Review Category : SPS Sanitary & Phytosanitary

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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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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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took a step towards ensuring the accuracy of its inventory of importers responsible for meeting the requirements of the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) rule.

The FDA issued guidance formally recognizing the Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number as an acceptable unique facility identifier (UFI) for FSVP. The identification of importers will help the FDA effectively implement, monitor compliance with, and enforce the FSVP requirements, which are designed to help ensure that imported foods meet U.S. safety standards.

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After an 18-month transition period, full enforcement of USDA inspection of siluriformes fish, including catfish will begin on Sep 1, 2017. According to some Vietnam news reports, “the change will have potentially disastrous consequences for Vietnam catfish producers, because while the FDA does spot checks on a small sample of imports as they arrive, the USDA requires on-site inspections of production facilities. For countries like Vietnam, setting up an equivalent system could take years and effectively cripple the industry.”

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has signed an arrangement with the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources recognizing each other’s food safety systems as comparable to each other. This is the third time that the FDA has recognized a foreign food safety system as comparable, the first being New Zealand in 2012 and Canada in 2016.

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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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The Seafood Import Monitoring Program final rule to combat fish fraud and illegal fishing was issued on Dec 8, 2016. The rule requires that fish species most often passed off fraudulently or at risk of illegal fishing be tracked from their source of origin before they can be imported to the United States. It requires retention of supply chain data by the importer of record and extends an existing NMFS requirement to obtain an annually renewable International Fisheries Trade Permit (IFTP) to import the seafood and seafood products regulated under this rule.

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