Review Category : Food & Beverage

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as 600 million people in the world fall ill every year after eating contaminated food and 420,000 of these people die. U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates for those numbers in the U.S. are 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases, This is a significant public health burden that is largely preventable.

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This week the CDC reported that at least 47 people were stricken with Salmonella, with one death, likely linked to papayas imported from Mexico. In the summer of 2016 came reports of hepatitis A tainted scallops sickening 292 in Hawaii. In that outbreak two died of liver failure complications. And, also in 2016, 143 people, mostly in Virginia, were also stricken with hepatitis A. This time the culprit was hepatitis A-tainted strawberries imported from Egypt.

While most food we consume is still produced in the United States, we rely on imports for some of our most nutritionally important but more risky commodities. And, imported food is increasingly taking a larger “bite” out of our food consumption.

We now import over 90 percent of our seafood, 50 percent of our fresh fruit and 20 percent of our vegetables. Canada, Mexico, China and India are our top food trading partners. In 2014, we imported nearly $50 billion of food from just those four countries. Imports from all countries have increased, and that is especially true for China and India.

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USDA’s Food Safety and inspection Service’s plans to reinspect all shipments of imported Siluriformes fish and fish products, including catfish,  beginning on Aug. 2, one month earlier than originally scheduled, according to a Federal Register Notice published on July 3. Countries that want to continue to export siluriformes fish and fish products, including catfish, to the U.S. must submit a complete “Self-Reporting Tool” and supporting documentation to USDA/FSIS by Sep 1, 2017.

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In January-April, the U.S. imported over 179,500 tons of shrimp worth US$1.7 billion, up 2.9% in volume and 8% in value compared to the same period last year. However, the U.S. purchased only 14,150 tons of Vietnamese shrimp worth US$155.6 million, declining 23.5% and 23.4% year-on-year, respectively.
As shrimp shipments to the U.S. have been in decline, Vietnamese exporters are advised to find ways to export their products to other countries.
The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) pointed out that Vietnam’s shrimp exports to the U.S. have been declining although U.S. shrimp purchases from elsewhere have surged.

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An importer in Southern California is on notice from the FDA for failing to take required steps under the “Foreign Supplier Verification Program” (FSVP) to assure that the smoked salmon and mackerel it brings into the U.S. have been produced in accordance with U.S. food safety regulations.

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On Jun 7, the Ministry of Industry and Trade organized a conference  on the structure of Vietnam’s export of food and beverages to the U.S.  Many businesses urgently said that they have fallen into the list of enterprises that do not meet the requirements for exporting to the US market while having a long history of exporting to the market for more than ten years. In addition, they did not receive any warning information from the authorities. In fact, new regulations were announced Oct 1 – Decc 31, 2016, and  applied from Jan 1, 2017., in just a few months from the end of 2016 to the beginning of 2017, the number of Vietnamese companies with valid FDA registration to export to the US market dropped from 1,845 companies down to only 806.

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The U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act is going into effect now. On May 30, 2017, a new regulation requiring U.S. food importers to identify their foreign suppliers and verify that they are using safe food processes and procedures became effective. But whether the industry will be in compliance remains highly uncertain.

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Food safety has become an issue of utmost concern these days, not only for foreign importers but also for local consumers, so the key question is how and where food is produced. Today’s buyers want food items that are traceable. Such a trend is now being proactively taken by both State management agencies and enterprises, who have become aware that it is a matter of survival.

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When the environmental group Oceana conducted a large study of the issue three years ago, the results were shocking. Scientists performed DNA tests on more than 1,200 samples from nearly 700 different stores and restaurants in 21 states. One out of three fish were mislabeled, in violation of Food and Drug Administration regulations, and the numbers were even worse in big cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

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