Seven new trade issues discussed at the latest World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting on food safety involved the European Union.

Countries raised 52 specific trade concerns (STCs), 10 of them for the first time, at the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures earlier this month.

A range of issues was covered, including pesticide maximum residue levels (MRLs), animal diseases, and COVID-19-related measures.

New STCs included meat restrictions, sanitary certification requirements, regulation on animal health certificates, food safety standards, and vitamin D3 regulations.

South Africa is unhappy about EU import restrictions on ostrich meat, and Russia raised concerns about Japan’s approval measures for poultry and Namibia’s procedures for beef.

India was one of 10 countries worried about EU rules setting pesticide MRLs in food and feed of plant and animal origin. The EU, Canada, and New Zealand highlighted India’s draft food safety and standards import amendments.

Ongoing issues

Several previously raised STCs covered pesticide tolerances and the environment, legislation for endocrine disruptors and veterinary medicinal products, collagen for human consumption, and phytosanitary certification requirements.

These include China’s concern about EU regulation on animal health and official certificates for animal-origin foods, the EU’s issue with Qatar’s new import rules for dairy products, EU delays in authorizing imports of a Korean soup, Russia classifying tea as fruits and vegetables, and Australian concerns with transparency and delays associated with China’s import requirements for agricultural products.

A number of countries reiterated their concern about China’s actions related to COVID-19, which they said, affecting trade in food and agricultural products.

According to an update on the status of STCs that had not been discussed since the SPS Committee meeting in November 2020, 18 counties said that, of the 221 concerns for which no resolution had been reported, 31 were considered solved and 14 were partially resolved.

United States submitted a proposal for a session on SPS risk communication, with an emphasis on public perceptions of issues concerning food, technology, health, and the environment.

The U.S. representative said that regulators worldwide were increasingly exposed to information from a multitude of sources, some of which may not be science or risk-based and did not contribute to developing justified SPS measures. Other nations backed the idea but the session is not expected to take place before November 2023.

The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for late March 2023.

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