U.S. mango importers feeling impact of regulations - FreshFruitPortal.com

U.S. mango importers feeling impact of regulations

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U.S. mango importers feeling impact of regulations

August’s voluntary recall of Daniella brand mangoes has meant a crackdown for imports into the U.S. and an industry under serious self evaluation.

Produce Marketing Association (PMA) chief science and technology officer Bob Whitaker, spoke with the National Mango Board (NMB) in a webinar on Thursday about the new challenges facing importers and the importance of food safety.

“We don’t have any kill steps in produce that are 100% foolproof. So we have to build a number of steps or hurdles along the way. And that’s what these risk management practices are,” Whitaker told the group.

“But the only way to do [minimize risk] is to become engaged, if you take responsibility for the food. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Audits and standards and guidance and things of that nature are not food safety programs. They only become food safety programs when you use them.”

Risk management and safety have become particularly important in the last few months, sparked by contaminated Mexican mangoes that caused 127 Salmonella Braenderup cases in 15 states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Vision Import Group’s vice president of sales Ronnie Cohen reflected Whitakers sentiment on the value of importer self awareness.

“I think people are more conscious of it and the procedure, we’re analyzing it as an industry at the moment and we’re trying to see what we’ve been doing in the past and what we can find out, what we can do to make improvements,” Cohen told www.freshfruitportal.com.

“The mango industry in general, we’re going to take the lead for our products. It’s self preservation at the end of the day."

In the meantime, entry to the U.S. has been a mixed bag.

Greg Golden of Amazon Produce said that the mango’s higher risk status has created a serious blow to product value.

“We’ve had challenges ever since the mango recall and mangoes were put on a high alert. There has been an increase in sampling by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration], so we’ve had containers most weeks put on FDA hold for sampling,” Golden said.

Previously, Golden said the company would have one or no shipments put on hold for an entire season.

When shipments are taken for inspection, they can be held for up to 13 days, he explained, creating a big risk for the perishable cargo.

“The range [of loss] has been from nothing to US$50,000. We’ve have some loads that have been put on hold and held for a week where the product held up very well, the market held up and it was all sold and we didn’t really see any change,” Golden said.

“But there’s been other instances, for example, for really high dollar products like Ataulfo mangoes, where you’re looking at a shipment of like 5,280 boxes with an average value of about US$10 a box be completely destroyed. There’s a huge range of value that can be destroyed.”

To cut risks, Golden said the company has completely revamped its vendor qualification program, requiring letters of guarantee and full audits from each one.

Whitaker explained that when the Food and Drug Administration takes a product for inspection, they can look for basically anything they want but will generally screen for unauthorized pesticides.

There is currently no set check list to meet the new Food Safety Modernization Act, although rules are expected from Congress in the first part of 2013.

Whitaker recommended that importers prepare themselves by knowing suppliers and using available tools like food safety and sanitation programs.

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