is expected to be sent.

(B) The agency may provide for an extension of more than 10 working days by providing written notice to the requester setting out the reasons for the extension. The notice also will give the requester an opportunity to limit the scope of the request so that it may be processed in a shorter time and/or an opportunity to agree on a timeframe longer than the 10 extra working days for processing the request.

(ii) Unusual circumstances may exist under any of the following conditions:

(A) There is a need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other components that are separate from the agency component responsible for processing the request;

(B) There is a need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are demanded in a single request; or

(C) There is need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request, or among two or more components of the Food and Drug Administration having substantial subject-matter interest in the determination.

(4) If any record is denied, the letter shall state the right of the person requesting such records to appeal any adverse determination to the Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Human Services, in accordance with the provisions of 45 CFR 5.34.

(c) The Food and Drug Administration shall provide a determination of whether to provide expedited processing within 10 calendar days of receipt by the Division of Freedom of Information of the request and the required documentation of compelling need in accordance with § 20.44(b).

[42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977, as amended at 46 FR 8456, Jan. 27, 1981; 55 FR 1405, Jan. 16, 1990; 59 FR 533, Jan. 5, 1994; 68 FR 25285, May 12, 2003; 76 FR 31469, June 1, 2011]

Sec. 20.42 Aggregation of certain requests.

The Food and Drug Administration may aggregate certain requests by the same requester, or by a group of requesters acting in concert, if the requests involve clearly related matters and the agency reasonably believes that such requests actually constitute a single request which would otherwise satisfy the unusual circumstances specified in § 20.41(b)(3)(ii)(B). FDA may extend the time for processing aggregated requests in accordance with the unusual circumstances provisions of § 20.41.

[68 FR 25286, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.43 Multitrack processing.

(a) Each Food and Drug Administration component is responsible for determining whether to use a multitrack system to process requests for records maintained by that component. A multitrack system provides two or more tracks for processing requests, based on the amount of work and/or time required for a request to be processed. The availability of multitrack processing does not affect expedited processing in accordance with § 20.44.

(b) If multitrack processing is not adopted by a particular agency component, that component will process all requests in a single track, ordinarily on a first-in, first-out basis.

(c) If a multitrack processing system is established by a particular agency component, that component may determine how many tracks to establish and the specific criteria for assigning requests to each track. Multiple tracks may be established for requests based on the amount of work and/or time required for a request to be processed.

(d) Requests assigned to a given track will ordinarily be processed on a first-in, first-out basis within that track.

(e) If a request does not qualify for the fastest processing track, the requester may be provided an opportunity to limit the scope of the request in order to qualify for faster processing.

[68 FR 25286, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.44 Expedited processing.

(a) The Food and Drug Administration will provide expedited processing of a request for records when the requester demonstrates a compelling need, or in other cases as determined by the agency. A compelling need exists when:

(1) A failure to obtain requested records on an expedited basis could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual; or

(2) With respect to a request made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information, there is a demonstrated urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity.

(b) A request for expedited processing made under paragraph (a)(1) of this section must be made by the specific individual who is subject to an imminent threat, or by a family member, medical or health care professional, or other authorized representative of the individual, and must demonstrate a reasonable basis for concluding that failure to obtain the requested records on an expedited basis could reasonably be expected to pose a specific and identifiable imminent threat to the life or safety of the individual.

(c) A request for expedited processing made under paragraph (a)(2) of this section must demonstrate that:

(1) The requester is primarily engaged in disseminating information to the general public and not merely to a narrow interest group;

(2) There is an urgent need for the requested information and that it has a particular value that will be lost if not obtained and disseminated quickly; however, a news media publication or broadcast deadline alone does not qualify as an urgent need, nor does a request for historical information; and

(3) The request for records specifically concerns identifiable operations or activities of the Federal Government.

(d) All requests for expedited processing shall be filed in writing as provided by § 20.40. Each such request shall include information that demonstrates a reasonable basis for concluding that a compelling need exists within the meaning of paragraph (a) of this section and a certification that the information provided in the request is true and correct to the best of the requester's knowledge and belief. Any statements made in support of a request for expedited processing are subject to the False Reports to the Government Act (18 U.S.C. 1001).

