A number of major countries exporting fresh vegetables and fruit into the United States have modernized food-safety laws and regulations over the past two decades to emphasize preventive measures. The Produce Safety Project (PSP), supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, advocates for improvements in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) oversight of domestic and imported produce through the adoption of mandatory, enforceable safety standards. To provide policymakers with information on the legal and regulatory frameworks governing the growing, packing and handling of fresh produce in countries exporting to the U.S., PSP commissioned a review of those systems in five of the U.S.’s largest trading partners - Canada, Chile, China, Mexico, and Peru.
Over the past 20 years, U.S. imports of fresh produce have grown significantly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reported that the value of imports of fresh vegetables grew rapidly in the 1990s, and then climbed from just over $2 billion in 1998 to $4.1 billion in 2007. Fresh fruit imports more than doubled, increasing from $3.9 billion to just over $8.9 billion in the same period. In 2009, the United States imported $11.5 billion of fresh produce from 96 countries. In fresh vegetables, the NAFTA trading partners are the leading sources, with Mexico's share representing about 70 percent of the total and Canada's between 15 and 20 percent on average. Fresh fruit imports are sourced primarily from Mexico (29 percent), Chile (26 percent), and Costa Rica, Guatemala and Ecuador, which together accounted for more than 22 percent of the total. Other fruit imports come from other Southern Hemisphere countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as from Asia.