The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recently enacted new romaine testing requirements for products originating from the Salinas Valley. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the lead agency working with Canadian officials to address the issue. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR), as well as the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA), are also providing support.
“We feel not only is this something where it should be left up to the FDA but hopefully this is something where the trade component comes into play and letting them know that this isn’t something that they can do,” said Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley). “The last thing we want is to set precedent by allowing them to do this. Especially with the rules in place under Chapter 9 of the USMCA when it comes to sanitary/phytosanitary measures.”
The new requirement that went into effect October 7 requires romaine testing for products from Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey counties. Panetta noted that the entire leafy greens industry is always working to improve food safety. The industry is willing to work with Canadian officials on the concern for food safety, so long as the new requirements are indeed warranted. “Canada needs to understand that going forward. If they decide to impose such restrictions like this, it better be based on something that’s happening now – with evidence – and not just a fear,” said Panetta.
Canada is a major outlet for American leafy greens, importing $333 million worth of romaine lettuce in 2018. Salinas Valley growers are not the only ones concerned about the new romaine testing requirements. The Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) sent a letter to Canadian health officials detailing issues with the new restrictions. CPMA is estimating a decline in trade of up to $13 million a week under the new rules.
“You bet it’s a financial hit. I’ve been hearing from producers but at the same time working with them,” said Panetta. “Making sure that they understand everything that we’re doing, everything that LGMA is doing, everything that the FDA is doing, everything that the USTR is doing to make sure that we continue to push back and work with the Canadians so that we continue to have the trade relationship that we have.”