(e) The Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs (or delegatee) will determine whether to grant a request for expedited processing within 10 days of receipt by the Division of Freedom of Information of all information required to make a decision.

(f) If the agency grants a request for expedited processing, the agency shall process the request as soon as practicable.

(g) If the agency denies a request for expedited processing, the agency shall process the request with other nonexpedited requests.

(h) If the agency denies a request for expedited processing, the requester may appeal the agency's decision by writing to the official identified in the denial letter.

[68 FR 25286, May 12, 2003, as amended at 76 FR 31469, June 1, 2011]

Sec. 20.45 Fees to be charged.

(a) Categories of requests. Paragraphs (a) (1) through (3) of this section state, for each category of request, the type of fees that the Food and Drug Administration will generally charge. However, for each of these categories, the fees may be limited, waived, or reduced for the reasons given in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section and in § 20.46 or for other reasons.

(1) Commercial use request. If the request is for a commercial use, the Food and Drug Administration will charge for the costs of search, review, and duplication.

(2) Educational and scientific institutions and news media. If the request is from an educational institution or a noncommercial scientific institution, operated primarily for scholarly or scientific research, or a representative of the news media, and the request is not for a commercial use, the Food and Drug Administration will charge only for the duplication of documents. Also, the Food and Drug Administration will not charge the copying costs for the first 100 pages of duplication.

(3) Other requests. If the request is not the kind described in paragraph (a)(1) or (a)(2) of this section, then the Food and Drug Administration will charge only for the search and the duplication. Also, the Food and Drug Administration will not charge for the first 2 hours of search time or for the copying costs of the first 100 pages of duplication.

(b) General provisions. (1) The Food and Drug Administration may charge search fees even if the records found are exempt from disclosure or if no records are found.

(2) If, under paragraph (a)(3) of this section, there is no charge for the first 2 hours of search time, and those 2 hours are spent on a computer search, then the 2 free hours are the first 2 hours of the operator's own operation. If the operator spends less than 2 hours on the search, the total search fees will be reduced by the average hourly rate for the operator's time, multiplied by 2.

(3) If, under paragraph (a)(2) or (a)(3) of this section, there is no charge for the first 100 pages of duplication, then those 100 pages are the first 100 pages of photocopies of standard size pages, or the first 100 pages of computer printout. If this method to calculate the fee reduction cannot be used, then the total duplication fee will be reduced by the normal charge for photocopying a standard size page, multiplied by 100.

(4) No charge will be made if the costs of routine collection and processing of the fee are likely to equal or exceed the amount of the fee.

(5) If it is determined that a requester (acting either alone or together with others) is breaking down a single request into a series of requests in order to avoid (or reduce) the fees charged, all these requests may be aggregated for purposes of calculating the fees charged.

(6) Interest will be charged on unpaid bills beginning on the 31st day following the day the bill was sent. Provisions in 45 CFR part 30, the Department of Health and Human Services regulations governing claims collection, will be used in assessing interest, administrative costs, and penalties, and in taking actions to encourage payment.

(c) Fee schedule. The Food and Drug Administration charges the following fees in accordance with the regulations of the Department of Health and Human Services at 45 CFR part 5.

(1) Manual searching for or reviewing of records. When the search or review is performed by employees at grade GS-1 through GS-8, an hourly rate based on the salary of a GS-5, step 7, employee; when done by a GS-9 through GS-14, an hourly rate based on the salary of a GS-12, step 4, employee; and when done by a GS-15 or above, an hourly rate based on the salary of a GS-15, step 7, employee. In each case, the hourly rate will be computed by taking the current hourly rate for the specified grade and step, adding 16 percent of that rate to cover benefits, and rounding to the nearest whole dollar. When a search involves employees at more than one of these levels, the Food and Drug Administration will charge the rate appropriate for each.

