Business View Article on FBC's Mission to SE Asia
Scrutiny is about to get Stiffer at Border Points'
By Fred O. Williams
NEWS BUSINESS REPORTER
Deadly chemicals in pet food. Anti-freeze in toothpaste. Forbidden antibiotics in shrimp.
Amid a rash of threats from imported food — especially from China — two top federal officials toured Buffalo on Tuesday and said that scrutiny at border entry points is about to get stiffer. But they didn’t promise easy answers.
“We can’t inspect everything or we would slow the American economy to a standstill,” Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said during a press conference at the Peace Bridge.
Buffalo is a doorway for food and drugs not only from Canada, but also shipped through Canada from around the world, he said.
“We are protecting America’s food supply . . . but the volume of imports is increasing dramatically,” U.S. Food and Drug Commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach said.
About 5,000 people die from food hazards a year and 325,000 are hospitalized, according to federal figures quoted in recent testimony before Congress. Only 1 percent of seafood, produce, grain and animal food entering the U.S. is inspected, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
“It is frankly surprising that the catastrophes like the recent pet food contamination haven’t happened more often,” Caroline Smith DeWaal, the center’s director of food safety, testified last month before Congress.
Domestic food is to blame as well as imports. Chili sauce and other products made by Castleberry are currently subject to a widespread recall because of potentially fatal botulism contamination. Domestically produced lettuce and peanut butter have also been the subject of recalls recently, DeWaal said.
Leavitt said that safer imports could mean more screening of vendors, higher-tech scanning systems and better oversight by importing business. It might also mean more inspectors — something that would affect border cities like Buffalo, where the FDA has a staff of 14 overseeing imports.
However, Leavitt wasn’t keen on inspections as a cureall. “We will never inspect our way to safety and quality,” he said. Some Democrats say the administration isn’t trying hard enough.
Michigan congressman John Dingell has drafted a bill to expand FDA’s testing labs and halt its plan to consolidate offices. The hubbub over tainted imports has brought attention to the split responsibility for food safety, shared chiefly by the FDA and the Agriculture Department. The agencies set different enforcement standards for the foods under their jurisdiction.
The $134 million, Agri-Opportunities Program, announced in January 2007, is a five-year program that aims to accelerate the commercialization of agricultural products, processes or services that are currently not produced or commercially available in Canada, and are ready to be introduced to the marketplace. Agri-Opportunities is delivered nationally by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Funding is provided to projects that focus on new agri-food, agriculture or bioproducts, and that can be expected to increase market opportunities for the Canadian agricultural industry across the value chain and generate demand for primary agricultural products produced in Canada.
The Agri-Opportunities Program provides a maximum repayable contribution of $10 million per project and per recipient regardless of the number of projects, over the life of the program, ending in March 2011.
For more information on the Agri-Opportunities Program, or to access a program application form and instructions, please E-mail: Agriemail@example.com , or call 1-866-367-8506 or visit the Agri-Opportunities website: www.agr.gc.ca/agri-opportunities
Important Notice on International Sanctions - Belarus
On December 18, 2006 the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Honourable David Emerson, Minister of International Trade announced that Canada had placed Belarus on the Area Control List as a response to the lack of progress on human rights and democratic development in Belarus.
As a result, all exports from Canada to Belarus will require an export permit issued under the authority of the Export and Import Permits Act. All permit applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Failure to possess the required export permit could result in prosecution and conviction under the same Act. For further information, please contact Blair Hynes (613 944-0558), of the Export Controls Division at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or visit http://www.exportcontrols.gc.ca.
Gearing up for the next generation of agriculture and agri-food policy
The Canadian agriculture and agri-food industry is an integral part of the Canadian economy and an important contributor to the social fabric of Canada. The sector faces a variety of opportunities and pressures in a rapidly evolving world. Together with government, the agriculture and agri-food sector will be seeking out new directions for future success.
In 2003, the federal, provincial and territorial governments implemented the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF) to position Canada as the world leader in food safety and quality, innovation and environmentally responsible agriculture production. Many elements of the APF expire in 2008. Meanwhile, a number of new economic opportunities are emerging, such as economic growth in markets like China, Brazil and India, the growing bio-based fuels industry and the increase in health awareness among Canadians and global consumers.
The time to build the next generation of agriculture and agri-food policy is now.
All Canadians will have the opportunity to participate in national consultation sessions in January and February 2007. The purpose is to spark public debate on the future of the agriculture and agri-food sector in Canada.
Beginning January, Canadians can participate in the consultations:
- Via AAFC Online: www.agr.gc.ca/nextgen.
- By mailing responses to AAFC.
- By attending a consultation event.
A full suite of materials including a discussion paper, guiding principles and economic backgrounders have been developed to help stimulate discussion and debate with industry and Canadians during the cross-country consultations. More details about the public consultations will be made available in the near future.
For information on how to participate in building the next generation of agriculture and agri-food policy, contact your provincial or territorial agriculture office, call 1 800 O-CANADA (1 800 622-6232), TTY 1 800 926-9105, or visit www.agr.gc.ca/nextgen
Air Travel to the U.S. - New Passport Requirement
As of January 9, 2007, the United States will require Canadian citizens traveling by air to the U.S. to present one of the following documents:
- A valid Canadian passport;
- A valid U.S. Merchant Mariner document;
- A NEXUS Air card when used at a NEXUS Air kiosk; or
- A North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) identification card, when accompanied by current NATO orders.
Canadians entering or transiting the United States by air without appropriate documentation will be prevented from boarding their flight; delays and unexpected financial expenses may also be imposed. Before leaving Canada, Canadians should arrange to obtain the appropriate required documentation.
Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) is proposing legislation (November 2006) regarding the following information:
- The establishment of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for two pesticides, Boscalid and Flubendiamide, in food items including certain horticultural products, oilseeds (soybeans), and certain animal products;
- The establishment of MRLs for Ofloxacin, a synthetic antibacterial, in food items including poultry meat, poultry fat, poultry liver, poultry kidney, and other edible poultry parts;
- The de-listing of 42 food additives from Japan’s List of Existing Food Additives (note that some of these items are classified as food ingredients under Canadian classification); and
- The designation of several new food additives