California green leaf grower-shippers are optimistic that Canada is easing restrictions on their product later this year.
Last October, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) put in place temporary importation measures to prevent contaminated food from entering the market.
The CFIA requires that importers provide either proof that the romaine lettuce intended for import into Canada does not come from the counties of the Salinas Valley, or an official certificate of analysis from an accredited laboratory confirming that the lettuce has lower than detectable levels of E. coli.
At the beginning of July, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Board BB #: 210653 voted to impose pre-harvest testing for leafy greens grown in fields where high risk factors are present.
The LGMA Food Safety Program will now require members to assess each of their areas to determine if there are certain risks such as proximity to animal operations. For fields that meet these criteria, LGMA members will be required to take product samples and test them to determine if pathogens are present.
LGMA CEO Tim York told a United Fresh webinar on July 27 that LGMA is working with CFIA and is considering LGMA’s new pre-harvest testing requirement as a condition for the importation of lettuce and leafy greens into Canada.
The LGMA said this could offer an alternative to the end-product testing requirement issued last year, which was extremely onerous.
York said LGMA expects final CFIA romaine import requirements to be communicated by late August or early September 2021, and then he hopes retail and catering in the United States will follow this example.