Canadian Import Requirements for Romaine Returning This Fall

Brian GermanExports/Imports, Field & Row Crops, Industry

Canada will once again be implementing additional import requirements for romaine lettuce from the Salinas Valley region. The additional requirements implemented by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will be in effect from September 28 to December 20. Canadian officials have been enacting additional requirements on romaine lettuce in the Fall since 2019.

Import Requirements

Similar to last year’s requirements, romaine lettuce along with salad mixes that contain romaine lettuce, which originates from Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties will have additional protocols to follow. Romaine lettuce products originating from those counties will have to provide negative test results for E. coli O157:H7 or show Proof of Origin documentation for other U.S. growing regions.

Initially, CFIA prohibited romaine imports originating from the four Salinas Valley counties. In the past few years, Canadian officials have allowed fresh romaine from those regions, provided they tested negative for E. coli. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has pointed out that the additional rules have been a market disrupter since they were first implemented. Logistical challenges related to sampling and diagnostics have been reported. Consumers and wholesalers have also experienced issues with higher prices and challenges with sourcing product. USDA indicated that approximately 60 percent of fresh lettuce imported into Canada in Q4 came from California prior to 2019. Since the implementation of additional requirements, that figure has dropped to 53 percent.

The testing protocols set to begin in September allow for two approaches to meet the new import requirements. One option is finished-product sampling after all post-processing and handling steps are completed, but before the product is imported. The other option is for pre-harvest sampling in the field not more than seven days before harvest. All sampling and testing must be conducted according to the temporary Safe Food for Canadians license conditions.

Brian German
Ag News Director / AgNet West