Grocery Manufacturers Association recommends a blend of US-EU food standards

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) just endorsed a new bill in Congress aimed at Agricultural Trade Facilitation – that is, lowering barriers to US agricultural exports. Pamela G. Bailey, GMA president and CEO, calls it an “important bill that will help foster trade agreements that provide US agricultural products greater access to overseas markets.”

She adds: “The U.S. exports $107 billion in agriculture products annually; almost 40% of which are high-value packaged foods. However, too often these exports are restricted by non-tariff trade measures that are not science based or transparent.”

The GMA is a leading advocate for leveling non-tariff barriers to US food exports. Most recently, the trade group filed a letter in response to the International Trade Administration’s request for comment that identifies areas of US and EU regulation that now diverge and so impede trade flows.

Here’s a prime example: Prohibitions on beef treated with growth hormones and the use of antimicrobial agents for poultry washes have been challenged by the US (and those challenges have been upheld by the WTO) but remain in place. The GMA recommends that the US Department of Agriculture and the EU open a dialogue aimed at eliminating these and similar Export Verification requirements and recognizing the safety of US meat products.

The GMA offers other agenda items for a proposed US-EU Regulatory Cooperation Council that would harmonize US-EU regulations.

Regarding the Food Safety Modernization Act, the GMA urges quick US recognition of inspection reports from trading partners (such as the EU) with food safety systems on a par with the Food and Drug Administration, a cooperative effort to identify accredited reference labs equipped to do the necessary testing and analysis, and continued collaboration on initiatives (the Global Food Safety Initiative is offered as a model) to benchmark the third-party audit systems FSMA requires.

In the areas of nano- and biotechnology, GMA recognizes the EU’s entrenched insistence on a “slow and burdensome approval process as well as mandatory requirements for labeling and traceability” for biotech products – but still encourages discussion in the hope of flexibility on, for example, tolerance of trace GMO levels within products intended to be of non-GMO origin. The GMA also expresses the hope that nanotech products will not have to overcome barriers encountered by biotech products thanks to the development of science-based, harmonized regulatory standards.

The GMA suggests that current certification requirements for dairy products intended for the EU market might give way to an agreement that US grade A milk meets EU standards.

The GMA also urges the US to engage with the EU on its just-begun process (very like the REACH process for chemicals) of creating a list of approved flavoring substances and food additives. [The GMA has launched a database on regulatory requirements for additives. See Fresh Resource for Food Exporters.]

You’ll find the GMA comment – as well as 33 other comments – under “public submissions” in the online docket folder (Docket ID: ITA-2011-0006).

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