Focus on food safety could cause delays, expenses

06/20/2012 03:34:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Several changes scheduled for later this year could affect the Peruvian citrus deal.

“The industry continues to focus on food safety,” said Mark Greenberg, president of Fisher Capespan, St. Laurent, Quebec.

At the company level, producers are registered and certified by one of many good agricultural practices and material handling certifying bodies. Traceability continues to be important as well.

“We want to keep the integrity of the products we sell, so it’s a continuous effort to have the best certifications,” Greenberg said.

Nelly Yunta, vice president of U.S. imports, customs brokerage and consulting for Customized Brokers, a Miami-based Crowley Maritime company, reported that beginning in October, companies will need to re-register with the FDA.

“In the past, exporters were registered with an FDA number and have had that registration for years. Now we’ll need to re-register and probably get a new number,” Yunta said.

The new system will require companies to complete the registration process each year in an attempt to keep better records of who is doing business.

“They want to have better control over the foreign facilities. They’re also planning to travel and make inspections,” she said.

“They want to have 500 inspections by 2014, compared to maybe 300 now.”

This could cause the FDA to need to triple the number of inspectors they have on staff, Yunta said.

Customized Brokers said they are ready to deal with the adjustments.

“We’ll keep our customers informed on our website and make sure they are up to date on the current requirements,” she said.

These changes should help ensure safety for consumers and help monitor moving product, without additional cost to growers.

The only thing that should affect companies will be the additional administrative steps to reapply for registration, and any reinspection fees if issues are found.

“If the FDA inspects a company and finds something, they’ll come back in two months or so to check again, and they’ll bill for that reinspection,” Yunta said.

Kim Flores, marketing manager for Seald Sweet International, Vero Beach, Fla., said the ruling isn’t scheduled to be released for produce until February 2013.

“At the present time the general focus is on high-risk industries such as meats, poultry and processed foods,” Flores said.

Centralized inspections

Greenberg says a new agriculture inspection system in New York and New Jersey could cause growers to face some additional challenges.

“It’s the growers that will suffer, I think,” he said.

The ports in New York and New Jersey currently have many facilities on the Hudson River, causing U.S. Department of Agriculture officials and staff to travel from place to place for various shipments at different locations.

“The staff was running around from terminal to terminal and costing a lot of money,” Greenberg said.

This new system puts all the fruit in one place, which Greenberg said has pros and cons.

“It’s good because it will centralize everything and allow things to work more efficiently,” he said.

However, the produce will have to be moved to those designated locations and wait there for inspection, which could cause delays.

“It has the potential to add cost to growers, which can be hard for them to sustain,” Greenberg said.

Estuardo Masias, co-owner and chief executive officer of La Calera, Chincha, Peru, said the new system creates a big bottleneck problem for all the company’s cargo.

“We just scrapped New York ports out of our destinations for now, and have asked the Peruvian government to intervene,” Masias said.

The changes are set to take place this year, Greenberg said, and he said his company is interested to see how it will work out.

“It’s an awful lot of citrus that goes through there. It could be quite a mess. It’s something our operations staff isn’t happy about, but we’ll manage and comply with the law,” he said.



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