During a panel discussion for the Food and Drug Law Institute’s Food Week earlier this month, attorney Mark Mansour briefly noted that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is not held in the highest regard by foreign governments. While speaking with Food Safety News about the subject in more depth, Mansour said that he’s encountered deep concern from regulators in other countries about how FSMA will be implemented – especially whether it could inadvertently be used as a trade barrier. Some foreign governments are worried that implementation of the legislation will focus more on imported food than on domestic production, Mansour said. He points to China and the European Union for now, but said countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia could also take issue. In general, he said, other countries recognize it as a “step forward” in the international food safety system, but they simply don’t want to be discriminated against. “I think there’s going to have to be some diligent communication with other governments,” Mansour told Food Safety News. “Implementation has to be fair and impartial … .” These concerns are nothing new, he said. “They were voiced right away,” but are growing stronger as implementation draws closer. Mansour said that issues would probably manifest first as a protest of American goods in-country and then go through regular channels of expressing concerns to the U.S. But he indicated that a World Trade Organization case would not be out of the question. It’s not that Mansour expects a WTO case, but there’s “no guarantee that it won’t dissolve into a trade case in the future,” he said. While preparing the FSMA rules, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted outreach in various countries, and agency officials visited Mexico, Canada and Europe, where they met with members of the European Union, the World Trade Organization and the Global Food Safety Initiative. Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, has repeatedly emphasized the agency’s aim to collaborate as much as possible with stakeholders while preparing and finalizing the FSMA rules. For every person concerned that the foreign regulations in FSMA will overshadow the domestic, there’s someone else worried about the exact opposite. “Can you assure farmers in Georgia and across the country that they will not be placed at a competitive disadvantage with importers once both the domestic and import rules are finalized?” U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) asked Taylor at a recent congressional hearing on FSMA. “That is absolutely our goal, and, if we can get the resources to implement the import provisions of this law, we can achieve that goal,” Taylor offered in response. “We need to have the same assurances about imported food that we have about domestic food.”