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China is Nuts for American Pecans 4/18/2011

China Agriculture- Pecan DemandThe word is out. Chinese consumers have gotten wind of the wonderfully tasting and healthy nut, the pecan. After several segments on Beijing TV and other local TV stations on the health advantages of pecans, Chinese consumers have began to expand their nut repertoire.  And where can they find these fine nuts? America, that’s where. Approximately two-thirds of the world’s pecans are produced in the United States.

Demand for American pecans in China has been so strong, that prices have nearly doubled in the last three years. According to the USDA, the average price of shelled pecans in 2007 was around $1.00/pound and last year, in 2010, prices jumped to nearly $2.25/ pound.

This increase in demand has led to a large shift in American pecan exports. As you can see in the chart, in 2005, total exports were only 30% (China being only 1% of that.) And only four years later, China grew to nearly 30% of our exports, bumping up total exports to more than 50% of domestic production.

And demand is showing no sign of waning. Total production numbers, however, have not yet began to be affected due to the nature of the pecan tree. It takes ten years for a pecan tree to begin producing any sizable amount. And even then, the trees have alternating “on” and “off” years. So as more farmers start to up their acreage of pecan trees, we will have to be patient and shell out for our favorite holiday pies and fruit cakes.

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109th Spring Canton Fair to Begin this Friday 4/11/2011

109th Canton FairHave you finished planning your trip to this year’s Spring Canton Fair yet? The world’s largest international trade show is almost underway. As always, the Import and Export Fair will be held in Guangzhou, the center of China’s trade region China Import and Export Complex. The fair features over 50,000 exhibits spans over two weeks.

Phase I is set to begin this Friday and lasts through Tuesday, April 19th. Products to on exhibition during Phase I are the following:

  • Electronics & Household Electrical Appliances
  • Lighting Equipment
  • Vehicles & Spare Parts
  • Machinery
  • Hardware & Tools
  • Building Materials
  • Chemical Products
  • International Pavilion

Phases II and III will be on the following schedules:

Phase 2: April 23-27, 2011 | 9:30-18:00
* Consumer Goods
* Gifts
* Home Decorations

Phase 3: May 1-5, 2011 | 9:30-18:00
* Textiles & Garments
* Shoes
* Office Supplies, Cases & Bags, and Recreation Products
* Medicines, Medical Devices and Health Products
* Food & Native Produce
* International Pavilion

Additionally, the China International Furniture Fair (CIFF) will be held in conjunction with Phase I and Phase II. Everything from modern home furniture to office and laboratory furniture will be available. Home Furniture will be on display from March 18 to the 21st and office furniture will be available from March 27 to March 30th.

If you haven’t signed up yet, don’t worry there is still time. You need to apply for an “invitation” through the Fair’s website here. Admission is free, but registration typically takes about a week to get your confirmation. Once you receive confirmation, print out the information and take it with you along with a photo ID and a passport photo (or you may take one there).

Spring Canton Fair Location: No. 380, Yuejiang Zhong Road, Guangzhou, China.

Other Canton Fair Posts:

2011 Spring Canton Fair Dates & Information
Spring Canton Fair Update
108th Canton Fair Review
China’s Canton Fair – October 2010

Please do not hesitate to post any questions, comments or advice for future fair adventurers below.

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Food Importers and Manufacturers – New Regulations and Compliance Standards You Should Know About 4/8/2011

food importer regulationsIn January, the Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law and the FDA is currently working its way through the implementation process. Perhaps the most groundbreaking part of this law is the requirement for food producers and manufacturers and processors to verify and certify their suppliers’ food safety processes.

Why start worrying about imported food and ingredients now? Over the last decade, more and more food has become available on America’s shelves and a good amount of it is imported; 15% of food to be exact. Certain foods have much higher percentages; such as 75% of seafood, 20% of vegetables and 50% of all fruits are imported. The FDA however, hasn’t had the bandwidth or the manpower to inspect more than 1 percent of all the imported food in most recent years.

What does this mean for food manufacturers and producers with international supply chains, from say, China? The new law places the responsibility on the business owners to verify and certify that their international suppliers are complying with the standards set by the FDA in the U.S. The goal of the FSMA is to ensure that imported food is just as safe as the food that is produced domestically and will require a great deal of cooperation and partnership from many different countries and agencies.

What is compliance and how do businesses become certified? At this point, the FDA is still creating the guidelines for how to become certified. However, food safety experts have suggested implementing a preventative, risk-based plan like HACCP. Although the FSMA rules will require actions beyond having a solid HACCP plan, it is said to be a great starting point for companies working towards future compliance.

Industry experts also suggest that as companies prepare for compliance, they should undergo a “gap analysis” to locate weaknesses and shortcomings in their food safety plans. With the results from the gap analysis, companies will then be able to address the issues before an FDA inspection, which when paired with a HACCP plan can help expedite the process for compliance.

