Food and Product Safety
The rapid growth in imported food combined with current trade pact rules prioritizing expansion of food trade volumes by limiting countries' food safety policies means that U.S. consumers are increasingly being forced to rely on foreign governments to regulate the safety of foods sold and consumed here. Unfortunately, recent experience has highlighted that many foreign regulatory systems are simply not up to the task. Thus, relying on foreign governments and their food safety systems to protect Americans' health is a recipe for disaster.
Americans expect the food they eat meets U.S. safety standards. One particularly dangerous trade agreement limitation on food safety involves obligations related to "equivalence" - the requirement that countries may no longer require imported food to actually meet their domestic standards. Under current U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) equivalence policy some imported meat and poultry fails to meet U.S. standards. USDA has found equivalence and sought to force U.S. consumers to rely on the food safety systems of countries known for widespread and deadly safety failures. Changes are needed to the relevant U.S. laws and regulations implementing trade pact food safety-related policies, notably including meat and poultry equivalence policy.
As President Obama begins developing new food safety plans, proposed trade pacts pending before Congress would replicate and lock in limits on the U.S. government's ability to ensure imported food safety. Included in pending "Free Trade Agreements" (FTAs) with Panama, Colombia and South Korea are limits on what safety standards the United States can require for imported foods and how much inspection is permitted. U.S. laws that extend beyond the FTAs' limits that have the effect of limiting access of imported food to the U.S. market are subject to challenge as "illegal trade barriers" before foreign trade tribunals.
Also, check out our coverage on this issue on our blog, Eyes on Trade.
Other Import Safety-Related Issues