The US imports about 15% of its food supply. According to the USDA “over 95 percent of coffee/cocoa/spices and fish/shellfish products consumed in the United States are imported, as are about half of fresh fruits and fruit juices and almost a third of wine and sugar.” The EU imported 93 million tons of food in 2016 from outside its borders. The EU Member States imported mainly fruit and vegetables, fish and coffee, tea, cocoa and spices from third world countries. Business Insider analysts note that 50% of the food available in the UK is imported. When ingredients used for the production of processed foods in the UK is included the figure is over 80%. The Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, consisting of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE are on average importing 90% of their food products from other countries.
Each country is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety and proper labeling of all domestic and imported food is compliant. Based on national laws they each publish regulations and guidance regarding food labeling requirements. The misbranding of food includes labeling that is false, misleading, or deceptive and ensures that manufacturers are accountable and transparent. The rules for what must be included on a packaged product’s label; what can, under certain circumstances, be included; and what cannot be included are lengthy. There are an array of exceptions, nuances and stipulations that govern hundreds of incredibly specific situations.
The 2019 EU RASF Report listed 46.6% of import rejections for mislabelling. Food Safety starts with the label. In the 2005-2013 FDA Report misbranding accounted for 41% of import food rejections. The philosophy has been; if they cannot get the label right, the food probably isn’t safe, and the product isn’t even tested for food safety but simply discarded. While teaching at the University of Notre Dame in Lebanon I heard stories of small companies that had their first shipments completely lost and they had also paid fines for destroying their products. Not because the food was tainted but because of mislabeling, including the lack of a street address and zip code for the company listed which does not exist in Lebanon. I had to find US international postal codes for them to use.
I have been working with small companies in Latin America and the Middle East, looking at their products and helping to create FSMA compliant labels including the necessary nutrient component. During the COVID-19 lockdown I have continued to work on F2F projects in Lebanon.
I would like to congratulate Yogi Super Foods from Guatemala in having his raw chocolate bars now available at Amazon. It was a pleasure working with the owner, Marco Barbi, and his team to create the compliant labels through a Partners of the Americas project. I look forward to seeing more of his products available soon.
Working with LandO’Lakes Venture37 I met Fadi Aziz founder of The Good Thymes, of Lebanon. We worked on incorporating compliant FSMA nutritional labeling for exporting to the US. The Good Thyme shipped his first order to the US recently and his products are available now in Dearborn, MI. Congratulations on your success!
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If it isn’t safe, it isn’t food (FAO)