Canada imposes new import measures for romaine lettuce from U.S.

The announcement, made on Friday, may have taken some people by surprise, however, the CFIA plays a critical role in safeguarding a healthy food supply system so that foods Canadians eat are safe, while facilitating the trade of food and food products internationally.

According to CTV News Canada, the CFIA will require that all importers provide proof that romaine lettuce destined for Canada did not originate in California’s Salinas Valley growing region or present an official certificate of analysis from an approved lab to show the lettuce has “below-detectable” levels of E. coli.

The new requirements go into effect on October 7. 2020, and will apply to all romaine lettuce as well as mixed salads containing romaine being imported into Canada, and will remain in effect until December 31, 2020.

From 2016 through 2019, food safety investigations by Canadian and US authorities identified the Salinas Valley growing region of California as a recurring source of the outbreaks. CFIA says there are seven documented outbreaks of illnesses associated with romaine lettuce in Canada and 16 recalls of the leafy vegetable between 2010 and 2019.

This is why the CFIA is introducing temporary measures this fall aimed at preventing contaminated food from entering the marketplace. Plus, the CFIA has been working closely and collaboratively with the FDA in tracking and responding to outbreaks.

A bunch of romaine lettuce

A bunch of romaine lettuce


According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), E. coli O157:H7 found at several farms in the Salinas Valley were identified as being the source of the bacterial contamination in three outbreaks in 2019.

“These findings,” writes the FDA in the report, “together with the findings from earlier leafy greens outbreaks dating back to 2013, suggest that a potential contributing factor has been the proximity of cattle—a persistent source of E. coli O157:H7 and other Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) —to the produce fields identified in traceback investigations.”

Serious concerns over new regulations

The CFIA’s plan caught the industry by surprise, said Jane Proctor, vice president of policy and issue management for the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA), reports The Packer. She said that as of October 1, the CFIA and Health Canada remain committed to an Oct. 5 implementation of the measures.

CPMA and the other stakeholder organizations were caught completely off guard by the announcement on Sept. 28 and the subsequent discussions with CFIA, Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada,” Proctor said in an e-mail. She also notes that the new measures are not in response to any outbreak of E. coli at this time.

“While we recognize and share government’s commitment to ensuring the safety of Canada’s food supply, these measures were developed without consultation, are not achievable in the time frame provided, and are resulting in significant impacts on Canadian industry and consumers and, of course, on the entire romaine growing community in the affected U.S. counties,” Proctor said.

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