Also in South America’s food safety plus column, a good number of food exporters have been accredited in various systems of quality management and many of them have been accredited as they apply the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system, Dr. Quevedo-Ganoza says.
“The proof of success is that there has not been a significant increase in the number of rejections or withholdings of South American food products by U.S. Customs in the last decade,” he relates. “It is also important to note that many companies strive to meet U.S. FDA requirements dictated in the year 2002 to prevent the menaces and risks of bioterrorism, as well as those indicated in FDA/USDA Good Agricultural Practices dictated after the 1997 confirmation that foods of vegetable origin are as dangerous as those of animal origin.”
(Dr. Quevedo-Ganoza is referring to the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, the Bioterrorism Act, and the joint FDA/USDA “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.”)
Despite the time that has passed since the publication of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), FSMA requirements have not been readily understood enough by South American food producers to be used as a guide on the continent, Dr. Quevedo-Ganoza adds.
“In many South America government departments, previous FDA food safety legislation continues to be applied,” he relates. “It is important to reiterate that Codex Alimentarius standards are well known and routinely implemented by food manufacturers in South America. However, several major food exporters to the U.S. have been advised by U.S. food safety experts to interpret and comply with the mandates of the FSMA, and such compliance is continually growing here.”
Since South American countries are net exporters of food and food products, and the U.S. is for some countries in the region the most important market, FSMA and other U.S. food regulations are greatly impacting food production systems in South America with ever increasing alacrity, Romero Torres adds.
“FSMA brings new and more stringent requirements for those who want to sell their products in the U.S.,” he says. “To pass a FDA inspection will demand from many of our plants additional investments in terms of facilities, procedures, documentation, expertise, food analysis, inspection and certification, and other items. To pay for those substantial investments and increased costs, companies will have to be more efficient, improve risk management and risk mitigation strategies, and probably the prices of the products we export will have to increase. This means the cost of those investments will have to be shared by the producers and the market as well, or else we might not be able to maintain or grow our participation in the U.S. market. That said, South American food processing companies are adapting their systems to the new FSMA regulations as the regulations are being released in the U.S.”
Romero Torres is quick to point out that complying with the new FSMA regulations requires huge efforts in various fields, including institutional strengthening, application of risk analysis, a more science-based approach to production and control, data collection, and so on. “Some South American countries are more willing than others to adapt their production/regulation systems to the new FSMA requirements and, some act more rapidly than others,” he says, “so the opportunities and challenges will bring different outcomes to different countries and different food sectors.”