The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the government of Mexico's National Service for Agro-Alimentary Public Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA) and Federal Commission for the Protection from Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) signed a statement of intent forming a partnership to promote the safety of fresh and minimally processed agricultural products.
On Monday, July 21, 2014, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., along with other FDA officials, traveled to Mexico to conduct a series of meetings with their Mexican regulatory counterparts from the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock and Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), of which SENASICA is a part, and the Ministry of Health, the parent agency of COFEPRIS, as part of their work to strengthen cooperation for produce safety.
"To be successful as regulators, the FDA must continue developing new strategies and partnerships that allow us to more comprehensively and collectively respond to the challenges that come with globalization," said Commissioner Hamburg. "The FDA is working with our Mexican government counterparts as well as stakeholders from industry, commerce, agriculture, and academia to ensure the safety of products for American and Mexican consumers."
The United States and Mexico collaborate on a wide range of partnerships and have established formal arrangements designed to improve information sharing on emerging food safety issues and to work more collaboratively when addressing product safety issues that may impact American and Mexican consumers.
"This collaboration is a priority for public health," said the Federal Commissioner of COFEPRIS, Mikel Arriola Peñalosa. "The partnership will focus on implementing preventive practices and food verification measures that meet the guidelines and best international practices for produce safety."
Mexico is the leading exporter of FDA-regulated human foods into the United States. Leading categories include: fresh vegetables ($4.6 billion); fresh fruit excluding bananas ($3.1 billion); wine and beer ($1.9 billion); and snack foods, including chocolate ($1.5 billion).
"For the Mexican Federal Government, health and safety are strategic tools to increase the competitiveness of the agricultural products produced in Mexico," said the Chief Director of SENASICA, Enrique Sanchez Cruz.
The produce safety partnership will focus on preventive practices and verification measures for the production of safe produce, including:
- exchanging information to better understand each other's produce safety systems;
- developing effective culturally-specific education and outreach materials that support industry compliance with produce safety standards;
- identifying common approaches for training auditors who will verify compliance with such standards; and
- enhancing collaboration on laboratory activities as well as outbreak response and traceback activities.
The FDA, SENASICA, and COFEPRIS will work collaboratively with the private sector to support the goals of this partnership.
"FDA has a long-standing relationship with Mexico on food safety, and modernization efforts underway on both sides of the border provide an opportunity to make this partnership even stronger," said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA's Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine. "Food safety partnerships must extend well beyond government, so we are engaging the private sector as well because their food safety practices, coupled with government standards, are what make food safe."