Check out this 175-page for a report on food safety systems of countries who ship the U.S. big volumes of fresh produce.  No dramatic conclusions here, just much helpful detail on how each country manages their food safety systems.

From the news release about the report from the Produce Safety Project....

A number of major countries exporting fresh vegetables and fruit into the United States have modernized food-safety laws and regulations over the past two decades to emphasize preventive measures, according to new report released today by the Produce Safety Project (PSP) at Georgetown University.

The report, "Legal and Regulatory Frameworks Governing the Growing, Packing and Handling of Fresh Produce in Countries Exporting to the U.S.," presents a series of case studies examining five of the top 10 U.S. produce trade partners – Canada, Chile, China, Mexico and Peru. The report was written by Monachus Consulting, an international agricultural industry consulting firm based in Canada.

"This report is particularly timely, as Congress considers food-safety reform legislation that includes provisions geared toward improving the safety of produce and imports in general," said Jim O'Hara, director of the Produce Safety Project. "While the United States is considering whether to adopt food-safety rules for produce, many of our trading partners already have produce laws and regulations on the books that are intended to prevent contamination at the source – long before they reach the American consumer."

Over the last two decades, the imports of fresh produce have grown substantially in the United States with other countries supplying U.S. consumers with billions of dollars of fresh fruits and vegetables each year, according to the report.

For the five countries analyzed, this report details:

* Types and quantity of produce exports to the United States;
* National food-safety systems (e.g. legislation, competent authorities, etc.);
* Domestic food-safety regulatory requirements for fresh produce production, packing and handling;
* Export requirements for fresh produce production, packing and handling (if different from the domestic requirements); and,
* The role and scope of any significant private sector food-safety standards for fresh fruits and vegetables exports.

"In the early 1990s, many foreign governments responded to the series of food contamination incidents with the 'first wave' of new legislative and regulatory requirements," said Albert F. Chambers, the report's author. "Over the last decade, in addition to implementing legal reforms related to food-safety matters, many U.S. trade partners have also reorganized how food-safety policies and regulations are set."

The study indicates that reform of food-safety oversight for countries exporting to the United States will continue to evolve. For example, Mexico, Peru and China have indicated that more regulations will be implemented in the coming years, and Canada and Chile indicated additional legislative measures are currently in process. The report highlights the limited available information on the implementation of these public and private initiatives.

More from the report overview:

Over the past 20 years, U.S. imports of fresh produce have grown signifi cantly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)2 has reported that the value of imports of fresh vegetables grew rapidly in the 1990s, and then climbed from just over $2 billion in 1998 to $4.1 billion in 2007. Fresh fruit imports more than doubled, increasing from $3.9 billion to just over $8.9 billion in the same period. In 2009, the United States imported $11.5 billion of fresh produce from 96 countries3. In fresh vegetables, the NAFTA trading partners are the leading sources, with Mexico’s share representing about 70 percent of the total and Canada’s between 15 and 20 percent on average. Fresh fruit imports are sourced primarily from Mexico (29 percent), Chile (26 percent), and Costa Rica, Guatemala and Ecuador, which together accounted for more than 22 percent of the total.

Other fruit imports come from other Southern Hemisphere countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as from Asia.4 Fresh fruit imports as a share of domestic consumption rose from 35 percent in 1990 to nearly  50 percent during the 2006-2008 period. More than 50 percent of these imports were bananas, which are now sold year-round and are the most popular fruit consumed in the U.S.

Non-banana fresh fruit imports rose from 12 percent of domestic consumption in 1990 to more than 29 percent during the latter period.5 Fresh vegetable imports, in terms of market share, have changed much less dramatically. The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has calculated, based on USDA data, that vegetable imports’ share stood at 15.8 percent in 1998, then dipped to 13.8 percent in 2000 before  starting a steady increase through the early 2000s.6 USDA estimates that, in 2008, imports accounted for 20 percent of U.S. fresh vegetable consumption7, a gain of about 27 percent over 1998 and 45 percent over 2000.

PMA’s analysis of 2005 import data indicates that they are concentrated in certain key products. In vegetables, those products with more than a 25 percent share of the U.S. market included: artichokes (57 percent); asparagus (63 percent); cucumbers (48 percent); eggplant (42 percent); garlic (43 percent); onions (49 percent); bell peppers (31 percent); squash (38 percent); and tomatoes (35 percent). For fruit, they included: avocados (51 percent); bananas (100 percent); blueberries (33 percent); cantaloupes (30 percent); cranberries (71 percent); table grapes (40 percent); honeydew (28 percent); kiwis (55 percent); limes (100 percent); papaya (89 percent); pineapples (75 percent); plantains (100 percent); raspberries (36 percent); and tangerines (25 percent). 8 A number of factors have influenced this increase in imports, factors that in several instances affect each other:

• Population increase: The U.S. population in the period 1988 to 2008 has increased by 25 percent, from 244.5 million to 305.8 million.

• Consumer demand: U.S. consumers are purchasing more fresh fruits and vegetables, up from 277.6 pounds per capita, retail weight, in 1988 to 293.8 pounds in 2008. This is in part driven by lifestyle changes related to an increased awareness about the benefits of eating fresh products, the availability of a much wider range of products and changes in the ethnic composition of the American population.

• Seasonality: The globalization of supply has for the most part eliminated seasonality as a consumer consideration – the staples and even more exotic products are available in most retailers all year long.

• Market access: The U.S. has entered into a number of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements starting with the Canada-U.S. Trade Agreement (CUSTA - 1985) and following through with the World Trade Agreement (WTO - 1994), the North American Trade Agreement (Canada, Mexico - 1995) and agreements with Australia (2004), Chile (2004), Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic (2005) and Peru (2007). These have either eliminated or significantly reduced tariffs on fresh produce.

• Phytosanitary agreements: In complementary initiatives, the U.S. and its trading partners (e.g. Mexico, Peru, etc.) have jointly recognized new initiatives by exporting countries (or internal regions) to control pests and diseases that pose a danger to U.S. production.

• Technological developments: Advances in packaging and shipping technologies have reduced quality issues and improved customer acceptability

• Transportation: Fresh produce exporters and importers have made significant investments in storage and handling facilities that permit them to take advantage of increased access to air cargo capacity or make significant investments in storage and ocean shipping, new sea shipping capacity, etc.

• Foreign exchange values: For most of this period, the relatively stronger U.S. dollar vis-à-vis currencies in Mexico, Canada and elsewhere provided a comparative advantage for exporters.

Selection of Countries for Case Studies:

With fresh fruits and vegetables sourced from so many countries, there was an obvious need to limit the scope of the review. The rankings prepared by USDA for previous years (2007, 2008 and 2009) were considered and a selection was made from the top 10. The countries chosen were Mexico (No. 1 in both fresh fruits and vegetables), Canada (No. 2 in vegetables and No. 6 in fruits), Chile (No. 2 in fruits), Peru (No. 3 in vegetables) and China (No. 4 in vegetables).

Countries that ranked higher as a source of fruit imports, such as Costa Rica, Guatemala and Ecuador, were not included, because a significant volume of their exports is in bananas.

The Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University seeks the establishment by the Food and Drug Administration of mandatory and enforceable safety standards for domestic and imported fresh produce, from farm to fork. Our families need to have confidence that federal food safety regulation is based on prevention, scientifically sound risk assessment and management, and coordinated integrated data collection. For more information online, visit