From the Fruit and Vegetable Editor: May 2016
By Marg Land
As I write this editorial, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a recall for a blend of frozen berries and cherries sold exclusively through Costco stores in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia plus Newfoundland and Labrador. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 13 people have contracted Hepatitis A, some becoming sick after eating the frozen fruit.
In light of the recall, Costco Canada is offering free Hepatitis A vaccinations for anyone affected by the product recall.
Why am I sharing this?
Well, also as I write this editorial, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is gearing up promotion of its Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), described as “the most sweeping reform” made to the country’s food safety laws in the past 70 years. And, according to David Gombas – the United Fresh Produce Association’s senior vice-president of food safety – Canadian growers, packers and processors who export produce to the U.S. will be facing the new rules as early as Fall 2016 (see article on page 16).
What does this mean for Canadian growers?
It means that if you’re shipping produce over the U.S. border for resale, you may need to become verified under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), a program that insures “that food imported into the United States has been produced in a manner that meets applicable U.S. safety standards.”
When you visit the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act information website – fda.gov/FSMA – be prepared for page after page of legal gobbledygook containing fuzzy bureaucratic words like “stakeholder,” “reasonably foreseeable” and “potential hazard.” The FSVP section of the website is particularly dense with them, the sort of reading only a legal-type or someone really keen on filling in forms and jumping through regulatory hoops would enjoy – not that there’s anything wrong with that. But this editor knows when she’s reached the limit of her legalese translation skills and bows to the much wiser experts available out there.
One thing that is possible to glean from the reams of information available is not every Canadian grower exporting to the U.S. will be required to become verified under the FSVP. According to the FDA, very small importers and importers of food from certain small suppliers – defined as a sales ceiling of $1 million (US) annually – will only be required to meet “modified” FSVP requirements. Farms that average $25,000 (US) or less in annual produce sales will also only be required to meet “modified” FSVP requirements. It’s not clear what those “modified” requirements might be but one example cited is: “certain importers would not have to conduct hazard analyses and would be able to verify their foreign suppliers by obtaining written assurances.”
Clear as mud, right?
Visit fda.gov/FSMA for more information.
Stay informed and have a safe, prosperous 2016 growing season.