New Zealand this week became the first country in the world to sign an agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that recognises each other’s food safety systems as providing a comparable degree of food safety assurance.
Meat exporters will welcome the move, which will enable
streamlining of product to the market – New Zealand’s top destination for beef, fifth largest for venison and fourth largest for lamb – through the reduction of red tape and costs.
The Food Safety Systems Recognition Arrangement was signed at a meeting in Washington DC by delegations from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and FDA.
“This is momentous for MPI as it is the first time the FDA has recognised another country’s food safety system as comparable to its own,” says MPI deputy director-general standards, Carol Barnao.
“The arrangement with New Zealand is part of an overall strategy for strengthening the global food safety net through closer collaboration with regulators around the world, highlighted in FDA’s report Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality,” FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Food Michael R Taylor says.
Carole Barnao says both countries have done a huge amount of work ahead of this week’s signing.
“This process has included a comprehensive review of each country’s relevant laws and regulations, inspection programmes, response to food-related illness and outbreaks, compliance and enforcement and laboratory support.
“In one calendar year, FDA and New Zealand officials spent an intensive period of time together including visiting production plants, cold-store facilities, verifiers and accreditation authorities looking at the effectiveness of how each other’s preventative controls and verification systems worked.”
Barnao explains that both countries intend to use the agreement to lessen the potential regulatory burden for foods traded between the countries by removing unnecessary duplication of activities.
The agreement covers all foods and animal feeds regulated by the FDA, which equates to $1.5 billion of New Zealand’s current exports of primary products.
“Systems recognition agreements are very important for MPI to help us achieve one of our key strategic goals of maximising export opportunities through other countries’ recognition of the credibility of our food safety controls,” Barnao says.