The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its regulatory counterparts in Mexico – the Federal Commission for the Protection from Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) and the National Service of Agro-Alimentary Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA) held the second annual Food Safety Partnership (FSP) Meeting as part of ongoing efforts to help ensure the safety of food imported from Mexico and to advance protections for consumers in both countries.
"We are building on the longstanding partnership for the U.S. and Mexico to work together to contain outbreaks of foodborne illness and lessen consumer exposure to foodborne hazards. As we approach the 200th anniversary of U.S.-Mexico relations, keeping this partnership strong is more important than ever," said Frank Yiannas, the FDA's deputy commissioner for food policy and response. "Our food supply is global, and no single country can achieve its food safety goals alone. Our shared goal is to proactively use modern technologies, tools and approaches to help protect the global food supply."
Mexico is a primary supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables to the U.S. FDA data shows that about one-third of all agency-regulated human food imported into the U.S. is from Mexico, including 60% of our fresh produce imports. This year, the FDA, SENASICA and COFEPRIS convened in Mexico City to complete several tasks that included: visiting a farm to implement food safety practices, including traceability, and to observe unique growing and harvesting practices; meeting with industry to learn more about their food safety efforts and to discuss collaborations, and lastly; holding the Annual FSP Meeting.
During this year's meeting, the agencies reported tangible progress in each workgroup and discussed plans for the coming year to further food safety in both countries. Reported progress and outcomes included:
- Exchanging key information and plans that guided efforts to address a 2021 Salmonella outbreak, which was linked to bulb onions from the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. The three agencies collaborated to share information on their respective onion plans to guide response and prevention efforts such as: SENASICA's mobile laboratory for assessing field samples from inspections; the FDA's Foreign Supplier Verification inspections for onion importers; and, hosting technical meetings with Mexican onion growers and packers to learn more about their production practices. The FDA and SENASICA also collaborated with the papaya industry on the verification of the papaya checklist, a tool to further encourage the adoption of food safety best practices for papaya.
- Discussing progress on the implementation of FDA's Cyclospora methodology distance training plan based on the BAM Chapter 19b method for detecting Cyclospora cayetanensis in produce samples for SENASICA and COFEPRIS. Competency in the methodology will expand international capacity for detecting Cyclospora cayetanensis.
- Establishing a new commitment for Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) where SENASICA and the FDA have committed to a data sharing agreement to upload 100 sequences (food and environmental) to the GenomeTrakr network. This is an important contribution to the GenomeTrakr network and allows both countries to identify and respond to outbreaks faster and with more precision, helping to mitigate the number of consumers impacted.
- Establishing revised Binational Outbreak Notification Protocol to improve timely and effective communication by: sharing WGS data, including a reference to the laboratory methodology for detection, and using the FDA CORE Investigation Table to share publicly available epidemiologic information. As a next step, the FDA, SENASICA and COFEPRIS are working on a new model for conducting inspections involving participation by all three regulatory agencies where a food safety issue is suspected.
Additionally, during this year's meeting, the FDA, SENASICA and COFEPRIS reviewed Produce Safety Rule (PSR) trainings they had facilitated, including those with cilantro growers in Puebla, avocado growers in Jalisco and bulb onion growers in Chihuahua. The three agencies also worked with EMEX, a mango association, to conduct three PSR trainings for mango producers in Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco. The FDA also provided outreach to SENASICA and COFEPRIS personnel about the FDA's proposed Agricultural Water rule: Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption Relating to Agricultural Water.
"Within the framework of the celebration of 200 years of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United States, we are honored to be FDA partners," said Francisco Javier Trujillo Arriaga, director in chief of Senasica. "We know the importance of what is at stake, and we are convinced that the success stories we have had with producers and marketers of different types will generalize to other environments."
The FDA, SENASICA and COFEPRIS will continue to work closely together to support training for food producers, preventing and responding to foodborne illness outbreaks, and developing and implementing plans to enhance food safety for mutual public health.
"In this annual meeting, various activities were carried out that have contributed to a better understanding of the safety systems of both countries," said federal commissioner for Cofepris, Alejandro Svarch Pérez. "In addition, they highlighted that they have allowed for a greater rapprochement between the main actors in the food production chain, with the aim of coordinating efforts and taking advantage of the experience and knowledge available."