(Aug. 24) Leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico pledged Aug. 21 to build on food safety practices to stop unsafe food and products before they enter North America.

In a statement released at the North American Leaders Summit in Montebello, Quebec, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon pledged to build on a scientific risk-based approach to food safety.

The statement said that the North American countries would seek stronger inspection and certification capabilities in exporting nations that supply food to North America. The leaders also pledged to work together on harmonizing standards.

“Our governments will continue to address the safety of food and products imported into North America, while facilitating the significant trade in these products that our countries already have and without imposing unnecessary barriers to trade,” the three leaders said in the statement.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Press reported that one area of agreement between the three countries is the development of a common approach for safe production of fresh fruits and vegetables. Canada also wanted to work on common standards for food allergens, nutrition labeling and meat inspection programs but did not find agreement with the U.S. and Mexico on those points.

In other food safety developments, Sebastian Cianci, spokesman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Aug. 22 that top level agency officials will soon be traveling to China for a fact-finding mission. No firm dates for the trip had been set, but he expected it would begin in late August or early September.

The FDA has no special procedures for China’s food imports, other than normal procedures in place for all imports.

Currently, China has about 16 active FDA import alerts, four less than Mexico and the same number as Canada.

Among China’s import alerts for food products, the FDA has flagged specific exporters of fresh garlic, honey and dried mushrooms for detention and inspection of every shipment, among other food items.