Review Category : SPS Sanitary & Phytosanitary

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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(WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2017) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) today announced that the government of Vietnam has notified the U.S. that it will resume imports of American distillers dried grains (DDGS).  In December 2016, Vietnam suspended imports of U.S. DDGS after reported detections of quarantine pests in U.S. shipments.  Prior to the suspension, Vietnam was the third-largest market for U.S. DDGS, with exports valued at more than $230 million in 2016.  The resolution of this issue also opens the way for corn and wheat shipments, which were restricted due to previous treatment requirements.

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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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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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