Growers in the Salinas Valley will now be working under new romaine rules when exporting produce to Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is implementing new import protocols aimed at enhancing food safety. Romaine lettuce grown outside the Salinas Valley will need be accompanied by documentation of such before exporting to Canada. For lettuce destined for Canada grown in the Salinas Valley, CFIA requires an official certificate of analysis related to E. coli. The new requirements are going to be effective beginning on October 7.
Growers from Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Benito, and Monterey counties will need to prove that lettuce has below-detectable levels of E. coli before being exported to Canada. The temporary import measures will be enforced through December 31 of this year. In recent years, romaine lettuce from California has been linked to multiple outbreaks of E. coli in the U.S. and Canada. CFIA indicates that the Salinas Valley has been a particularly troublesome growing region, accounting for numerous outbreaks.
The new romaine rules for testing and documentation apply to romaine lettuce as well as mixed salads that contain romaine. The new requirements are aimed at enhancing food safety measures under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. Canada already has specific protocols in place related to leafy greens from California. The importation of leafy green products from California is limited to those supplied by certified members of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA). Members of LGMA have to comply with a series of food safety measures and are routinely audited by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Several organizations from both Canada and the U.S. have raised concerns about the implications of such a requirement. Industry groups have highlighted the significant logistical challenges that would occur under the new romaine rules. Several Canadian industry groups sent a letter to Canadian officials detailing multiple issues with the preventative control measures. The coalition describes the new protocol as being “overly complex and confusing and will result in significant costs to industry.”