July 24th, 2014
Authorities from the U.S. and Mexico have signed a statement of intent to partner up in promoting the safety of fresh and minimally processed agricultural products.
The deal was reached Monday during a meeting of U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg and other FDA officials with representatives from Mexico’s National Service for Agro-Alimentary Public Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA) and Federal Commission for the Protection from Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS).
“To be successful as regulators, the FDA must continue developing new strategies and partnerships that allow us to more comprehensively and collectively respond to the challenges that come with globalization,” Hamburg said in an FDA release.
“The FDA is working with our Mexican government counterparts as well as stakeholders from industry, commerce, agriculture, and academia to ensure the safety of products for American and Mexican consumers.”
In the release, COFEPRIS Federal Commissioner Mikel Arriola Peñalosa said collaboration was a priority for public health, in areas such as information sharing on emerging food safety issues, and addressing product safety issues that may impact U.S. and Mexican consumers.
“The partnership will focus on implementing preventive practices and food verification measures that meet the guidelines and best international practices for produce safety,” Arriola Peñalosa said.
The produce safety partnership mentioned four main practices and verification measures for producing safe produce:
• exchanging information to better understand each other’s produce safety systems;
• developing effective culturally-specific education and outreach materials that support industry compliance with produce safety standards;
• identifying common approaches for training auditors who will verify compliance with such standards; and
• enhancing collaboration on laboratory activities as well as outbreak response and traceback activities.
The release highlighted Mexico is the leading exporter of FDA-regulated human foods into the United States. Leading categories include: fresh vegetables (US$4.6 billion); fresh fruit excluding bananas (US$3.1 billion); wine and beer (US$1.9 billion); and snack foods, including chocolate (US$1.5 billion).
“FDA has a long-standing relationship with Mexico on food safety, and modernization efforts underway on both sides of the border provide an opportunity to make this partnership even stronger,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, Michael R. Taylor.
“Food safety partnerships must extend well beyond government, so we are engaging the private sector as well because their food safety practices, coupled with government standards, are what make food safe.”