(2) Computer searching and printing. The actual cost of operating the computer plus charges for the time spent by the operator, at the rates given in paragraph (c)(1) of this section.

(3) Photocopying standard size pages. $0.10 per page. Freedom of Information Officers may charge lower fees for particular documents where:

(i) The document has already been printed in large numbers;

(ii) The program office determines that using existing stock to answer this request, and any other anticipated Freedom of Information requests, will not interfere with program requirements; and

(iii) The Freedom of Information Officer determines that the lower fee is adequate to recover the prorated share of the original printing costs.

(4) Photocopying odd-size documents (such as punchcards or blueprints), or reproducing other records (such as tapes). The actual costs of operating the machine, plus the actual cost of the materials used, plus charges for the time spent by the operator, at the rates given in paragraph (c)(1) of this section.

(5) Certifying that records are true copies. This service is not required by the Freedom of Information Act. If the Food and Drug Administration agrees to provide certification, there is a $10 charge per certification.

(6) Sending records by express mail or other special methods. This service is not required by the Freedom of Information Act. If the Food and Drug Administration agrees to provide this service, the requester will be required to directly pay, or be directly charged by, the courier. The agency will not agree to any special delivery method that does not permit the requester to directly pay or be directly charged for the service.

(7) Performing any other special service in connection with a request to which the Food and Drug Administration has agreed. Actual costs of operating any machinery, plus actual cost of any materials used, plus charges for the time of the Food and Drug Administration's employees, at the rates given in paragraph (c)(1) of this section.

(d) Procedures for assessing and collecting fees - (1) Agreement to pay. The Food and Drug Administration generally assumes that a requester is willing to pay the fees charged for services associated with the request. The requester may specify a limit on the amount to be spent. If it appears that the fees will exceed the limit, the Food and Drug Administration will consult the requester to determine whether to proceed with the search.

(2) Advance payment. If a requester has failed to pay previous bills in a timely fashion, or if the Food and Drug Administration's initial review of the request indicates that the charges will exceed $250, the requester will be required to pay past due fees and/or the estimated fees, or a deposit, before the search for the requested records begins. In such cases, the requester will be notified promptly upon receipt of the request, and the administrative time limits prescribed in § 20.41 will begin only after there is an agreement with the requester over payment of fees, or a decision that fee waiver or reduction is appropriate.

(3) Billing and payment. Ordinarily, the requester will be required to pay all fees before the Food and Drug Administration will furnish the records. At its discretion, the Food and Drug Administration may send the requester a bill along with or following the records. For example, the Food and Drug Administration may do this if the requester has a history of prompt payment. The Food and Drug Administration may also, at its discretion, aggregate the charges for certain time periods in order to avoid sending numerous small bills to frequent requesters, or to businesses or agents representing requesters. For example, the Food and Drug Administration might send a bill to such a requester once a month. Fees should be paid in accordance with the instructions furnished by the person who responds to the request.

[59 FR 533, Jan. 5, 1994. Redesignated and amended at 68 FR 25286, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.46 Waiver or reduction of fees.

(a) Standard. The Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs (or delegatee) will waive or reduce the fees that would otherwise be charged if disclosure of the information meets both of the following tests:

(1) Is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the Government; and

(2) It is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. These two tests are explained in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section.

(b) Public interest. Disclosure of information satisfies the first test only if it furthers the specific public interest of being likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of Government operations or activities, regardless of any other public interest it may further. In analyzing this question, the Food and Drug Administration will consider the following factors:

(1) Whether the records to be disclosed pertain to the operations or activities of the Federal Government;

(2) Whether disclosure of the records would reveal any meaningful information about Government operations or activities that is not already public knowledge;

(3) Whether disclosure will advance the understanding of the general public as distinguished from a narrow segment of interested persons. Under this factor, the Food and Drug Administration may consider whether the requester is in a position to contribute to public understanding. For example, the Food and Drug Administration may consider whether the requester has such knowledge or expertise as may be necessary to understand the information, and whether the requester's intended use of the information would be likely to disseminate the information to the public. An unsupported claim to be doing research for a book or article does not demonstrate that likelihood, while such a claim by a representative of the news media is better evidence; and

(4) Whether the contribution to public understanding will be a significant one, i.e., will the public's understanding of the Government's operations be substantially greater as a result of the disclosure.

