A recently published research report from the Produce Safety Project has found that a number of major countries exporting fresh vegetables and fruit into the U.S. have modernized their food-safety laws and regulations over the past two decades to help prevent foodborne illnesses.
The report, Legal and Regulatory Frameworks Governing the Growing, Packing and
Handling of Fresh Produce in Countries Exporting to the U.S., presents a series of case studies examining five of the top 10 U.S. produce trade partners – Canada, Chile, China, Mexico and Peru.
The report was written by Monachus Consulting, an international agricultural industry-consulting firm based in Canada.
The Produce Safety Project, which is based in Georgetown University, says the report is timely as Congress considers food-safety reform legislation, which includes provisions geared toward improving the safety of produce and imports.
And while the U.S. is considering whether to adopt food-safety rules for produce, many of its trading partners already have produce laws and regulations on the books that are intended to prevent contamination at the source.
Billions of dollars in imports
The report found that imports of fresh produce have grown substantially in the U.S. with other countries supplying consumers with billions of dollars of fresh fruits and vegetables each year.
For the five countries analyzed, the report details the:
• Types and quantity of produce exports to the U.S.;
• National food-safety systems (e.g. legislation, competent authorities, etc.);
• Domestic food-safety regulatory requirements for fresh produce production, packing and handling;
• Export requirements for fresh produce production, packing and handling (if different from the domestic requirements); and
• Role and scope of any significant private sector food-safety standards for fresh fruits and vegetables exports.
The report’s author says that in the early 1990s, many foreign governments responded to the series of food contamination incidents with the first wave of new legislative and regulatory requirements.
Over the last decade, in addition to implementing legal reforms related to food-safety matters, many U.S. trade partners have also reorganized how food-safety policies and regulations are set.
The report indicates that reform of food-safety oversight for countries exporting to the U.S. will continue to evolve.
For example, Mexico, Peru and China have indicated that more regulations will be implemented in the coming years, and Canada and Chile indicated additional legislative measures are currently in process.
The report highlights the limited available information on the implementation of these public and private initiatives.