Every day, in most countries of the world, food products are refused entry - often because of paperwork, food safety and adulteration issues. These refusals generate costs and time delays for food producers and others in the value chain - but they can be avoided, with expert help.
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SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. Its global network of locally-based food experts can provide the assistance required, overcoming language barriers and the complexity of the inbound government’s systems.
The Codex Alimentarius, or "Food Code”, is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice - including maximum residue limits (MRLs) for additives, veterinary drugs and pesticides. Designed to ensure that food is safe and can be traded, the Code still hasn’t solved the fundamental problem of harmonization,
with country-specific regulations and industry issues continuing to create ongoing problems.
Reporting on Import Refusals
Some countries publish details of all refusals and issues. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) publishes a database with its import refusal reports.1 From May 2017, importers will be encouraged to refer to this information and assess the risk of a product being imported into the US from a given location, as required by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
However, due to the complexity of the global market, this database does not necessarily list a food product’s country of origin, but includes the country of the US FDA registered company that shipped the item. For example, most of the refusals into the US from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since 2014 have been because rice (basmati and plain white) had pesticide residues that were not in compliance with US MRLs. Since the UAE is not considered the world’s leading producer of rice, and many of the UAE listings are for trading companies, it’s safe to assume that this rice is coming from other locations.
US FDA refusals for Vibrio since the beginning of 2014 show that only one item, shelled coconut, has been refused. This issue was first noted for products arriving from or through India, but there have been subsequent refusals of goods from the Philippines and Vietnam. This process establishes the principle that those importing shelled coconut into the US should test it for Vibrio before shipping.
For the contaminant nitrofurans, the US FDA refusal information indicates that shrimp, prawns and crabs are the primary products refused because of contamination, or suspected contamination. Occasionally, some farm raised fish or frog legs are also found to be contaminated. Most nitrofurans contamination occurs in Asia, the base for the majority of the top ten suppliers of farm raised shrimp and prawns to the US.
On April 18, 2016 the US FDA issued Import Alert 16-136 2 placing all shrimp and prawns on automatic detention. This was due to the incidence of shrimp and prawn contamination with nitrofurans and chloramphenicol in Malaysia becoming so common. The US FDA tested 138 shrimp shipments, 32% of which was contaminated with one of these veterinary drugs.
Australia and elsewhere
In January, 2017, Australia announced that food product labeling amounts to 75% of refusals.3 The government identified issues relating to nutrition information, importer details, ingredients and country of origin.
Under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme (IFIS), the government performed 17,464 labeling assessments during the first half of 2016 - and found 366 non-compliance issues, including date marking.
All of these issues can be simply resolved by the appointment of a trusted third-party that understands the company’s labels and the rules of the destination market. The third-party can ensure compliance even before the label is printed and attached to the product. This prevents rejection by the receiving country and saves the exporter time and money.
As in many other countries, Australia publishes these import notices4 in an effort to resolve issues before shipments take place. The European Union (EU) has repeatedly rejected Nigerian snacks and foodstuffs because of 5 contamination. The reason appears to be that the countries and companies involved do not have a clear knowledge or understanding of the EU requirements. In addition, the governments of the exporting nations do not have the resources or infrastructure needed to prevent the shipment of contaminated products. This shows that as countries and companies expand globally, they need additional support and expertise to ensure regulatory compliance as well as easy access to new markets.
Private Sector Support
While support may come from governments, the private sector is also there to help. Companies such as SGS specialize in helping customers export from one country to another. The services can range from completing the right paperwork through to testing, verification and compliance.
For food products, a global trade standard such as the Codex Alimentarius is the best way to determine testing parameters. Any location-specific requirements that exceed or differ from this standard can then be added, with compliance usually verified by an audit.
Many countries’ programs require Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) compliance for a food facility. Additional requirements such as preventive control, as noted in the FSMA and in the Safe Food for Canadians Act, require more intensive procedures. These include monitoring systems in food production and handling facilities, and may also encompass raw and finished goods material traceability.
For the complete range of SGS food safety services, visit www.foodsafety.sgs.com.
For further information contact:
Global Food Inspection Technical Manager
SGS North America
SGS is a leading independent third-party service provider offering efficient solutions to help safeguard quality, safety and sustainability throughout all stages of the global food supply chain. SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company and recognised as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 90,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 2,000 offices and laboratories around the world.