The FDA must accomplish the following tasks by the indicated dates: (taken from the FDA’s website)

– Preventive Controls for Facilities – June 2012

– Produce Safety Standards – January 2013

Inspection, Compliance & Response

– Rules and Process for Administrative Detention – May 2011

– Recall Authority (May be mandated only by the Commissioner of the FDA or the Secretary for Health and Human Services) – Currently Active

– Suspension of Registration Regulations – May 2011

Imports

– Foreign Supplier Verification Program Guidance – January 2012

– Accredited Third-Party Certification Program – January 2013

– Mandatory Certification for High Risk Foods – Currently Active (but the definition of “high risk foods” is still in development)

The latest update in FSMA:

As the first big accomplishment of the Food Safety Modernization Act,  the FDA has released a user-friendly food recall database. The database is an easier way to allow consumers to access up-to-date information regarding current and past food safety scares. The database provides information sorted by type, such as food, drugs, animal health etc., but can also be searched by date, food type, or brand. If available, the product labels will be posted as well. This new database is one step in the long process of the food safety act’s implementation that will help create better communication between the governmental agencies and consumers.

You can also sign up for daily or weekly updates that deliver the most recent recalls directly to your inbox.

The database can be viewed and searched here: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/default.htm

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China’s 12th Five Year Plan is Formed 4/7/2011

China's five year planLast month, China’s newest Five Year Plan (FYP) was developed at the Annual Sessions of China’s National People’s Congress. At the center of the 12th FYP is possibly their most ambitious energy goal to date. The new plan calls for a reduction of energy intensity by 16 percent over the next five years. As the goal is quite bold, it is possible considering that during the previous FYP, China managed to reduce energy by 20 percent.

Other goals of the FYP include a plan to reduce pollution and reduce China’s dependency on fossil fuels. China is aiming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent and to increase the use of non-fossil fuels from 8 percent (current state) to 11.4 percent in 5 years.

When it comes to implementation, China has decided to encourage development and foreign investment in industries that will increase their ability to move towards these green goals. They will be executing programs to support growth in the high-end manufacturing industries such as clean energy, various service industries and environmental protection.

Of course, there are supporters and opponents of the newest FYP. Supporters of the plan include environmental protection groups and clean energy groups who are encouraged by China’s step towards a greener country. Some opponents say however, that the plan could be too ambitious and that some of the other goals included in the plan may be conflicting with their green initiatives; such as the target to build upwards of 40 new airports over the next five years.

Ambitious or not, achievable or not, changes are on their way for foreign investors and where different incentives will be placed in the upcoming years.

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Interview – Imports and the Food Safety Modernization Act 4/5/2011

We found this very useful FDA interview on the provisions applied to importers under of the Food Safety Modernization Act. David Elder, the Director of Regional Operations from the FDA, covers the steps being taken for implementation.

Interesting Points from the video:

  • 15 percent of food consumed in the United States is imported.
  • Importers must verify that their suppliers are conforming with the FDA’s standards.
  • Import Verification Guidance documents must be published by the FDA by January 2012.
  • The FDA must have an Accreditation System in place by January 2013.
  • Comments from industry professionals will be allowed as new provisions are posted.
  • Products and suppliers that not not pass FDA inspection can be refused entry into the U.S.
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Food Safety Modernization Act : The Breakdown (Part 3 – The Next Steps) 3/24/2011

Food Safety Modernization Act - FDAManufacturers and importers must move forward with this information and start making decisions.

What Next?:

-Any real certifications will most likely not happen for at least 12 months or more… “Implementing this law will require over a dozen separate rulemakings and at least 10 guidance documents. The implementation of the legislation will take more than three years.” Source

-Importers will be in the process of setting up their verification system, but the exact rules and requirements of certification are in progress.

-Businesses in the food industry are urged to start thinking about what this means for them and begin preparing for more strict inspections and regulations.

Q: Why do I need to act now if it will take the FDA a few years to write any new rules?

A: Reviewing your company’s food-safety, record-keeping and product-tracking procedures can lead to performance improvements and innovation. By being in the forefront of efforts to improve food safety and providing credible information to regulators and consumers, companies can not only get a leg up on the competition, but begin marketing their food safety practices to the public.

Within one and a half years, all registered facilities will be required to conduct a hazard analysis, implement preventive controls and develop a food safety plan to document the monitoring, correction, and verification of preventive controls. The food safety plan and all related documents must be made available to FDA during inspections. As part of its food safety plan, a facility may be required to document sanitation procedures, a recall plan, a food allergen control program, supplier verification activities, and environmental sampling testing. Plans such as these take time to create and implement; it is never too early to be safe.

In preparation for the FDA audits, our partner company FactoryAudits.com offers comprehensive Food Safety Assessments that analyze your facilities’ HACCP plan implementation, chemical control processes, pest control processes, sanitation risks and hazards and much more.

Keep checking back with us as we will continue to post about the progression of this Act.

