Food safety is a huge concern throughout the world, particularly as global supply chains mean that food consumed in North America could come from ingredients and materials obtained from just about any country or region.

Despite today’s advances in food safety, more than 600 million people become sick, and 420,000 die each year due to foodborne illnesses, according to the WHO. This results in estimated losses of more than $110 billion. In addition, such issues are more prevalent in middle-to-low income countries.

In this blog from ImEPIK, we’ll examine a few international efforts to protect consumers from foodborne illness and improve the overall safety of the worldwide food supply chain.

Understanding Food Safety Systems in North America – U.S., Canada, and Mexico

North America is widely considered to have some of the most advanced, strict, and effective food safety systems in place. But despite this, there is always a risk of foodborne illnesses, which must be taken seriously by North American regulators and food manufacturers.

The primary regulators in North America are the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Mexican Commission for the Protection from Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS), and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

These three agencies work closely together to develop similar regulations and ensure that food crossing between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada borders is safe for consumption by citizens in these countries.

This coordination is essential for the U.S. and Mexico since about one-third of food imported into the U.S. is made in Mexico, and nearly 60% of all produce sold in the U.S. comes from Mexico.

This is why the FDA and COFEPRIS announced a recent partnership to work more closely to safeguard the quality and safety of all human food imported and exported from the U.S. and Mexico.

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How Does the U.S. Ensure the Safety of Imported Food?

Wondering what mechanisms are in place to ensure that food imported into the United States is safe to eat? The FDA uses two primary methods to ensure food safety.

  • Systems recognition – In this method, the FDA evaluates a foreign country’s food safety system and determines whether it achieves food safety outcomes that are “comparable” to those of the FDA.
  • Equivalence – This is a similar but distinct method of ensuring food safety. In this method, the foreign country does not need to adopt the same techniques and food safety controls of the FDA – but must demonstrate that their food safety controls are “equivalent” and provide the same level of public health protection as safety measures in the U.S.

Understanding Food Safety Around the World – The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC)

Food safety isn’t just important in the United States and North America – it’s critical worldwide. As mentioned, foodborne illnesses are much more common in low-to-medium income countries.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) was founded in 1963 as part of a joint effort by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Today, the CAC is the leading global reference body for food producers, consumers, food safety agencies, and international food trade. It includes a total of:

  • 188 member countries
  • One member organization (the EU) and 229 observer organizations, including both non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations
  • 16 UN agencies

The CAC has raised awareness of food safety concepts in member countries, encouraged new food safety legislation, and has developed Codex-based standards to help food agencies establish, strengthen, and monitor compliance with food safety regulations.

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Keep Consumers Safe and Protect Your Reputation With ImEPIK

In April 2019, the WTO, FAO, and WHO issued a joint statement that emphasized the need to “constantly evolve food standards and regulations” due to changes in production, consumer demand, and rapid scientific developments.

If you work in food production, ImEPIK is here to help you adapt to today’s food safety standards and provide you with the tools you and your team need to prepare for future food safety regulations. Contact us online to learn more about our food safety classes and training and get the tools you need to create safe, healthy, and high-quality food products.