(c) Not primarily in the requester's commercial interest. If disclosure passes the test of furthering the specific public interest described in paragraph (b) of this section, the Food and Drug Administration will determine whether disclosure also furthers the requester's commercial interest and, if so, whether this effect outweighs the advancement of that public interest. In applying this second test, the Food and Drug Administration will consider the following factors:

(1) Whether disclosure would further a commercial interest of the requester, or of someone on whose behalf the requester is acting. Commercial interests include interests relating to business, trade, and profit. Both profit and nonprofit-making corporations have commercial interests, as well as individuals, unions, and other associations. The interest of a representative of the news media in using the information for news dissemination purposes will not be considered a commercial interest.

(2) If disclosure would further a commercial interest of the requester, whether that effect outweighs the advancement of the public interest as defined in paragraph (b) of this section.

(d) Deciding between waiver and reduction. If the disclosure of the information requested passes both tests described in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, the Food and Drug Administration will normally waive fees. However, in some cases the Food and Drug Administration may decide only to reduce the fees. For example, the Food and Drug Administration may do this when disclosure of some but not all of the requested records passes the tests.

(e) Procedure for requesting a waiver or reduction. A requester must request a waiver or reduction of fees at the same time as the request for records. The requester should explain why a waiver or reduction is proper under the factors set forth in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section. Only the Associate Commissioner for Public Affairs may make the decision whether to waive or reduce the fees. If the Food and Drug Administration does not completely grant the request for a waiver or reduction, the denial letter will designate a review official. The requester may appeal the denial to that official. The appeal letter should address reasons for the Associate Commissioner's decision that are set forth in the denial letter.

[59 FR 534, Jan. 5, 1994. Redesignated and amended at 68 FR 25286, 25287, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.47 Situations in which confidentiality is uncertain.

In situations where the confidentiality of data or information is uncertain and there is a request for public disclosure, the Food and Drug Administration will consult with the person who has submitted or divulged the data or information or who would be affected by disclosure before determining whether or not such data or information is available for public disclosure.

[42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977. Redesignated at 68 FR 25286, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.48 Judicial review of proposed disclosure.

Where the Food and Drug Administration consults with a person who will be affected by a proposed disclosure of data or information contained in Food and Drug Administration records pursuant to § 20.47, and rejects the person's request that part or all of the records not be made available for public disclosure, the decision constitutes final agency action that is subject to judicial review pursuant to 5 U.S.C. chapter 7. The person affected will be permitted 5 days after receipt of notification of such decision within which to institute suit in a United States District Court to enjoin release of the records involved. If suit is brought, the Food and Drug Administration will not disclose the records involved until the matter and all related appeals have been concluded.

[42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977. Redesignated and amended at 68 FR 25286, 25287, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.49 Denial of a request for records.

(a) A denial of a request for records, in whole or in part, shall be signed by the Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs (or delegatee).

(b) The name and title or position of each person who participated in the denial of a request for records shall be set forth in the letter denying the request. This requirement may be met by attaching a list of such individuals to the letter.

(c) A letter denying a request for records, in whole or in part, shall state the reasons for the denial and shall state that an appeal may be made to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (Media), Department of Health and Human Services. The agency will also make a reasonable effort to include in the letter an estimate of the volume of the records denied, unless providing such an estimate would harm an interest protected by an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act. This estimate will ordinarily be provided in terms of the approximate number of pages or some other reasonable measure. This estimate will not be provided if the volume of records denied is otherwise indicated through deletions on records disclosed in part.

(d) Minor deletions of nondisclosable data and information from disclosable records shall not be deemed to be a denial of a request for records.

[42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977, as amended at 46 FR 8457, Jan. 27, 1981; 55 FR 1405, Jan. 16, 1990. Redesignated and amended at 68 FR 25286, 25287, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.50 Nonspecific and overly burdensome requests.

