The development of innovative products is key to supporting the development of this sector, using the throughput of the primary production sector, Dr. Godefroy believes.
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“Sectors such as pulse, oil seeds, and grain production continue to contribute to such innovation by creating new ingredients and new foods,” he notes. “A flexible, nimble, and agile food safety regulatory system will be imperative to support such developments, including a robust presence in international food standard development forum, in view of the importance of international market access for these products.”
Enhanced North American collaboration in creating added convergence in food regulatory provisions is also needed, Dr. Godefroy emphasizes.
“Given the level of integration of food production in North America, the ever-increasing complexity of scientific assessments to support robust risk management measures and to preserve consumer confidence, improved use of safety assessment resources to support the appropriate level of food safety oversight is definitely needed,” he says.
“In this context, and while achieving a single set of food standards in North America seem to be a distant dream, does it still make sense to have different Canadian and American scientific assessments of the same product using the same scientific methodologies, the same techniques, and sometimes even the same data?” Dr. Godefroy asks.
“The time may have come to consider the creation of a single food safety risk assessment authority for Canada and the United States,” Dr. Godefroy purports, “pooling the best of the scientific resources dedicated to this area and providing advice to food safety regulators in both countries.”
This would not impede the ability of each country to develop its own set of food standards, based on its own policy and risk management considerations, but at least the reliance on scientific assessments would be consistent and streamlined, he notes.
“This is without speaking of the importance and weight that such assessments would have on the international stage, positioning North America as a center of excellence of science-driven food safety oversight,” Dr. Godefroy emphasizes. “If Europe with its far more diverse population and its 28 countries did it, why can’t our two countries with their decades of food safety and food regulatory cooperation achieve this goal?”
And what about including Mexico in any possible North American regulatory collaboration?
“With the relevant efforts of coordination and capacity building, I would think that it would be the natural subsequent step once Canada and the U.S. manage to agree to move in that direction and implement the idea,” Dr. Godefroy says.
Southern Ally/Aliado al Sur
Every growing season, thousands of trucks, nearly 200,000 trucks, cross the border from Mexico into the U.S. to deliver more than 3 million metric tons of luscious fresh fruits and vegetables to U.S. markets, according to Cristóbal Chaidez, PhD, a food safety research scientist focusing on microbial contamination of food, water, and the environment, and director of the National Food Safety Research Laboratory of the Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo (Research Center in Food and Development), a government agency based in Culiacán, Mexico.
Among Mexico’s 2014 top 10 exports, vegetables (the only food item on the list) ranked tenth, and were valued at $5,497,363,000, according to worldstopexports.com.
Not surprisingly, a whopping 60 percent of Mexico’s agricultural exports go to the U.S. Along with iconic chili peppers of assorted varieties, edible export products from South of the border include coffee, corn, and,wheat, plus the aforementioned array of tropical fruits and various winter fruits and vegetables.
“Fresh produce from Mexico has the potential to meet most of the growing global demand for fruit and vegetable products,” Dr. Chaidez boasts. “However, the globalization of the food supply may introduce new food safety risks and the potential widespread dissemination of contaminated food.”