All romaine products — and salad blends not containing romaine — exported to Canada face new standards in the wake of new labeling in the U.S.
Romaine from California exported to Canada will be referred to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, that country’s counterpart to the Food and Drug Administration. All romaine products from California and other regions of the U.S. must be “accompanied by a letterhead, on a separate page, showing a Proof of Origin signed by the exporter declaring the municipality, county and the state” where the romaine was harvested, according the CFIA.
The rules come as U.S. and Canadian health agencies are investigating 43 cases in the U.S. and 24 in Canada of E. coli that’s been linked to romaine grown in six California counties.
The United Fresh Produce Association, which received information about the new rules from the Canadian Produce Marketing Association on Dec. 2, posted the new Canadian import rules on its romaine lettuce information web page.
As U.S. shippers rush to fill orders for retailers, foodservice operator and others, the CFIA cautions that the new rules will cause an increased workload on the Canadian side, and shipments could experience delays.
“We encourage brokers and importers to submit their transactions in advance,” according to the CFIA rules.
The new protocols have been integrated into the CFIA’s Automated Import Reference System. The CPMA has updated its Automated Import Reference System page.
The U.S. leafy greens industry, in an agreement forged with the FDA and industry trade association, agreed on Nov. 26 to label romaine products with the growing region and harvest date on individual packs and cartons, and retailers have been asked to include that information on bulk displays.
The new labels were announced as part of an FDA agreement to allow romaine to be sold again, after a Nov. 20 advisory from FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pulled all romaine products from the commerce stream.
Lettuce blends that do not contain romaine, if exported to Canada, must also be accompanied by a letter proclaiming, “Does not contain romaine lettuce.”
The FDA is focusing on Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura counties in California, but on Nov. 30 issued an update that said “additional counties may be added or removed as the FDA romaine investigation progresses.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was also asking for new labels with growing region and harvest date information. While the U.S. is requesting these details be included on packaging, Canada is not.