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Food Safety Modernization Act : The Breakdown (Part 2 – The Impact) 3/24/2011

Did you miss Part One?… Food Safety Modernization Act: The Breakdown (Part 1 – The Facts)

Now that we have the background of the law covered, let’s dive into what this means to us and how it can impact our food sources and supply chains.

How will this law make imported food safer?

New authorities under the Act include:

  • Importer Accountability Importers must verify that their foreign suppliers have adequate preventive controls in place to ensure safety.
  • Third Party Certification – The FDA will be able to accredit qualified third party auditors to certify that foreign food facilities are complying with US food safety standards. In preparation for the FDA audits, our partner company FactoryAudits.com offers comprehensive Food Safety Assessments that analyze your facilities’ HACCP plan implementation, chemical control processes, pest control processes, sanitation risks and hazards and much more.
  • High Risk Foods – The FDA now has the authority to require that high-risk imported foods be accompanied by a credible third-party certification as a condition of admission into this country .
  • Additional resources – Foreign inspections will receive additional resources to complete necessary inspections.
  • Food Refusals The FDA now has the authority to refuse entry into the US of a food that has refused or failed U.S. inspection.

What is required to become a certified facility?

  • The FDA is in the process of developing a proposed rule that will establish science-based minimum standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables and will address soil amendments, worker health and hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, water, and other issues.
  • Food facilities will be required to implement a written preventive control plan, provide for the monitoring of the performance of those controls, and specify the corrective actions the facility will take when necessary. Don’t get caught unprepared: these seafood processors were not following the food safety rules and now they are warned and red flagged to clean up their act.

The time line is dated from the date of the enactment (January 2011). The following items are to be completed by the FDA no later than the corresponding times. (According to the law at this point in time.)

FSMA Timeline

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Food Safety Modernization Act : The Breakdown (Part 1 – The Facts) 3/24/2011

food safety modernization actAs the Food Safety Modernization Act starts working its way through the implementation process, I thought it would be most helpful to post a breakdown of the act and what it means to importers and manufacturers of consumable products. As you will see, the Act is very new, but will definitely have a large impact on the regulations of the food industry and hence, the level of  security in our food safety system. Read on for more details.

Note: There are two more parts in this series to come!

S. 510 FDA – Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

Background

  • U.S. consumers enjoy imported foods from more than 150 countries.
  • Previous food safety laws did not provide the FDA with necessary funding/staffing to properly regulate and inspect America’s food supply.
    -Less than two percent of all imported food was inspected in 2010. The latest food safety scare in China involves tainted pork, read the article here.
    -Approximately 600 foreign food facilities were inspected in 2010.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are approximately 76 million foodborne illnesses each year in the U.S.
    -Those illnesses cause more than 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually.
    -Those illnesses also cost the country $152 billion annually.

The Approval of the New FSMA Law: December 2010

  • The 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act passed the Senate and the House last winter and was signed into law by President Obama on December 22, 2010.
  • The new law is considered the biggest change in food safety oversight in 70 years.
  • The two main outcomes of the law are as follows:
    1. The FDA will be allowed to force companies to issue recalls when they suspect food may be contaminated. (Activated Now)
    2. The law greatly increases the FDA’s ability to perform inspections on both foreign and domestic manufacturing facilities.

Food Safety Modernization Act Overview

What are the 5 major elements of the law?

  1. Preventive controls- For the first time, the FDA has a legislative mandate to require comprehensive, prevention-based controls across the food supply.
  2. Inspection and Compliance- The law specifies how often FDA should inspect food producers.  FDA is committed to applying its inspection resources in a risk-based manner and adopting innovative inspection approaches.
  3. Imported Food Safety- For the first time, importers must verify that their foreign suppliers have adequate preventive controls in place to ensure safety, and FDA will be able to accredit qualified third party auditors to certify that foreign food facilities are complying with U.S. food safety standards.
  4. Response- For the first time, the FDA will have mandatory recall authority for all food products.  FDA expects that it will only need to invoke this authority infrequently since the food industry largely honors the requests for voluntary recalls.
  5. Enhanced Partnerships- The legislation recognizes the importance of strengthening existing collaboration among all food safety agencies—U.S. federal, state, local, territorial, tribal and foreign–to achieve our public health goals.

FSMA By the Numbers

Cost: $1.4 Billion – over next 4 years

Necessary Staffing: Over the next 4 years, the FDA will be hiring 2,000 new inspectors.

Inspection Schedule: The bill requires the inspection of 50,000 foreign and domestic food production facilities by 2015.

  • Inspections are to be completed by either the FDA or state, federal or local agencies acting on the FDA’s behalf.
  • Projected Foreign Facility Inspection Breakdown by Year:
    2011
    : 600 inspections
    2012
    : 1200 inspections
    2013
    : 2400 inspections
    2014
    : 4800 inspections
    2015
    : 9600 inspections

For your reference, you can read the full text of the act here.

Read part two of the series: Food Safety Modernization Act: The Breakdown (Part 2 – The Impact)

and part 3 of the series: Food Safety Modernization Act: The Breakdown (Part 3 – The Next Steps)

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