The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has signed a regulatory partnership arrangement (RPA) with the Ecuador Vice Ministry of Aquaculture and Fisheries in an attempt to enhance the food safety of shrimp destined for the U.S. market.
The move results from a 2021 U.S. congressional mandate focused on improving shrimp-related food safety. It ordered the FDA to consider and develop new options for improving the regulation of imported farmed shrimp. The mandate included establishing an RPA with India, Indonesia, and Ecuador, the top shrimp exporters to the U.S. by volume. The recently signed agreement is the first such agreement to be finalized.
Under the RPA, the FDA will work closely with Ecuador’s seafood regulatory authority to reinforce food safety practices along the entire farmed shrimp supply chain, leveraging oversight systems with updated data and information before and at the port of entry.
The regulatory partnership is the first of its kind, according to the FDA, which said it performed a “rigorous assessment” of Ecuador’s farmed seafood safety system before entering the agreement. This included analyzing legal frameworks, inspection and enforcement capabilities, verification and audit programs, aquatic animal disease prevention and surveillance programs, illness outbreak responses, training, and laboratory resources.
“Through this assessment, the FDA is confident that Ecuador has key components of a food safety oversight system for shrimp and shrimp products intended for export to the U.S.,” the FDA said.
Daniel Legarda, Ecuador’s minister of production, foreign commerce, investment, and fishing – who also oversees the country’s vice ministry of aquaculture and fisheries – said the agreement would serve to further build U.S. confidence in Ecuador’s shrimp-farming industry.
“Trust is a fundamental link [throughout] the productive chain, especially in the international markets,” he said during the signing ceremony. “This regulatory agreement will generate higher trust in the main actor, which is the consumer, with the great commercial partner and great market that the United States is.”
Legarda said shrimp is Ecuador’s main non-oil export product, with the United States being the number-two buyer after China.
"Guaranteeing strict compliance with quality and safety standards is our priority,” Legarda said.
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Photo courtesy of Ecuador's National Chamber of Aquaculture