U.S – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has inked a Regulatory Partnership Arrangement (RPA) with Ecuador’s Vice Ministry of Aquaculture and Fisheries (VMAF) in a significant move aimed at fortifying the safety of shrimp consumed in the United States.

Shrimp holds the distinction of being the most consumed seafood in the U.S., with the majority being imported. Ecuador, as a major exporter of aquacultured shrimp to the U.S., is taking the lead in this pioneering initiative.

Shrimp is a culinary staple in the U.S., and Ecuador plays a pivotal role in supplying this seafood delicacy to American tables.

In recognition of its significance, the U.S. Congress mandated the FDA to explore new avenues for bolstering the oversight of imported aquacultured shrimp. This includes forming RPAs with the three largest exporting countries by volume, namely India, Indonesia, and Ecuador.

The FDA’s RPA with Ecuador marks a groundbreaking collaboration designed to strengthen food safety practices across the entire shrimp supply chain.

These partnerships aim to harness commodity-specific oversight systems, along with data and information sharing, to enhance food safety both before and at the point of entry into the U.S.

Laying the foundation for safety

Before the RPA with Ecuador, critical groundwork was laid. In August 2022, the FDA and VMAF entered into a confidentiality commitment (CC), enabling the exchange of confidential information, including inspection records, sample findings, and other non-public documents.

The FDA also conducted an exhaustive evaluation of the strength of Ecuador’s aquacultured seafood safety system, closely examining relevant aspects of VMAF’s programs and capabilities.

The assessment encompassed key facets of Ecuador’s regulatory framework for shrimp, including legal aspects, inspection and enforcement capabilities, verification and audit programs, disease prevention and surveillance efforts, response to illness outbreaks, training initiatives, and laboratory resources.

Through this meticulous assessment, the FDA has established its confidence in Ecuador’s capacity to maintain crucial components of a food safety oversight system for shrimp and shrimp products destined for export to the U.S.

As a result, the FDA can now leverage data and insights from Ecuador to inform its regulatory decisions, and Ecuador will reciprocate by utilizing data analytics from the FDA to enhance its own regulatory activities.

The new RPA with Ecuador outlines a comprehensive plan for cooperation between the FDA and VMAF. Key objectives include sharing best practices, food safety policies, and regulatory approaches, ensuring swift notification and response to adverse food safety events, promoting and conducting training, participating in shrimp inspections, audits, and investigations, and much more.

This partnership is already in action, with the FDA sharing information with VMAF on import refusals, compliance actions, and detailed sampling results. In return, VMAF is providing insights to the FDA on Ecuador’s regulatory follow-up efforts in response to these events.

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