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Fine Cheese & Charcuterie - May '22

Fine Cheese & Charcuterie - May '22

Is It Time For America To Update European Export Requirements?

I just returned from attending the most recent edition of Cibus in Parma Italy, where I discovered many unique and thoroughly enjoyable artisan foods, many of which are not eligible for export to our country.  I know the health of our food system is very important, and minimizing risk of cross-country contamination should be imperative.  If there is one thing we can take away from the COVID Pandemic, it is the reality of just how quickly things can spread around the world.

On the other hand, I have visited many production facilities in several European countries, and I can say that production methods have become very advanced through the years, with a majority having a system of traceability incorporated into the operations.  If a problem were to be identified, these traceability systems would make it possible to identify the source of the problem very quickly.  Furthermore, the cleanliness of the food production facilities and the hygienic methods employed to promote safe food production are usually quite evident.

The United States export market is very important to European specialty cheese and meat producers, and just about all of them would like to have the opportunity to sell their products here, but alas it is easier said than done.  The USA has specific guidelines relating to food production that every producer of meat and cheese has to implement and follow in order to be approved for export.  The costs of implementing the required guidelines are quite expensive, which means that the value of the exports has to be quite high in order for it to have a profitable outcome for the producer.  If you are a small producer, it is likely that you don’t produce enough products to make it worthwhile, and you are automatically left out from participating.  I think this is a bit unfortunate for specialty food loving Americans like myself that would like access to more of the artisan-produced products from smaller producers in Europe. 

I might point out that these companies are already producing and selling their products all over Europe without issue, and last I checked, the instance of disease linked to such products are not running rampant.  I was told at Cibus by one of the Salumi producers that the USA automatically rejects all pork products south of a particular boundary line in Italy in order to avoid foods linked to diseased found in swine.  If the company produces pork products north of this line, then you can implement the required changes, and freely export your product to America.  If your company produces south of this line, it is not possible at all.  Surely there has to be a better way of certifying producers for USA export than that?  I wonder if it is time for our government to re examine our requirements for safe exportation of food to our county that doesn’t eliminate a producer from a particular region or require a larger investment than necessary in compliance measures that will only make it possible for larger producers to make the required investment.  I am not advocating for the elimination of all safeguards, I only wonder if it is time for the government to assess their policies, and see if it is time for a policy update.

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