The Food and Drug Administration will make every reasonable effort to comply fully with all requests for disclosure of nonexempt records. Nonspecific requests or requests for a large number of documents that require the deployment of a substantial amount of agency man-hours to search for and compile will be processed taking into account the staff-hours required, the tasks from which these resources must be diverted, the impact that this diversion will have upon the agency's consumer protection activities, and the public policy reasons justifying the requests. A decision on the processing of such a request for information shall be made after balancing the public benefit to be gained by the disclosure against the public loss that will result from diverting agency personnel from their other responsibilities. In any situation in which it is determined that a request for voluminous records would unduly burden and interfere with the operations of the Food and Drug Administration, the person making the request will be asked to be more specific and to narrow the request, and to agree on an orderly procedure for the production of the requested records, in order to satisfy the request without disproportionate adverse effects on agency operations.

[42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977. Redesignated at 68 FR 25286, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.51 Referral to primary source of records.

Upon receipt of a request for a record or document which is contained in Food and Drug Administration files but which is available elsewhere at a lower cost, the person requesting the record or document shall be referred to the primary source of the record or document.

[42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977. Redesignated at 68 FR 25286, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.52 Availability of records at National Technical Information Service.

The Food and Drug Administration is furnishing a number of records to the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), 5285 Port Royal Rd., Springfield, VA 22162, which reproduces and distributes such information to the public at cost. A single copy of each such record shall be available for public review at the Food and Drug Administration. All persons requesting copies of such records shall be answered by referring the person requesting the records to NTIS.

[42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977, as amended at 54 FR 9038, Mar. 3, 1989. Redesignated at 68 FR 25286, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.53 Use of private contractor for copying.

The Food and Drug Administration may furnish requested records to a private contractor for copying after deletion of all nondisclosable data and information. Under these circumstances, the Food and Drug Administration will charge the person requesting the records for all of the fees involved pursuant to § 20.45.

[42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977. Redesignated and amended at 68 FR 25286, 25287, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.54 Request for review without copying.

(a) A person requesting disclosure of records shall be permitted an opportunity to review them without the necessity for copying them where the records involved contain only disclosable data and information. Under these circumstances, the Food and Drug Administration will charge only for the costs of searching for the records.

(b) Where a request is made for review of records without copying, and the records involved contain both disclosable and nondisclosable information, the records containing nondisclosable information shall first be copied with the nondisclosable information blocked out and the Food and Drug Administration will charge for the costs of searching and copying.

[42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977. Redesignated at 68 FR 25286, May 12, 2003]

Sec. 20.55 Indexing trade secrets and confidential commercial or financial information.

Whenever the Food and Drug Administration denies a request for a record or portion thereof on the grounds that the record or portion thereof is exempt from public disclosure as trade secret or confidential commercial or financial data and information under § 20.61, and the person requesting the record subsequently contests the denial in the courts, the Food and Drug Administration will so inform the person affected, i.e., the person who submitted the record, and will require that such person intervene to defend the exempt status of the record. If a court requires the Food and Drug Administration to itemize and index such records, the Food and Drug Administration will so inform the person affected and will require that such person undertake the itemization and indexing of the records. If the affected person fails to intervene to defend the exempt status of the records and to itemize and index the disputed records, the Food and Drug Administration will take this failure into consideration in deciding whether that person has waived such exemption so as to require the Food and Drug Administration to promptly make the records available for public disclosure.

[42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977, as amended at 59 FR 535, Jan. 5, 1994. Redesignated at 68 FR 25286, May 12, 2003]

Authority: 5 U.S.C. 552; 18 U.S.C. 1905; 19 U.S.C. 2531-2582; 21 U.S.C. 321-393, 1401-1403; 42 U.S.C. 241, 242, 242a, 242l, 242n, 243, 262, 263, 263b-263n, 264, 265, 300u-300u-5, 300aa-1.
Source: 42 FR 15616, Mar. 22, 1977, unless otherwise noted.

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